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Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman might be assisted by considering the points that my noble Friend Lord Cope made--on 1 May 2001, at column 1782 of the House of Lords Official Report--when he asked about using the word resident, victim, target or person in the clause. The official Opposition in the other place suggested using the word person. The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting and important point. We want to ensure that the clause in its final form is workable, so that those who are doing that very important scientific work are properly protected.
Mr. Miller: I am speaking in the debate because of the type of English that the hon. Gentleman has just used. Although I am used to dealing with scientific terms, in the Bill we are addressing much more complex definitional issues. I am merely seeking to determine whether my hon. Friend the Minister is satisfied that the intention of the clause will be the same as when it
Mr. Heald: Yesterday, I was able to ask the hon. Gentleman whether it was a coincidence that the Prime Minister had visited his constituency on Tuesday and he had a red box with him during our debate in Westminster Hall yesterday. Now he seems to be telling us that he is about to form a Government. He is obviously having a good week, but I do not think that he should let the fact that Millwall won 5-0 last Saturday go to his head.
Mr. Hughes: In reverse order: the Millwall victory that sent the Lions roaring into the first division is entirely to be commended; the red box yesterday was entirely coincidental as it was supplied by my office with some letters for me to sign, but it was good practice. I should also put it on the record that no deal has been reached between the Liberal Democrats and any other party before the general election. Lastly, the Prime Minister made a terrible error of judgment by coming to the school and making a speech over the heads of the young people. It may have lost him the votes of many of the parents at that school, but that is to be seen.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) made an important point about the wording and I am grateful for his attribution to my noble Friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury. There was a debate about what the right wording should be. The term "victim" was deemed inappropriate because it prejudges the outcome of the complaint and that clearly would be wrong. The term that had been used in the past was "person" and the hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is used in other statutes. However, I think that we can get away with using the word resident although it is not necessarily the best word. My understanding is that it does not cover only those who are permanently at an address, but anyone who is there at the time. Of course it would not cover someone who was there for a matter of moments and that may be a weakness. It may therefore be that we need to give the matter more consideration. The reason it is right to change the wording is that it is wrong to prejudge the outcome of the complaint.
The legislation received wide support across the House and, as the Minister and his colleagues were at pains to point out, it gives the police a discretionary power in respect of certain activities. We look to the police to be wise in their discretion because there is a need to get the balance right between allowing lawful protest on the one hand and preventing intimidatory and improper protest on the other. The second should be outlawed, but absolutely not the first.
Mr. Charles Clarke: To respond briefly to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), I am advised that we consider that the amendments do not change the effect of the clause and the reasons advanced by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) are right. It covers any protests outside residential premises, anywhere being used as a dwelling, but it does not include hotels, for reasons that we discussed in Committee. We are satisfied with this and I hope that I have reassured my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston. I hope that the House will accept the amendments.
(a) he places on, or in the immediate vicinity of, a public telephone an advertisement relating to prostitution, and
(b) he does so with the intention that the advertisement should come to the attention of any other person or persons.
(2) For the purposes of this section, an advertisement is an advertisement relating to prostitution if it--
(a) is for the services of a prostitute, whether male or female; or
(b) indicates that premises are premises at which such services are offered.
(3) In any proceedings for an offence under this section, any advertisement which a reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution shall be presumed to be such an advertisement unless it is shown not to be.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.
(5) In this section--
"public telephone" means--
(a) any telephone which is located in a public place and made available for use by the public, or a section of the public, and
(b) where such a telephone is located in or on, or attached to, a kiosk, booth, acoustic hood, shelter or other structure, that structure; and
"public place" means any place to which the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise, other than--
(a) any place to which children under the age of 16 years are not permitted to have access, whether by law or otherwise, and
(b) any premises which are wholly or mainly used for residential purposes.
Mr. Clarke: I shall devote a few moments to presenting this important new clause, which carries the support of the House. The two new clauses would make it an arrestable criminal offence to place prostitutes' cards in telephone boxes.
To combat any changes in advertising strategy that result from attempts to circumvent the new offence, the new clauses would allow the Secretary of State to extend the provisions to cover other street furniture.
Let me pay public tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), who was motivated by events in her constituency to introduce a private Member's Bill. She has been a consistent campaigner on these matters, with general support across the House. The Government have long agreed with the policy ambitions set out in the new clause, but we did not feel that we had enough space to include them in the Bill. As the matter was pressed in the other place and because we have no policy disagreement with the provisions, we are glad to agree to the Lords amendment and to commend it to the House today.
Prostitutes' cards in telephone boxes are a matter on which there has long been concern, which is reflected in the two new clauses. The cards are often explicit. They can be seen by children and can obscure important information, such as advertisements for Childline and the Samaritans. They are offensive and intimidating to those who use public telephones. They are part of the increasingly organised business of prostitution and can advertise young people involved in prostitution and, importantly, those trafficked for sexual exploitation.
The individuals who are paid to place the cards can be intimidating, threatening and sometimes violent to members of the public and those employed to clean the telephone boxes. Telephone companies incur great expense in removing the cards while losing revenue from legitimate advertising.
We recognise that the problem is at present confined to specific areas, such as central London and Brighton. It is also a serious issue in my Norwich constituency. However, it is a very serious problem. Every week, British Telecom removes some 150,000 cards from its 700 telephone boxes in central London. It is also a growing problem, which is why the offence would apply nationally. The offence would be committed by any person who places what a reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution in a public telephone box.
The offence will attract a power of arrest. This will enable the police to take swift action to stop this nuisance occurring. Those convicted of the offence will face a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine. The level of penalty reflects the serious nature of the nuisance caused by the cards and our determination to prevent the individuals concerned from blighting the lives of those who live in the areas affected.
We recognise that those behind organised prostitution will seek to circumvent any legislation that we introduce. That is why the second new clause gives the Secretary of State a power to extend the legislation to cover other types of public structures, such as bus shelters, by affirmative resolution.
Finally, I should note that although this amendment is an important part of tackling the problem, there are other measures that can complement legislation. Oftel has had talks with the telecommunications industry about a call barring scheme and will develop further proposals in consultation with the industry. Part of the agreement with the industry is that we will do what we can in legislation and the industry will do what it can on the technological side.