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"I commit to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to address concerns regarding the lack of a statutory duty on local authorities to consult with local people".
"While the Government firmly believe that the exemption for infrequent events is a proportionate measure and should remain...I can reassure noble Lords that should it become clear that it is being exploited in a way that is obviously against the wishes of local people, they will have the power to tighten the exemption or remove it altogether."-[ Official Report, House of Lords, 5 November 2009; Vol. 714, c. 449-50.]
I support the change of name from "sex encounter venue", although I was worried at first. I can go along with the change to "sexual entertainment venue", if the Minister truly believes that that will afford the women who work in them a degree of protection and some status or dignity. Many of the current or previous performers whom I spoke to said that they felt that the term "sexual encounter" almost presumed that all the women in such venues would be available for sexual encounters with whoever visited. I therefore understand their objection and agree with the change of name.
Before I conclude, I want to ask the Minister to confirm that clubs that have previously been granted permission to open, including another club in Stourbridge-Stourbridge appears to be becoming the lap-dancing Mecca of the midlands-will be subject to the legislation in the same way as new clubs. Permission in that case was granted more than a year ago. The club has done nothing about it, but it is now in the process of starting up. The owners believe that they will not be subject to the legislation. I want to make it clear that I believe that they will be, and I would like the Minister to confirm that for me.
In conclusion, the campaign to stop lap-dancing clubs being licensed in the same way as cafés has played an important role in drawing public and Government attention to a deeply disturbing trend in British society: that of women and girls being portrayed as dehumanised sex objects. Lap dancing is just one manifestation of that culture. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recognised that a culture of treating women as sex objects fuels violence against women. The UK is a signatory to the UN convention and is in the process of forming a cross-Government strategy on violence against
women, so this legislation is an important step towards bringing our policy together in this area. It is crucial, however, that the Government recognise that these reforms to the licensing of lap-dancing clubs represent a good step, but only a first step, towards achieving the much broader goal of ending the sexual objectification-that word is hard to say-of women and, ultimately, violence against women. I urge Ministers to ensure that issues such as lap dancing and the media representation of women are central to the cross-Government strategy to end violence against women once and for all.
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Despite my reservations on strict liability, I also welcome these amendments. The phrase "engaged in exploitative conduct" in the amendment will give greater clarity to the interpretation of the law. I would have preferred it if the legislation could have included a definition of trafficking based on international definitions, but I think that we will revisit that some time in the future.
I welcome the amendments that deal with brothels, but I urge the police, local authorities and others to use clear judgment in the exercise of these powers, as they might well be putting women at risk in exercising them. We have heard how women working in brothels are, at least in some instances, more secure than those working on the streets. In fact, the figures show that women working on the streets are 10 times more vulnerable to attack than women working together in a unit.
I pay tribute to those who have enabled these amendments to be shaped, and who have encouraged a wide and open debate on these issues. I became involved in this issue more than 25 years ago, when I was a member of the Greater London council. At the time, I was involved in working with the English Collective of Prostitutes and dealing with issues around King's Cross. I also hosted the first Safety First Coalition meetings after the Ipswich murders. Those meetings were held in this House. As a result of the Government listening to the debates involving those organisations, we have now arrived at some amelioration of this legislation.
I should like to place on record my tribute to the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the GMB sex workers branch and the Zaccheus Christian trust, all of which were members of the Safety First Coalition, and all of which have briefed Members of Parliament extensively and worked hard to secure these amendments.
I am sure that we shall revisit and review this issue in the years to come, but one issue that is reflected in the amendments is the fact that some women enter into sex work by choice. Whatever people may think about that, some women do-others do not do it through choice, however. I hope that the debate can now move on, so that we can focus more clearly on why women enter sex work other than through choice. The issues include how we tackle poverty and drug dependency, as well as mental illness and the vestiges of the implications of child abuse. Let us now look more thoroughly at the development of Government policy in those areas so that we can tackle the issue of forced prostitution. As I have said, I welcome these amendments, and I am grateful to the Government for listening to the stage of the debate that was encouraged by the coalition.
Mr. MacShane: I wish that I could join my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) in congratulating the English Collective of Prostitutes, but that organisation has consistently opposed all campaigning efforts to slow down trafficking. Indeed, it was quite violently-I would almost say vulgarly-opposed to the propositions that have come back from the Lords, which are of huge significance.
The House is empty because this is the last moment before Prorogation, but this is one of the most profound changes in our law that we have adopted in recent years. We are completely altering the whole approach to the abuse and dehumanisation of women. My hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho) struggled over the word "objectification" and, like her, I have some difficulty in spluttering out that terminology. That is the whole purpose of the sex industry, however. It removes from women their womanhood and turns them into mechanical objects of sexual pleasure who accept a large number of penises every day to satisfy men's desire. This legislation now focuses on men, and it is extremely radical. The House of Lords had a very moving debate on this measure on Tuesday 3 November, and I am astonished that there has been absolutely no coverage of it.
When I raised this matter on "Newsnight", a lady from the English Collective of Prostitutes and Mr. Jeremy Paxman rounded on me and abused me, saying that there were no trafficked women and that there was no problem of any sort. What world are they living in?
Every international body from the International Organisation for Migration to the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights talks of hundreds of thousands of sex slaves being trafficked every year. The idea that Britain does not have its share, given the number of people in prison for trafficking sex slaves, is absurd.
John McDonnell: I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not want to traduce the English Collective of Prostitutes or its engagement in the "Newsnight" debate. I watched that debate, and no one stated that there was no trafficking in this country. It was not only the English Collective of Prostitutes, but other bodies, academic institutions and surveys, that have challenged the original figures that were used in debates in this House, which seemed to have been inflated. The introduction of balance into my right hon. Friend's speech would be extremely helpful.
Mr. MacShane: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I profoundly disagree with him. That organisation has done a huge disservice to the cause of trafficked women and coerced sex slaves.
I particularly welcome and endorse the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge. I very much hope that my own council, Rotherham metropolitan borough council, will seek to use this legislation-without
endless consultation-to listen to the residents of Rotherham who are sick and tired of the ever-increasing presence of these clubs and institutions in which women are turned into dehumanised sex objects for the pleasure of men, whether those men are leering at them, having a discussion about Lib Dem policy in a private booth or doing whatever else might happen in a private booth.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) went to Soho and could find only contented prostituted women who were happy to discuss their trade with him. Again, however, this simply defies every statistical and academic survey in every country. Those surveys find that a minimum of between 80 and 90 per cent. of prostituted women are desperate to get out of the business. They are in it because of drug dependency or coercion, or because they have been beaten up or raped. We must remove ourselves from this happy hooker, Belle de Jour nonsense. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that prostituted women are in the business simply because they have chosen the profession just as a doctor, a lawyer or a Member of Parliament might-although when we consider the way in which women Members of Parliament are about to be treated under the Kelly proposals, there will soon be fewer and fewer of them.
Keith Vaz: Of course, my right hon. Friend is well travelled around the world, so he will have made his own inquiries, but I have to tell him that when I and other members of the Select Committee went down to meet those prostitutes, they were very contented with what they were doing. Many of them were from eastern Europe, and they had come here because they wanted to earn money. Their only disappointment was that my right hon. Friend was not there with us.
I can imagine almost any profession, business or trade in the world that I would be happy for any of my three daughters to go into, or that I would have been happy for my mother, my partners and other women friends to go into. However, I really cannot accept that accepting a number of penises in one's orifices in order to gratify the pleasures of men is a profession that we should dignify as just another trade that a Select Committee of this House goes and gives an approving pat on the head to. I therefore welcome the radical nature of this legislation and I ask right hon. and hon. Members to read the Lords debate, particularly the speech of His Grace, the Archbishop of York and the speeches of Lady peers.
May I say how much I welcome the change of heart of Conservative Members? I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years and Conservative colleagues have joined me in the campaign against trafficking, but until quite recently they have rejected the notion that we have to tackle the demand side. That is what this Bill does.
Let me pay tribute to the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), to the Leader of the House, to the Solicitor-General and to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth
(Mr. Campbell), who is replying to this debate and indeed, to the entire Home Office ministerial team. When some of us started out on this road three or four years ago, it was inconceivable that we could have brought about this change in law.
Let us be clear now from this House-there has been no publicity of any sort; "Newsnight" has not had another discussion; The Guardian, which ran a front-page report saying that trafficking was virtually non-existent, has not reported on this-that the House of Lords was right. Men who go into a massage parlour, a brothel or one of these private booths in a lap-dancing establishment and find themselves having sex with a woman who has been trafficked or coerced or obliged to be there under some pressure from the male controllers or male pimps will now find that that is potentially a crime. That man can be arrested and can appear in front of a magistrates court where he will be named and shamed. Yes, it puts all the responsibility on men.
Only one other country, Sweden, has gone fully down this road, while Finland has gone partially down it. We are the third. I think that this is a huge advance for what I consider to be 21st-century politics, in which women will cease to be dehumanised sex objects for huge amounts of profit. If there is no demand, supply will dry up. If we make a start with Britain, let us take this campaign forward into other countries and make it a worldwide campaign.
The Archbishop of York sits in the other place not far from where William Wilberforce, representing the great city of Hull, once sat. It took him 30 years or more to persuade us to get rid of slavery involving principally black Africans at the time. We are now at the start of the process of outlawing the slavery that dehumanises women and of making trafficking and coercion, prostitution and violence against women to please men something that we can, bit by bit, eliminate. I congratulate Ministers, this House and the House of Lords on passing this radical, dramatic, reforming Bill, of which the entire Houses of Parliament should be very proud indeed.
Mr. Alan Campbell: With the leave of the House, I would like to respond briefly to colleagues' comments. First, I share the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) that this is an important measure, but it has been a learning experience for us all. Even today, we have seen disagreement on some aspects-but, I hope, a broad acceptance of the Bill's importance.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) focused on clause 13 and our efforts to ensure that we focus on those we set out to help. I believe that the Lords amendments help in that regard.
The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Paul Holmes) asked about consultation. It is, of course, up to local authorities to carry out that consultation; it is not new to them, as they have existing duties to consult in all sorts of ways. We expect the exercise to be meaningful, but if the hon. Gentleman is content, I will look at any guidance that goes out to ensure that the exercise is meaningful.
In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho), who asked whether local authorities will need to consult if they do not adopt the
legislation, yes they will. We do not expect them to be shy about doing that; they came forward and told us that they wanted these powers. If they do not adopt them, they will still have to consult on them. She also mentioned the Home Secretary's review of temporary event notices-a commitment that we gave during deliberations in this House, which still stands. As to the owners of existing clubs in her constituency who are somehow under the belief that this legislation will not apply to them, let me just reaffirm that it will.
Mr. Campbell: The Government have made a number of amendments to the alcohol provisions in response to the concerns that were expressed in both this House and the other place. Amendment 25 removes clause 27 because the current maximum fine has never been imposed. We therefore accept that the clause is unnecessary. Amendments 26 and 27 amend clause 31 to allow the police to take a young person home or to a place of safety if they are issued with a direction to leave and the police suspect they are under 16. Safeguarding these vulnerable people is paramount and these amendments offer an important safeguard to protect children without making directions to leave any less effective.
Amendment 29 responds to the concerns of the Local Government Association by allowing members of the licensing authority to act as "interested parties", meaning that they can object to a licence application or initiate a licensing review. Following on, amendments 55 and 59 remove the provisions to allow licensing authorities to impose general licensing conditions, which both local authorities and the licensed trade were very concerned about and are unnecessary in light of amendment 29. Amendments 28, 65, 67 and 69 to 86 are simply consequential to amendments 55 and 59.
Amendments 52 to 54, 56 to 58, 64, 66 and 68 all ensure that the mandatory conditions work as intended by allowing other bodies to exercise some discretion in their implementation, ensuring that the conditions in individual licences are updated if the mandatory conditions are updated, and take account of the Legislative Reform (Supervision of Alcohol Sales in Church and Village Halls &c.) Order 2009, which has come into force since the Bill was introduced. I invite the House to accept the amendments.
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con):
We are obviously pleased that the Government have listened to a number of points made in Committee and during the course of the Bill's passage. I was very pleased to note that the Minister accepted that the need for clause 27 was questionable on the basis, as he said, that no one had
actually received the current £500 fine up to now. As the British Retail Consortium put it in its briefing note on this clause:
"no person since 2004 has been given a fine of more than £250 meaning that the current fine of £500 has never been used. We do not understand the logic of altering at this time."
It is perhaps not too surprising that the Government have now rethought their approach and having put the measure in have, on reflection, decided to take it out. However, in doing so the Minister needs to clarify whether the intent is in any way to move more down the summary justice route for this offence-the "policing by parking ticket" approach or conditional caution culture that has been talked about so much in recent weeks and months.
One of the rationales behind increasing the fine, as we understood it in the context of how the debate was articulated, was to send out a strong message about the seriousness of the offences, but the corollary of reversing this change should not, in our judgment, be seen as any suggestion that this offence should not be taken seriously. Will the Minister comment on whether this issue is at the forefront of his mind and whether his Department anticipates issuing any further guidance or indication as to the way in which these sorts of offences should be dealt with?
Lords amendments 26 and 27, which relate to clause 31, are an improvement on what we had before, but we still question whether the most appropriate way in which to deal with a child who represents a risk of disorder is simply requiring that child to leave. I welcome the fact that a constable using the power contained in section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 may remove a young person whom he or she suspects to be under 16 to a place of safety or a place where that person resides, but the key word is "may".
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