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The Ministers proposed definition, which severely waters down the Bills original intention, will not cover any of the poor women who were killed in Ipswich. They were not forced, deceived or threatened. They were killed, because they were prostitutes, by a man who would face absolutely no pressure from any
police authority to stop him buying sex and then taking the women away to kill them. I urge the Government to look very seriouslyif not here, certainly in another placeat the amendments that would introduce the definition in relation to forced marriages, because the Ministers definition would not have protected any of the Ipswich victims.
Mr. Campbell: As I have tried to point out throughout my remarks, we believe that this debate will continueit will do so this evening, and it will certainly do so in another placebut I reassure my right hon. Friend that I am not deaf to the remarks that I hope will be made from several quarters of the House tonight. We believe that we have alighted in the right place; but as the debate is continuing, we will certainly be open to it. I want to make it absolutely clear that our intention is not to water down severely the proposals.
Mr. Gummer: I very much hope that the Minister will listen carefully, as I am the Member of Parliament in whose constituency two of those sad girls were found. I do not think that I can overstate the feeling locally that the proposals do not go far enough; nor can I overstate the fact that, when people are coerced by their providers of drugs, so that they are provided with drugs on terms in which prostitution is the only route that they feel that they can go down, to exclude the protection that they ought to have under the Bill is something that we feel very strongly about, and I hope that the Minister will listen to those who press him.
Mr. Campbell: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks, because they go to the nub of why this is such an important part of the debate on an important part of the Bill. I have listened carefully to what he has said, and we must avoid in any way letting down his constituents or, of course, the individuals whom we are talking about.
Lynne Jones: The Safety First coalition, which developed following the Ipswich murders, is very much against many of the measures in the Bill, simply because it believes that they will make women more vulnerable to attack. That is the strong view of other interested organisations, such as Royal College of Nursing, and it has certainly been expressed by the Police Federation.
Mr. Campbell: That illustrates the problem that I have in trying to get the Bill into the right form to satisfy as many Members as I can, if not all of them, while remaining true to the intention that we set out in the Bill. Very strong views have been expressed from the first day that the Bill was mooted, and I am sure that those views will continue to be expressed. Even when the Bill becomes an Act, a strong debate will continue, because, of course, there are strong and different views about prostitution per se. We have tried, and we are still trying, to ensure that the Bill addresses a particularly horrific set of circumstances, whatever ones view of prostitution. I hope to satisfy as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible.
Of course, to talk about force, threats or deception might suggest a kind of static process, but we expect that the offence would still be active when the sexual
services were provided. If, however, someone was forced into prostitution by a pimp but later chose to continue to work as a prostitute on her own, it would not be an offence to pay for sex with her during that later period. We have also used the term likely to induce or encourage because we do not believe that it will be necessary to show the actual affects of the force or threats on the prostitute, as that would be more likely to give rise to the need for the prostitute to give evidence to show the particular affect of the force or threats on her.
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): My hon. Friend will know that I have tabled amendments designed to address that problem, which relates to the point about enforceability made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz). I hope that my right hon. Friend will be reassured by a meeting that I had just a few days ago with Tim Brain, the lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers on prostitution and sex crimes, who feels, having studied it more carefully, that the offence is enforceable, even in its initial wording. However, I have tabled my amendments as a result of speaking to lawyers who work in the magistrates courts and who believe that the phrase
of a kind likely to induce or encourage
will provide another means to argue about whether an offence has taken place. We want a strict liability offence to operate in magistrates courts, but the complicating factor created by that phrase will make such offences harder to prosecute successfully.
Mr. Campbell: Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is a matter for your discretion, but I hope that my hon. Friend catches your eye, because I want to listen carefully to her remarks, as I do to those of other Members. She has a great deal to say about the psychological pressure that women are put under in such circumstances and about the concern that our current definition will not address that, but let me make it clearthis goes back to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oakthat we do not want to exclude any vulnerable woman in prostitution from the protection afforded by the offence. So we will be interested to hear views on this important matter if my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who want to express them are called to speak. I hope that my explanation has at least highlighted the difficulty of defining what we are trying to combat. I also hope that a constructive process continues, building on the work done in Committee. I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for their views.
I turn now to strict liability. Amendments 235, 236, 237, 238, 239 and 240 replicate amendments that were tabled in Committee and would remove the strict liability aspect of the offence. I am grateful for the dialogue that we have had, for the prospect of further amendments that will allow the debate to continue and to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its report on the Bill. We particularly note the Joint Committees comments in relation to the offences compatibility with article 8 of the European convention on human rights. However, we do not accept the Committees conclusions. We are satisfied that the new offence complies with both the European convention and principles of common law. We do not accept that article 8, which is about the protection of persons private and family life, includes a
right to pay for sex. In any event, we consider that any interference with a persons private life would be in accordance with the law and can be justified as necessary for the protection of health, morals and the rights and freedoms of others.
The JCHR has suggested that the offence is not sufficiently certain; we simply disagree. We believe that the clause is clear. A person will know that if they pay for sex with someone who is found to have been controlled for gain, they commit an offence. If someone who intends to pay for sex has any doubt as to whether the prostitute is being controlled for gain, they can choose not to pay for sex with that person. The amendments that we have tabled to clarify the scope of the offence will make clearer the circumstances in which it will be illegal to pay for sex with a particular person, and that should help people to regulate their behaviour accordingly.
I have noted the points raised in Committee by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and by a number of hon. Members, and I hope to be able to address all their concerns explicitly. None the less, we still believe that strict liability is the most effective way of ensuring that those who pay for sex are forced to consider the circumstances of the prostitute providing the sexual services, and of protecting those who have not chosen to be involved in prostitution. It is vital, and right, that we do not ignore the desperate and exploitative circumstances that affect some of those involved in prostitution. It will not be a defence to say, I didnt know that this person was controlled for gain. That is the key aim of the offenceto ensure that sex buyers are held responsible for their conduct, and to ensure that we deal with those who fuel demand for prostitution. Strict liability is fundamental to ensuring that.
Dr. Evan Harris: To clarify, when the Minister says that he wants strict liability in order to force men, if we can generalise, to consider the consequences of their actions, is he not saying that they should make inquiries as to whether the person is controlled for gain, or whatever the definition is? Yet under a system of strict liability, if men did make such inquiries, as we want them to, but were misled, or got it wrong, they would still be penalised, although they had made every effort to ensure that the person was not controlled for gain. That does not encourage them to make those inquiries, because whether they do or not, if they are misled, they will be caught by the offence. Does the Minister recognise that the measure will therefore not have the impact that he hopes it will? He certainly has not produced evidence that it would have such an impact.
I think that we have to take one step back from those circumstances. We heard in Committee, and in the evidence sessions, about men who had come forward to say that they believed that women had been trafficked, or were being controlled for gain. They had alerted the women about where they might seek support in order to exit from prostitution, but I think that we have to take one step back from that and say to men: If you get involved in these situations, it is no good saying that you didnt know. One might say: How do you not know something that you do not know? but that is a risk that they take. The bottom line is that if a person
visits a prostitute, and there is any suggestion or hint that the prostitute was trafficked or is controlled for gain, or if the question even is in their mind, the person should not go ahead. That is a choice that they can make.
To add to that, as the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will know, because he was on the Committee, there are circumstances in which men point women in the direction of support, but in every single example that the POPPY project cited, the men who pointed them in the direction of help and support had sex with them first. We are not talking about a simplistic, black-and-white situation; we are talking about a complex set of circumstances. The easiest and clearest way to put it is this: If you dont want to get caught up in this offence, and there is any doubt in your mind, whether there is any evidence or not, just dont do it.
I want to turn to another issue that rightly took up the Committees time: lap dancing. In particular, I want to speak about amendments 194, 198, 199 and Government amendments 54 to 59. Lap-dancing clubs have grown in number in recent years, and have become an issue of concern for many local communities, who do not feel that existing legislation is adequate to address the impact of such venues on a local area. We have brought forward measures in the Bill to reclassify places that provide lap dancing and other similar entertainment as sex establishments under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. That will give local authorities greater powers to control the number and location of lap-dancing clubs.
Mr. Campbell: The purpose is to give communities the opportunity to have their say. In some cases they accept lap-dancing clubs, but in many cases they oppose them. The measure is about empowering communities that do not feel that they are, or have been, part of the process to date. There is a concern that lap-dancing clubs have grown in number, and that they could continue to grow in number unless communities are able to have a stronger say. Under the changes that we propose, if a lap-dancing club is a well-established and well-run establishment, there is no reason why it would not continue in business. The measures address the deficit that there was in the past, with regard to what local communities were able to say about lap-dancing clubs, particularly new ones, in their area.
Philip Davies: I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification, but do his proposals introduce any kind of grandfather rights for lap-dancing clubs that were opened, in good faith, under previous Government legislation?
Mr. Campbell: We are currently working on that. The other debate on grandfather rights that I remember was on the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003. The reality is that lap-dancing clubs will, like other establishments, need to be licensed. If local authorities adopt the legislation, such clubs will, at some point, need to be licensed. We are not saying that the legislation will do away with lap-dancing clubs; that was never the intention, and it is not the intention now.
Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): Does the Minister realise that there has been a rash of applications for lap-dancing licences, just prior to the legislation coming into force? If there were to be grandfather rights, would there be a distinction between those establishments that have been opportunistic and are suddenly getting in on the act, and others?
Mr. Campbell: If establishments have rushed to apply for a licence before the legislation comes into force, thinking that they will thereby get some advantage in the long run when their local authority adopts the legislation, that view is misplaced. It would be short-sighted of them to do so. The reality is that they will be subject to the legislation, as will new lap-dancing clubs.
We understand that there are concerns about aspects of clause 25, including the decision to remove venues that provide infrequent entertainment of the type that we are discussing from the definition of a sex encounter venue. The purpose of the provision is to recognise that not all premises that provide relevant entertainment should be classed as sex encounter venues. An example is a pub that hosts a birthday party for which a strippergram has been booked; we do not believe that such premises should be regulated in the same manner as a lap-dancing club that offers adult entertainment nightly. We accept that not everyone agrees with that distinction, but we believe that the legislation needs to be both targeted and proportionate. In practice, under the provisions, any premises offering relevant entertainment nightly, weekly or even monthly will be required to obtain a licence. Only relatively infrequent or one-off performances of relevant entertainment will be permitted without a sex establishment licence; such entertainment will continue to be regulated under the Licensing Act 2003.
In Committee, my hon. Friends the Members for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho), and for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods), who have done so much to bring the issue to public attention, spoke plainly about their concerns that the provision would create a loophole that would be exploited by lap-dancing operators who wished to avoid tighter regulation. It is clear from amendment 194, which is in the name of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), that those concerns remain. We take those concerns very seriously. It is not our intention to create opportunities for lap-dancing operators to avoid the impact of the reforms, but at this stage, the Government are not minded to remove paragraph 2A(3)(b) of schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, which will be inserted by clause 25. Instead, we propose safeguards against potential abuse of the provision.
Government amendments 55 to 59 introduce a limited order-making power that will allow the Secretary of State or, in Wales, Welsh Ministers to tighten the exemption or remove it altogether if there is clear evidence that, following implementation, it is being exploited in a way that is obviously against the spirit of the reforms and the wishes of local people. That will allow us to monitor the situation further, and to respond to concerns quickly by limiting exemption powers, or removing the exemption entirely.
I am aware that my hon. Friends the Members for Stourbridge and for City of Durham have raised specific concerns that temporary event notices will enable lap dancing to be provided on a regular basis by a number of licensed establishments working in partnership to
facilitate that. We do not believe there is compelling evidence that the problem is likely to occur, because that opportunity already exists, but we take these concerns seriously.
Since the Committee stage, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its report on the Licensing Act 2003, which considered a number of issues in relation to temporary event notices and made specific recommendations, including giving local councillors, as representatives of their local community, the ability to object to such notices. Before formally responding to the Select Committee, we will consider more fully all these recommendations and the impact that they will have on other activities covered by temporary event notices.
I know that hon. Members would like to see the exemption removed. I hope that the order-making power and the comments that I have made in relation to TENs will give them some reassurance and that they will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
Government amendment 54 will clarify the conditions that will allow venues to provide infrequent performances without requiring a sex establishment licence. The amendment makes it clear that in order to provide relevant entertainment without a sex establishment licence, three conditions must be fulfilled: no more than 11 events in any 12-month period, no event lasting longer than 24 hours, and at least one calendar month between events.
Amendments 198 and 199 would make schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, and by extension provisions introduced by clause 25, mandatory for all local authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham tabled a similar amendment in Committee and I know that these concerns remain. Unless provisions are mandatory, my hon. Friends argue, local people will not be guaranteed a greater say over the regulation of lap-dancing clubs in their area.
Schedule 3 of the Act, which also deals with the licensing of other sex establishments, such as sex shops and sex cinemas, is currently optional for local authorities. It recognises that while the presence of sex establishments can raise particular concerns for many local communities, the issues are not necessarily universal. Many local authorities do not have lap-dancing clubs in their area.
We cannot be exact regarding numbers, but we estimate that under half of all local authorities have lap-dancing clubs or similar venues in their areas, so the Government do not believe it right to impose the legislation irrespective of need, especially in areas where there are no lap-dancing clubs, and therefore no means of recovering any cost, however small, of implementing the regime.
David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op): Does not my hon. Friend think that the system as he has just outlined it could create anomalies? In neighbouring local authority areas, particularly within a conurbation, there could be one regime in place on one side of a borough border, and another on the other side. That is no way to help regulate lap-dancing clubs.
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