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We were left, therefore, with a public policy conundrum. To be fair to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I note that Opposition Front Benchers have not expressed outright opposition to the measure, but have merely
19 Jan 2009 : Column 590
said that they wish to examine the arguments for it. I am pleased about that, because this is a serious public policy debate.

For too long, the onus of dealing with prostitution has been placed entirely on the woman. Prostitution has been regarded as a female problem that women ought to sort out for themselves, and the responsibility of men has been neglected or, indeed, ignored. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary asked me to look into what responsibility men have in this regard. What we are trying to do, through the strict liability offence, is make clear that those who purchase sex have a responsibility to consider—not always, but generally—the position of the women from whom they are purchasing it. That means that men will no longer be able to act with impunity, with total disregard for the position of the women from whom they are buying sex.

Let me issue a challenge. There are those who say that this is a step too far, or that this is an offence for which people cannot be prosecuted. What measures would they introduce to impose on men a responsibility that they have ignored for centuries? Very little is said about that.

Paul Holmes (Chesterfield) (LD): Can the Minister explain why, having examined the policies of a number of countries, the Government alighted on that of Finland, where no successful prosecution has been made in the two to two and a half years since the policy was introduced?

Mr. Coaker: We think that that policy offers us the best way of encouraging men to accept the responsibility that they should exercise when deciding whether to purchase sex.

I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods) and for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho), and other Members on both sides of the House, on their work in tackling the issue of lap dancing. There is no doubt that amending the Acts under which lap-dancing clubs are licensed will give local communities more of a say in where such clubs can and should be positioned.

I will consider the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) about temporary licensing and some of the other “postcode” issues, and will try to establish whether we need to take any action.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised the issue of collaboration. As he will know, the Bill contains a power—it is not secret—to make collaboration mandatory if it is considered necessary and in the best interests of policing. The mergers debate has gone away, but the debate on the reason for it—the need for greater collaboration between police forces to enable them to tackle serious and organised crime—has not gone away. The hon. Gentleman accused us of running out of ideas, but the Bill seeks to address some of the collaboration issues that must be addressed if we are to tackle some of the serious and organised crimes that are being committed in our country.

The Bill contains other important and valuable measures relating to airport policing, sex offenders and the proceeds of crime, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.


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policing and crime bill (programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

Question agreed to.

policing and crime bill (money)

Queen’s Recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) ) ,

Question agreed to.

policing and crime bill (ways and means)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) ) ,

Question agreed to.


19 Jan 2009 : Column 592

business of the house

Motion made , and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15),

Question agreed to.

deferred divisions

Motion made , and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3) ),

Question agreed to.

Business without Debate

corporation tax bill

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 90(5)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to the Joint Committee on Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Standing Order No. 60(6)).

corporation tax bill (ways and means)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

Question agreed to.

DELEGATED LEGISLATION

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


Excise

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


Excise

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


19 Jan 2009 : Column 593

Excise

Question agreed to

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


Value Added Tax

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


Northern Ireland

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 21 January (Standing Order No. 41A)

Committees


Business and Enterprise

Ordered,

Mr. Speaker: With the leave of the House, we will take motions 13 to 16 together.


Defence

Ordered,


International Development


Procedure


Transport

Energy and Climate Change

Ordered,

Petitions

Northern Rock

10.2 pm

Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): I wish to present a petition on behalf of Ian Surtees and 46 constituents of Blaydon, who have made the reasonable request that the Government look again at the way in which, and the level at which, Northern Rock was valued at nationalisation, and who call on the Government to reconsider the terms of reference given to the valuer.

The petition states:

[P000306]


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