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A named person is to carry that process out with the offender. I never thought I would stand up in this Chamber and find myself agreeing with the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris)—in fact, it is bizarre that I am doing so, and I will need to sit down for a minute or so after my speech to get over it. We have had prostitution since biblical times. One would think that after 2,000 years we would know how to accommodate such a profession within a civilised society. It is not possible to outlaw prostitution. It will not be possible by having three meetings with a prostitute to get them to change their mind about being involved in that career. It is not a matter of career choice; boys and girls do not say when asked in school what they want to do when they grow up, “I would like to be a prostitute.” It is probably the only job where death is an unintended consequence.

David T.C. Davies: I hesitate to say this, but I met a prostitute in the House of Commons this morning and she surprised me by saying that many women did enjoy this work, found it quite well paid and actively chose to do it. That was a surprise to me, but it came straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

Mrs. Dorries: I stand corrected, and I am sure that what my hon. Friend says is the case at certain levels. The people with whom I am concerned in respect of this Bill are those who are controlled, those who are exposed and those who end up in prostitution via a route of need. Such people might need to feed a drug habit, the need might result from a dire financial circumstance, they may have been pimped or they may be under the control of another. My hon. Friend is talking about people who have made an active choice to go into prostitution; they actively manage their own affairs very well, given that they have considered their choice and are intelligent enough to have been able to make that choice. I do not detract from that, but the Bill was another great opportunity to have provided access to health care services, a route away from danger and harm for prostitutes and a way of controlling prostitution that would have benefited the prostitutes themselves and society as a whole.

Instead, these provisions will mean that if a prostitute does not attend the three meetings with the named person, they will be fined or put in prison. Thus, a group of people whose job puts them in danger and criminalises them will be further criminalised by the Bill. This is bad law and it is a wasted opportunity. Prostitutes need better sexual health advice: they need to know about needle exchange programmes; about where they can get a constant supply of safe condoms; about how to protect themselves; and about how to operate in a way that will protect them and their families—including their children—who also have health needs. The Bill has done nothing to address that; these two clauses will further criminalise prostitutes and further expose a group of people who are already in danger.

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I suppose that I should declare an interest by saying that I was a member of the Royal College of Nursing in my former life. The RCN has said:

So it is not only me and my Conservative colleagues who feel that these are bad clauses, because the RCN does too. The Government are quick to cite the RCN when it supports what they are trying to do, so I hope that they will take its criticisms on board too.

The Government could have formalised what happens in a voluntary way at the moment; they could have formalised outreach services to help prostitutes and worked with the voluntary sector, which tries to get out on to the streets to work with prostitutes. The Bill could have provided a framework to assist those voluntary organisations in providing the access to health care and the assistance that prostitutes need, but it failed.

Clause 20 deals with closure orders. Nobody likes brothels to operate in residential areas or areas that contain schools, playgroups or children, and I know that sensitivities are involved, but I also know that all that will happen when a brothel is closed is that the prostitutes will be driven out on to the streets, where they will present a greater danger to themselves. They will not stop being prostitutes—they will not cease to work, to earn their income or to do what they are doing. They will just be driven out on to the streets. I fail to see the usefulness of closing down a brothel for three months and I fail to see what the provision aims to do. I hope that the Minister will be able to elaborate on what the Government hope to achieve. The Government might be trying to cease the business in a given area, but they will not succeed because brothels will just open up again a few months later. Again, all the Government are doing is exposing prostitutes to greater danger and greater health risks.

As was said before, no safety will be offered to such prostitutes—prostitutes will not be in a group, but will be out on their own on the streets. We know what happened in Ipswich; we know what has happened over and over again to prostitutes who are on the streets on their own. I would have though that the Government would have tried to stop that.

I believe that society needs to be protected from those things that its members do not want to happen in their residential areas. I am not saying that brothels should be allowed to exist wherever or whenever, but that prostitution exists and will always exist in a civilised society. We are not going to do anything with the Bill that will stop that. I support moving the emphasis towards the demand side of prostitution and the fact that when someone is buying sex, they will be committing an offence, but why should that happen only when the person is buying sex with somebody who is trafficked? All the arguments have been made on that subject, so I shall not reiterate them, but the best argument came from my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). He said the girls quite often do not speak English and the purchasers quite often do not speak English. How on earth will the clause work?

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8.51 pm

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries), who always speaks good practical sense. That sense contrasted somewhat with the speech made by the Home Secretary in opening today’s debate, in which she oozed complacency. The fact that the Bill is the 66th piece of police and justice legislation that we have had under this Government just shows how they confuse quantity with quality. As so many hon. Members have already said, we need to make existing laws work properly as they were intended to, and to make them work better, before we introduce yet more laws and regulations that, as we have just heard, might prove completely unworkable.

I shall make a few brief and probably disjointed comments on various aspects of the Bill that are not to do with prostitution—the subject that has exercised most hon. Members’ minds this evening.

The selling of alcohol to children is a big problem, as we would all agree. It is particularly a problem in deprived areas. Some of the statistics have already been mentioned. A survey that appeared in The Lancet showed that 29 per cent. of disadvantaged children say that they drink to get drunk, 52 per cent. say that they get alcohol from the local shops and 42 per cent. start drinking before they are 13. Another survey produced last year by Liverpool John Moores university said that poor children were 45 per cent. more likely to be violent after drinking than children in affluent areas. The problem is very serious. I welcome measures that will genuinely tackle that problem, but, as I mentioned earlier, legislation and regulations alone will not solve every perceived social problem, and a large part of this problem is social.

The fact that the Government are making new penalties when the existing penalties have not even been used in the extreme, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), just shows that laws are not being allowed to work. I went out a little while ago on a test purchasing exercise with the local police. We went to pubs with two police cadets aged 15 and 16. One certainly did not look anything like 18, and the other was marginal. Four out of the five premises that we visited served those girls. In most cases they were served by the licensee himself or herself, not by some rookie 18-year-old barman. That is still happening, and it is happening because powers are not being used to ensure that those places are properly investigated and because the penalties are not sufficiently tough when people get caught. That is what we need to work on.

I am not just complaining about the amounts of alcohol being drunk, worrying though those amounts are, but about the fact that we have a mentality in this country that says that people have to go out and get completely bladdered, and to binge drink, for it to be worth doing and effective. We have to change that mentality. The Government have not helped by the fact that they have cut education programmes on drinking, on which they should have put more emphasis. We need to get people to respect alcohol, not to grow up abusing it.

The subject of mosquitoes is linked to alcohol and young people; it is not mentioned in the Bill, and it should be. For the benefit of those who do not know, I
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should explain that mosquitoes are high-pitched devices that can be heard only by children and young people, mostly under the age of 25. The devices are deeply insidious and discriminatory, and are produced by Compound Security Systems, a company whose managing director I met a little while ago. They have a range of 15 m and are attached to buildings, usually shops, to deter young people from congregating in an area. That is the wrong way to tackle the forms of antisocial behaviour that may or may not occur when young people congregate in groups.

The device is highly discriminatory because it affects only young people. I tried it on a work experience student from one of the local schools who was working in my office. When the device was switched on, we could hear nothing, but that poor chap went berserk because it is very powerful. It is also dangerous; it has been shown that it can have adverse effects on people suffering from tinnitus or autism.

What if we had invented a device that could be detected only by elderly people, or that affected only people with hearing aids or who used Zimmer frames? That would be terribly discriminatory and we would not stand for it, yet completely unregulated and unlicensed devices are available that can be targeted at young people, who in many cases are simply trying to get together to socialise.

David T.C. Davies: Does my hon. Friend welcome the approach copied from the continent that has been adopted in some London underground stations? Instead of a mosquito, classical music is played, which seems to have a similar effect on young people. Even if it does not encourage them to go away, at least they are getting some culture.

Tim Loughton: That idea is much less insidious than a high-pitched noise.

I still take issue over the fact that the device is discriminatory, because it is not just young people who commit antisocial offences. Furthermore, young people who happen to be sleeping in the proximity of one of those things can be kept awake. Will the Minister consider whether there should be some form of regulation for such devices? At present, they are available, through the company I mentioned and certain foreign companies, only to police authorities and local authorities. I am glad that my police authority in Sussex has stopped using them, as have many other authorities, but I gather that we are soon likely to be flooded with much cheaper devices from China, which will be available in DIY shops for any householder to put up in the vicinity of their house. That is deeply worrying.

My next point is about how we deal with young people and the media perceptions of them; 70 per cent. of media stories about young people are negative, dealing mostly with antisocial behaviour and crime. The Bill says little that is positive about young people. Clause 1 is about the duty of police authorities in relation to public accountability, and inserts in the Police Act 1996 the provision that police authorities when discharging their functions must have regard to the views of the public concerning policing. How will that affect children and young people?

Whenever we go to public meetings organised by the police, the usual suspects are there, and they usually get up and say, “It’s all down to young people running riot
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in my community.” Under the Bill, the police must have particular regard to the policing priorities that come up in such consultation exercises, so can the Minister reassure me by telling me which provisions will take account of the feelings and wishes of children and young people? They are equally entitled to decent policing. They form 20 per cent. of the population and, as we have seen from the Government’s youth crime action plan, suffer a high instance of being victims of crime. How will the proposals in the Bill reflect and protect the particular requirements of children and young people?

There are provisions on the selling and procuring of alcohol for young people, but I want to make a couple of other quick points. The first is about gangs. We all know that we have a problem with gangs—often in our inner cities—who have access to knives, guns and drugs. I am glad that the Government have taken a number of measures, within those 66 pieces of legislation, to increase the penalties and clamp down on that, but what I hear in our inner cities is that those gangs are using younger children to act as the carriers of guns, knives and drugs. They are recruiting those younger children, who are known as soldiers. Courts are more lenient with younger children, so the gangs recruit them to do their dirty work. Many people might appreciate it if inciting a child to commit a crime resulted in a stiffer penalty than undertaking the crime itself. That is another thought that the Minister might consider. Again, too many people are cleverly getting round the law, and we need to close off all those possibilities for people to flout the law.

The Minister would expect me to make one last point about cannabis cafés. One clause deals with closure orders for brothels, and we should have easier ways to put closure orders on cannabis cafés. I have waxed lyrical about the cannabis café in my constituency, which is still functioning, but a trial is pending, so I will not go into my constituency case in detail. However, when a premises is masquerading as a café, offering office space, when it has a reinforced roof, concrete-filled tyres in rows to reinforce its perimeter, razor wire around the premises, concrete bollards and height gantries to restrict vehicle entry, when it has no planning permission for a change of use, when it has had no health and safety inspections and no disability access requirements, and is not paying business rates, should that place be in business? Yet it is flouting the law, sticking two fingers up at the law and causing people in a residential area mayhem and misery. How on earth can a business that claims to be an innocent café or renter of office space justify needing such fortifications to go about its business?

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The hon. Gentleman has raised that case on a number of occasions. So that I do not lose this in my response, I want to say now that I think that I have just written to him to say that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell) will meet him in the hope of discussing a way forward with regard to the problem that he has had with that café. That problem has troubled me, as well as him. I hope that that is helpful.

Tim Loughton: I am grateful to the Minister; he has given me a bit of injury time, so that I can finish my story. He has been responsive to these problems, but
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that place has been going for more than 18 months, and it continues to get round the law. We all know that that is ridiculous. We all know that criminal activity is going on there. We all know that such places have been raided countless times by the police, using heavy equipment. We all know that they have constantly burning stoves, where incriminating substances are quickly inserted if there is any raid.

If we can come up with closure orders for brothels—they will be difficult to enforce, but the Bill attempts to find a way to do that—surely, we need to consider how to enforce closure orders for other unsavoury premises that are wreaking havoc and misery in residential communities, whether in my constituency or others, and can apparently get round the law and all the health and safety requirements that any hon. Member who hoped to set up a business would have to comply with. I ask whether the Bill could be a vehicle for the Minister to produce such legislation. I appreciate that I have a meeting with his colleague to try to further that, but my constituents’ patience is certainly being exercised to the full. If any crumb of comfort can come from this legislation, there will be dancing in the streets of Lancing in my constituency. I hope very much that the Minister will take that on board.

9.3 pm

Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): I am deeply disappointed that the Bill does not contain measures that would genuinely give local people a say over policing where they live. Clause 1 will impose a statutory requirement for police authorities to take into account the public’s views on crime and policing. That is a far cry from having directly elected police authorities—an idea that Ministers were toying with. Let us imagine that Parliament had a statutory requirement to take into account the views of the electorate instead of holding elections to decide who sits here. That is the difference between what the Green Paper promised and what is in the Bill.

It is difficult to see how clause 1 will lead to much change. It certainly does not enable local people to hold a single individual to account for how effectively, or otherwise, their community is policed. Rather than empower local people, clause 2 does the precise opposite. Instead of the people deciding who runs the police, the decision will be left to yet another quango—the police senior appointments panel, whose members will be appointed centrally by the Home Secretary. It is not merely that the Bill is not localist; it is centralising.

Clauses 10 to 12 further diminish the local discretion of local police forces. Rather than allow locally accountable police forces freedom to run their affairs, the Bill extends the power of Home Office officials to micro-manage local police practice and procedure. The system of police accountability that we have today is a product of the tripartite system established under the Police Act 1964, and of its steady erosion under Governments of both parties in the years since. Police authorities, which are supposed to represent and supervise the police, have become weak, ineffectual and subject to the whim of Home Office target setters.

Far from being vehicles for democratic scrutiny, local police authorities are all too often anonymous quangos made up of local worthies. Few people know that their police authority even exists, let alone who sits on it. The
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Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), seemed to imply that that was somehow a shortcoming of the people. In fact, it shows what is inevitable when police authorities are appointed rather than elected.

Far from holding chief constables to account, police authority members all too often see it as their job to support their chief constable when there are attacks on his or her performance. Chief constables certainly do not seem to regard police authorities as bodies that exist to set their agendas or priorities. Do not take my word for it; take the word of former chief constable Andy Hayman, writing in The Times:

Thus to some chief constables, even to be questioned by the people’s representatives is objectionable. Police authorities are a great forum in which to have tea and biscuits with the chief constable; they are not the forum for setting out, in no uncertain terms, what the local community expects of their police. I use the term “their police” deliberately, because as Robert Peel understood:

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