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Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

5.50 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill, like many other things, has a pre-history. There were very similar debates in your Lordships' House on 14th June and 11th July of last year during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. Therefore, it may be asked why I am returning to the subject only eight months later. There are several reasons. The first is the extent of child prostitution especially in Asia, but also in other countries. There can be little doubt that the prime cause of it is the absolute poverty of the parents, or the breakup of the families of the children who find themselves caught up by prostitution. In some cases, the parents themselves allow or encourage their children to be abused for money. In

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other cases, conditions at home become so unbearable that the children run away, usually to the nearest big city where they become easy prey for the organisers of commercial, under-age sexual exploitation. It is important to emphasise that boys become victims of this almost as much as girls.

A few figures will give your Lordships some idea of the extent of the problem. There are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines serving both the local population and the many expatriates and tourists from Europe and America. The same is true of Kenya where the number of children suffering abuse is not known for certain. In Sri Lanka, estimates of child prostitutes vary between 15,000 and 30,000. The United Kingdom is the second largest source of European visitors. The lowest estimate in Thailand for child prostitutes is 40,000 and the higher figure is 200,000. There, the UK ranks third among the sources of European tourism. Vietnam has a small number of child prostitutes under 16, India probably has 30,000—but possibly many more—and Taiwan has up to 100,000.

Throughout Asia, as elsewhere, tourists are welcomed for the spending power and hard currency that they bring. For that reason, among others, there is no great eagerness to prosecute them even for offences involving the sexual abuse of children. Nevertheless, the UK ranks fourth in the table of foreign nationals who have been arrested in Asia for offences against children. Therefore, our record is a serious and, indeed, a shameful one.

In our national legislation the interests and well-being of the child are always prime considerations both for the courts and for those framing legislation. The effects on the child of abuse and exploitation are completely and totally opposed to its welfare. They start with pain and continue with degradation, loneliness, rejection and depression. On top of all that, there is usually a serious risk of HIV and AIDS; for example, in one brothel in Bangkok 17 out of 18 girls were found to be infected with HIV and all of them were under 20 years old.

The first reason for the Bill, therefore, is the size and extent of the problem with which we are faced. The second reason lies in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which we ratified in 1992. The convention says plainly:

    "State parties shall prevent exploitative use of children in prostitution".

Article 34(b) defines a child as any person under the age of 18, thus overcoming the varying ages of consent for sexual intercourse in various countries and providing a norm for the future harmonising of laws.

I am glad to say that this country has had a fair measure of success in protecting its own children against sexual abuse. I suggest, therefore, that it behoves us to do all that we can to prevent our nationals from exploiting the children of other countries.

I trust that we shall follow the example of Australia, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden and, I believe, also of Finland and Italy. Those states have already taken power to prosecute at home for offences committed by their nationals against the children of other countries. Similar changes in law are impending in Belgium, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United

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States. Your Lordships will notice that, in those combined lists, there are included four countries which have a common law tradition similar to our own.

The third reason for legislating now is to be found in the weight and quality of favourable public opinion, both international and domestic. A group calling itself End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, was formed in Bangkok, Thailand. Incidentally, it estimates that there are some 1 million children subjected to prostitution in Asia. That voluntary initiative stimulated strong responses from UNICEF, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and its special rapporteur on the sexual abuse of children, together with the ILO and the Council of Europe.

In Britain, the campaign for legislation is headed by the Coalition on Child Prostitution and Tourism which is supported by the NSPCC, Save the Children UK, Christian Aid, CAFOD, the Jubilee Campaign, Action for Children, Soroptimists International, the Association of Inner Wheel Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland, the National Council of Women and the United Federation of Travel Agents.

In case your Lordships should make light of that rather long list of organisations, I should perhaps add that an Early Day Motion was signed last year by 250 Members of another place, whereas 100 signatures is normally considered a strong expression of opinion. In the country at large, 90,000 persons have signed a petition in favour of domestic legislation on the subject. The consensus of well-informed opinion can no longer be ignored. The problem is one for which we have to take responsibility. The point is well made by the Association of British Travel Agents. Its chief executive wrote to me saying:

    "This is a problem requiring both industry and Government intervention".

I turn now to the contents of the Bill. Clause 1 creates a new offence. A child is defined as a person,

    "under the age of 18 years",

in harmony with the UN Convention. Clause 1(1) (a) and (b) require the sexual offence to be a crime under the laws of both the country where the offence is committed and of the United Kingdom. Paragraph (c) requires the person charged to be either a UK citizen or to be "ordinarily resident" in this country. Your Lordships will note that subsection (1) (b) accommodates slight variations in the legislation of the three legal jurisdictions within the United Kingdom. Clause 1(2) upholds the principle of avoiding double jeopardy. Clause 2 is headed:

    "Short title, commencement and extent".

I now turn to the arguments used by the Home Office for resisting legislation on this subject. It is said that it is the primary duty of foreign countries to protect their nationals against abuse and exploitation. In general, I do not disagree with that. Certainly we should use the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 to help those countries to do so. Nonetheless, it is against the direct financial interests of the countries concerned to prosecute tourists, or indeed business

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visitors. This is, no doubt, why so many Western countries have decided to take extra-territorial jurisdiction for themselves.

It is most significant that in the case of Australia, which took jurisdiction last July, the number of arrests of Australian tourists for sex offences in Asia has increased quite markedly. Australia takes this matter so seriously that every traveller leaving the country is now given a leaflet warning of the penalties for sexual offences against children. The conclusion to be drawn is that countries such as Britain have to show that they themselves are taking stern and comprehensive measures before others will also do their part in law enforcement.

The next argument against legislating is that it would be difficult to bring successful prosecutions for overseas offences in British courts. Distance, the securing of witnesses, the possibility of bribery, the need for interpreters, and attendant costs, all certainly pose problems. Nevertheless, to give just one example, Norway successfully prosecuted three men in 1990. I would also point out that it is not necessary to rely in all cases on evidence to be provided by governments and local police forces. Non-governmental organisations could play a major part if this Bill becomes law and so could human rights lawyers of whom there are an increasing number in overseas countries.

Only last week Father Shay Cullen was describing in the Palace of Westminster the rescue work which his Preda centre carries out for child prostitutes in the Philippines. The New Life Centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is another excellent voluntary organisation that would, I think, be willing to gather evidence for British courts. There are by now considerable numbers of people who have escaped or been rescued from child prostitution, some of whom may prove good and reliable witnesses.

I would also ask Her Majesty's Government to reflect on the timetable for this Bill. It could not possibly receive Royal Assent before July. Then there would be six months before the Act came into effect. On this point I would be happy to be flexible. Perhaps the interim period could be extended. The point I am seeking to make is that there would be ample time to alert foreign governments, police and non-governmental organisations so that successful prosecutions could be mounted here.

The other main point to which I should draw attention is that the reference in line 7 of the Bill to,

    "aiding, abetting, counselling or procurement"

will, I believe, provide a most important preventive deterrent to the abuse of children overseas. It would make possible the prosecution here of people who may never have left this country but who are accessories to crimes committed elsewhere. It is known, for instance, that there are paedophile rings in this country who seek to promote so-called "sex tourism" and who do their best to lure foreign children to this country under the pretext of giving them holidays. Children in Romania are understood to have been abused under the pretext of taking aid supplies to a local hospital. Certainly the Social Services Inspectorate and several voluntary organisations here are concerned about the problem of

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bogus aid workers. This Bill would strengthen their hand. Furthermore, the production of pornographic films and videos is frequently linked to paedophilia and some production could be caught if this is the result of crimes committed overseas. There is already a proved connection between child abuse in Thailand and pornographic videos produced for sale in Germany.

It is not widely known that the United Kingdom already has extra-territorial jurisdiction for the crimes of murder, slavery and torture. I submit that this list should be extended to include sexual offences against children. There will not be many cases per year under any of the four headings which I have just given, but all are essential elements of our laws. Child abuse happens to combine elements of both slavery and torture. I therefore commend the Bill to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Hylton.)

6.6 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne: My Lords, I rise to speak with a heavy heart. It seems to me that the Bill tackles one of the most distasteful topics that this House is ever likely to debate. I find it hard to understand how any adult would abuse the trust of a child and commit sexual offences against him or her. The horror seems magnified when we realise that adults are travelling thousands of miles to take advantage of poor children in poor countries of the world for their own perverted sexual satisfaction.

I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus when he spoke of the consequences for anyone who might cause a little child to do wrong. In Matthew 18, verse 6, he said that,

    "it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea".

People committing these offences will ultimately have to face up to their creator.

I am conscious, however, that some find it difficult to listen to Christians who are concerned on this issue. They point to the sad series of cases where priests, ministers and Church leaders have abused their position in order sexually to exploit children. There are examples of such people travelling abroad to abuse children. There are examples of paedophile priests waiting for extradition to Britain for alleged offences committed against children. Such cases grieve me and bring great dishonour not only to the Church but to the name of Christ. I accept that we Christians have much to do to set our own house in order.

I draw the attention of the House to a conference of religious leaders from around the world which was held in Manila in the Philippines in January this year. The conference addressed the issue of pornography and its links with other evils such as sex tourism. More than 160 religious leaders from 37 countries and over 40 faiths were present. The declaration at the end of the conference acknowledged the need for Churches to address the issue of pornography and child sex abuse within their own numbers. I was encouraged by the honesty of that declaration and also by the clear call,

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    "for every nation to criminalise child sex tourism and to hold its nationals responsible for sexual conduct abroad involving children".

I shall not be surprised if the Minister reiterates the usual Home Office briefing as to why it is inappropriate for Britain to introduce legislation. It seems to me that a Bill such as that before us today can be made to work and that it gives a crucial signal to those engaging in sex tourism that there is no escape from their crime. If they are not prosecuted in other countries, at least they will be prosecuted in Britain.

I hope that the Bill receives a Second Reading. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, well in his crucial task in pushing the issue forward and seeking to protect underprivileged and vulnerable children of the world.

6.9 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, reminded us, this is the third occasion within 12 months on which your Lordships have debated this issue. The noble Lord has increased our debt to him by his very comprehensive and sensitive introduction to our debate. The debates which we had last year served to crystallise the issues.

As I understand it, it is not in issue that this vile trade exists in a large number of cities, nor that it has increased substantially over the past 10 years with the increase in tourism from the West to the third world. That is not in dispute.

As I understand it, the Government say that there is no issue of principle; there is no objection as such to the principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction. The objections are those which were specified by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

First, it is said, it is better wherever possible that offences should be prosecuted in the jurisdiction where they take place. That is not in dispute. Nor, unhappily, is it in dispute that that is not practical in this case, for the reasons which the noble Lord gave. There is corruption in the police forces involved, in the prosecuting authorities involved and at various official levels. That is not something that we say about those countries, it is something that they say about themselves. The Government of Thailand are well aware of the problem and have indicated that they would like to see this country take the initiative which is proposed by the noble Lord tonight.

No one seems to dispute either that a substantial proportion of the offences in those countries originate in the tourist industry. Father Shay Cullen of the Preda Foundation who was mentioned by the noble Lord, who is leading the campaign in the Philippines, estimates that, of offences against children there, something like 60 per cent. are committed by tourists. Therefore it is not suggested that this is a problem which can be left in the laps of the countries concerned.

The second argument is that there would be no point in our courts having jurisdiction to try these offences because we could not bring successful prosecutions as the evidence would not be available. Since that argument was specified, a number of us have directed our minds to addressing the problem. We have made

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some inquiries. There are a number of ways in which I believe I can assist the House today with the results of those inquiries.

In one of our earlier debates the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, pointed out that there are non-governmental organisations of a very reputable status whose members and officials are to be found in many of these cities. He pointed out that they would be ready and willing to find out what had transpired and to marshal and present the evidence. That is undoubtedly true. At present a prosecution is proceeding in Sweden which rests on evidence supplied by non-governmental organisations. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, told us, there have been three prosecutions in Norway. In each case the prosecution led to a conviction. Two of them related to offences in the Philippines and they arose specifically as a result of evidence supplied by Father Shay Cullen and his organisation. The other related to an offence committed in Thailand, where again I believe the evidence was initiated by a non-governmental organisation.

I do not have all the details that I should like on those cases, but it might be helpful if the Home Office were to pursue that line of inquiry. It can find details in the report for 1994 of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Mr. Muntarbhorn. I have no doubt that he can supply the details if the Home Office wishes to pursue the matter.

I ventured to ask Father Cullen whether it would be possible if necessary to arrange for witnesses to come from the Philippines to this country in order to give evidence. His answer was a very clear affirmative. He said that, contrary to what we have sometimes been told, many of the children concerned are not reluctant to give evidence. They would be happy to have the opportunity to tell people what had happened.

Father Cullen well appreciates the difficulties of approaching a child about these matters and taking a statement, and the dangers of producing in consequence unreliable evidence at a later stage. He is aware broadly of the rules but would be very happy to work closely with the police and prosecuting authorities in this country and to take their advice.

On that evidence it is no longer possible to argue persuasively that the evidence would not be available if prosecutions took place in this country.

No other argument appears to have emerged from the earlier debates. We are almost alone among the many countries which have been considering this matter in not proceeding to place an extra-territorial jurisdiction provision on the statute book. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, listed some of the countries which already have that provision and others which are proceeding to discuss it.

I do not think that any further contribution from me will serve a purpose. Nor do I think that it is needed, because that was the only argument which was addressed against the proposal. We in this country have a proud record, and one which has stood our reputation in good stead, as initiating the legislation which over a period stamped out the slave trade. I believe that if Wilberforce and Buxton and their colleagues were here

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tonight they would be pressing in favour of the Bill proposed by the noble Lord. Of course they did not have the problem of persuading the Home Office, but I hope that it may transpire that that problem is not insuperable.

6.16 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for introducing the Bill into your Lordships' House and for speaking so ably in its support.

The wicked practice of child prostitution and its link with tourism is well known and well documented. Indeed, there are groups in my diocese of concerned people who meet to do what they can to help in the eradication of this evil.

I use restrained language in your Lordships' House, but there is no restraint to my feelings of abhorrence at the activities of those who travel as tourists to countries overseas and commit sexual offences against children. They use children as objects for the fulfilment of their desires, using them as one would a toy and then discarding them. Children are dehumanised, left with feelings of guilt and low esteem. There may be physical damage to immature youngsters. Perhaps most frightening of all, there is the possibility that children may be sought for sexual gratification because they are less likely to be HIV positive than adults. As a result they themselves become more likely to be infected. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has already mentioned figures to bear that out.

The pressures and forces, sometimes physical force amounting to virtual slavery, which drive children to be exploited in this way arise largely from poverty. The majority of child prostitutes are from marginal families in cities and from destitute families in rural areas, or they are themselves the children of prostitutes. Child prostitutes are usually either street children who drift into prostitution as a means of survival or children whose families collude with their being taken for prostitution. In some cases children are simply snatched. Often families are deceived by the offer of a job to their child in a far away town as a servant or waitress, when the reality is quite otherwise.

Because poverty is at the root of the availability of children for prostitution, those who take advantage of them may be tempted to expiate guilt by saying that they are contributing to the relief of economic hardship. It is clear that that is self delusion. There are many proper ways in which economic hardship may be alleviated. But self delusion may work in other ways also. Those on holiday in Asia—an exotic part of the world—may feel far from home and free from the inhibitions which normally govern behaviour, believing in a vague way that they are in a different culture, and that what is unacceptable and unlawful in their own country is somehow permissible in this holiday setting. All that is, of course, fantasy.

A programme is needed which has a number of elements: the raising of awareness in this country; work with the tourist industry to establish codes of conduct; and work with embassies of destination countries to

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enable leaflets to be given to tourists. The Coalition on Child Prostitution and Tourism, to which church-related agencies already referred to belong, is pursuing such a programme. But central to dispelling of fantasy is the reality of the law; and it is here that the Bill is so important. The tourist who commits a sexual offence against children must be liable to trial and punishment for his offence. The law needs to have a long arm so that offenders who escape the country in which the offence was committed—perhaps through corruption or in some other way—may be brought to trial in their own country.

UK citizens form a substantial part of the tourist population; and there are some figures which indicate that they form also a substantial part of those who offend. Of 160 random cases monitored by the Coalition on Child Prostitution and Tourism, 19 were UK citizens. That is nearly one in eight. It is therefore a key part of the struggle to eradicate this appalling activity that UK nationals should be able to be committed for trial in this country for an offence committed elsewhere. That is possible at the moment, as has already been said, for the grave crimes of murder and treason. It needs to be possible for the grave and widespread crime of sexual offences against children.

The Government at the moment are reluctant to allow this change in legislation; and we have already heard from other noble Lords the arguments which underlie this reluctance. I should like to support the rebuttal of the argument which has already been given, in particular by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell: that child agencies and non-governmental organisations have made it clear that they are willing to provide help and support in the submission of evidence in order to bring a prosecution.

I understand that the Government are looking at what is happening in other countries which have introduced similar legislation—perhaps in particular Australia, where such legislation is in place—in order to see whether prosecutions are being brought successfully. Can the Minister tell the House what information her department has received on the matter and whether such information supports the contention that successful prosecutions are possible?

It is inconceivable that this country should be a laggard in the matter. The Second Reading of the Bill in your Lordships' House gives an assurance that the House will do all it can to share in the stamping out of these shocking practices. We look for a similar assurance from Her Majesty's Government.

6.23 p.m.

Lord Wilberforce: My Lords, I very much welcome and support the Bill. Indeed, I spoke in favour of a similar measure which was debated during the progress of the Criminal Justice Bill. After what has been said, I can be brief. All the arguments are before the House.

The factual basis for the Bill is absolutely undoubted, as is the case of UK involvement. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, gave figures for the percentage of tourism from this country. There is no doubt that it is very great. Legally the noble Lord's Bill is well founded. It is

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perfectly open in English law to extend the reach of our laws in suitable cases, as we have done in relation to other crimes. The fact that a great number of other countries, including other common law countries, have done the same is a warrant for the fact that it is internationally sound and well based.

As stated by a number of noble Lords, the real problem regards enforcement and obtaining evidence. The only point I wish to make is that outlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. There are means of bringing to the notice of English courts offences which occur in other countries. Anti-Slavery International, of which I am a joint president, has formed a coalition of bodies, including Save the Children, Christian Aid and others. It has established a co-ordinating office whose business it is to collect information on this and similar events. I wish to underline the fact that Anti-Slavery International, like other bodies, has a number of skilled and experienced officers on the spot in those countries. It is not as though we are dependent on occasional visits. On the contrary, we make continual and constant investigations into slavery and slavery-like processes which would include the specific evils addressed by the Bill.

Other countries have the same; Norway is particularly strong in that area. There is a branch of Anti-Slavery International there. That is underlined by the three successful prosecutions which have been brought in that country. They indicate that means exist for bringing evidence before the courts.

Of course not every case will be provable. Not every case that is brought into this country will culminate in a prosecution. However, the existence of a remedy is an essential complement to the two other methods of dealing with these crimes. I refer to local prosecution—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, has exposed the difficulties—or extradition, which, as everyone knows, is a slow and laborious process, even supposing—it is not the case—that there is a treaty of extradition with the country concerned.

By passing the legislation, we would be giving a signal to other countries, our own people, tourist agencies and people going from this country, of our attitude towards such crimes. We would be placing the United Kingdom alongside other strong, reputably organised and legally sound countries which have passed, or are passing, legislation on the subject. We ought not to stand alone. I very much hope that we shall join them.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Milverton: My Lords, I support with great pleasure and wholeheartedly the principles, concerns and purposes underlying the Bill. I supported an amendment put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, on a similar matter in Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill.

I voice distaste regarding citizens from the western world going to places beyond and using their influence and power with local adults of influence to do unwholesome things (I use those words unashamedly) for filthy lucre on defenceless victims—young boys and

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girls. They take advantage of them so that their persons are stripped of their dignity, beauty and wholeness. Hurt and harm comes into the equation. Those traders of young souls mislead the adults of the country of the youngsters as well as the youngsters themselves. As has been said already, it is really a form of slavery—a horrible torture.

It is repugnant for Christians to act in that way, procuring children for commercial profit. It is repugnant for anyone from a Christian tradition to do so, even if they do not claim to be a Christian or a believer in God. It is a disgrace for any man or woman to say that they uphold the blessed and holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit, and yet to defile the body of a young boy or girl and thus to defile their own body.

The task is to have the courage to put those unwholesome traders in youngsters to flight by good law and legislation. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, success with his Bill and especially with the significant action being taken in certain countries which have been mentioned and the increasing support for that action. Shall we have the courage to do something for those youngsters who are shamefully ill-treated, misused and abused by those from the western world who maintain that they have such great standards of virtue? May the Bill have every success.

6.31 p.m.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I did not speak but I voted on 14th June last in support of similar legislation proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. I intervene to make only four points. First, it seems to be accepted that much of the tourism directed to this quite vile trade originates in the United Kingdom. That must impose a special obligation on the Government to take positive action.

Secondly, the obvious practical difficulties in securing a conviction can surely be overcome. Modern technology should be perfectly capable of producing, by video or other means, evidence to support the allegations. The suggestion has been made that the United Kingdom Government could station one or more police officers in the black spots to assist in achieving the evidence necessary.

Thirdly, the mere existence of the suggested extra-territorial jurisdiction would prove a valuable deterrent. Moreover, if that jurisdiction were coupled with but the threat to station a police officer or even to consider placing a police officer in the Philippines, Sri Lanka or wherever the trade flourishes most, it is bound to be affected.

Fourthly, to be indifferent to our fellow creatures is the essence of inhumanity. So said George Bernard Shaw. If we are not to join the ever-growing list of countries which have accepted extra-territorial

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jurisdiction, then the Government will be condemned as being indifferent, however much they protest the contrary. Accordingly, I support the Bill.

6.34 p.m.

Lord Ennals: My Lords, I am extremely glad to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. We have now heard from two distinguished lawyers who have given an answer to what has seemed to me up to now to be the principal concerns of the Government in supporting this eminently sensible measure. I am no lawyer and I shall not seek to be drawn into the argument, but I was impressed by the case made today by the lawyers. I warmly welcome the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I hope that the Government will seize the opportunity to block the undoubted gap in current legislation dealing with what has been described by noble Lords on both sides of the House, and particularly movingly by the right reverend Prelate, as a loathsome practice. All the evidence seems to be that it is growing and, if it is, we cannot simply stand idly by. We must find new ways in which to take initiatives.

I became aware of the abuse because of my involvement with Anti-Slavery International, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, though I did so years after he had joined and played such an important part in it. In 1993 the organisation brought to Britain as a guest the chairperson of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism). I was greatly impressed by the lady and her team and the work that they are doing. There is no doubt that their appeal was to those of us who cared enough about it to persuade the Government to climb on board and show courage in a situation in which they were trying to stand on the sidelines. I hope that they will no longer do so.

May I also say how pleased I was that Anti-Slavery International brought together the Coalition on Child Prostitution and Tourism which was referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce. It covers all the different faiths, with CAFOD playing its part, as well as Christian Aid.

I am glad that so many Peers from different sides of the House have spoken in a moving way in relation to the Bill. So far, the Government have been negative in their response but I hope that the wise words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell will convince them that they cannot stand idly by.

As most Members of your Lordships' House know, by the year 2000 tourism will be the world's largest industry. Its rapid growth has coincided in several poorer countries with the emergence of the disgusting child sex industry. I was impressed by the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon. One major cause of the sexual exploitation of children is the promotion of tourism. No one suggests that tourism should be restrained but we must ensure that the actions associated with it are restrained. The right reverend Prelate referred to poverty and economic problems as being the underlying causes, but equally significant is the increasing demand from customers from wealthier countries such as Britain. As was said, the Reverend

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Shay Cullen from the Preda Foundation believes that the demand from overseas visitors amounts to 60 per cent. of all prostituted children in the Philippines. ECPAT monitored the nationalities of a random 160 foreigners arrested for sexually abusing children over a three-year period. The fourth highest number—12 per cent.—were from Britain and that is unsatisfactory.

It is not as if it is just a question of the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka. ECPAT has identified other countries, including Kenya, Gambia, Brazil, Cuba, Romania and Estonia, as the new areas of concern. Quite clearly, there is now an epidemic of this disgusting practice. Our Government should not only do something about it, but should very publicly be seen to be doing something. Of course it is difficult; that was recognised by the two lawyers who spoke. It is always difficult to be perfectly satisfied that you can get the right people when you need them. But to do nothing, to take no action, almost suggests a tone of approval. I want to see the Government respond in a very positive way.

Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for state parties to:

    "take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures".

Other tourist-sending countries have interpreted this spirit of the convention and have introduced legislation to prosecute their citizens for offences committed extra-territorially. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, listed some of the growing number of countries which have already decided that legislation is the proper way to deal with the issue. That has been widely supported by organisations such as UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation and the UN Programme of Action on Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. It is supported by Interpol and by the Council of Europe. We in the UK stand alone in rejecting such legislation. I find that sickening. I hope that the expressions of opinion that have come from all sides of the House this evening will convince the Government that they have to take action. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said how flexible he will be if the Government see better ways of doing what we know needs to be done. It is for the Government to decide how any action can best be taken and for us then to support what they bring before us.

6.42 p.m.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I put my name down to speak this evening, not because I wish to treat noble Lords to a dissertation on the subject—that is still not my intention—but because I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and to congratulate him on his courage and perseverance in bringing this Bill forward.

I spend a few weeks every summer working with severely disadvantaged children from London, many of whom have been sexually abused. I see the appalling trauma, the emotional and psychological damage, that this brings to their lives. If it is our intention, as I believe it must be, to continue to try to stamp out the practice of sexual abuse in this country, then surely it must be our duty also to do our best not to export the problem.

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This Bill might have an effect not only in discouraging those who practise this curiously distressing and disgusting habit but also on those who organise it.

Some noble Lords will remember that great film, "The Third Man". There is something particularly repellent about someone who, for financial gain, is prepared to destroy and exploit children. This is an opportunity for your Lordships and for the Government to take action to pass a piece of legislation not for political or economic expediency but simply because it is right.

6.46 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I strongly support this Bill and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on his brilliant introduction of it and the coverage of the appalling and distressing aspects of the crimes that we are discussing this evening.

When I came in to this debate I was prepared to agree with what I expect the Government will say; namely, that a Bill such as this will be difficult to enforce. We have now heard from two distinguished lawyers in this House who have told us that not only is this legislation internationally sound and well based, but that there should be no real reason why, with all the technology that is available to us, we should not be able to proceed to get the kind of evidence that will result in the prosecution of offenders in those countries where this despicable trade takes place.

Since all the other points have been so well covered, perhaps I may turn straight to my concern in this matter. During my investigations before this debate, I found that in France there was indeed an admission that the difficulties of getting evidence were definitely there. In that country they took the view that this was not a problem that was entirely a dead end for them, but, interestingly, it was against the law in France for French nationals to indulge in illegal sexual activities with juveniles in other countries. Because of the people whom they had appointed in their embassies and other agencies whose job it was to look out for offenders of this kind, they had been able to make very successful inroads into the prosecution of paedophile rings who were going to those countries expressly to procure children for the making of indecent films and videos and for the dissemination of that material in Europe. It was coming through very well tried paths, usually through the Low Countries, into Europe; and a lot of that material was coming to this country. That is a further very good reason for supporting the noble Lord's Bill.

There can be nothing more revolting or shocking to most of us than the idea of material of this kind, as noble Lords have said, of children being degraded, debased and dehumanised—whether it be still photographs, videos or films—being circulated among perverted people in this country and in other countries of Europe for the satisfaction of their deviant taste. It is absolutely essential that, in common cause with other countries in Europe and elsewhere, we should seek, as we do in the war against drugs, to combat this problem, which unfortunately is growing, together.

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After all, the problem has been drawn to our attention by the countries themselves. It was in Thailand that enormous pressure was put on the visiting countries to do something about it. As other noble Lords have said, it is not the native citizens of those countries who use these children. It is the visitors—or, as we euphemistically call them, tourists.

It is essential for us to support this piece of legislation. It has been so well argued, not only here but, as was mentioned, during debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in June, particularly in points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. It is not good enough for the Government to say that the legal difficulties are insurmountable and that that is a reason why we cannot join with so many other countries against what must be one of the most revolting and disgusting trades carried out in the world today. I hope that the Government will show that they have changed their mind in the months following the debate we had in June.

6.50 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as always when dealing with Private Member's Bills I preface my remarks by saying that I speak for myself and not for my party. But that is perhaps more of a formality than usual because my inclination is so strongly in favour of this Bill that I find it difficult to believe that any of my noble friends will disagree with it. I believe that, even without our Whip, were there to be a Division on the matter, any of my noble friends who might be present would wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in his endeavour.

First, as I always do in these circumstances, I shall look for common ground; matters on which all noble Lords, including the Government, agree. So far, all noble Lords who have spoken have been unanimous in supporting the Bill. Let us first agree about the sheer horror of the offence; the nauseating practice of adults of either sex abusing in any way children of either sex. A number of noble Lords attacked the issue from a Christian viewpoint and I respect that. I hope that they will understand that, as a non-Christian and a non-religious person, my horror at the offence is no less profound than theirs. Indeed, as one who is perhaps notorious in your Lordships' House for opposing many aspects of censorship for adult activity, the idea of abuse of children, whether in person or in the form of child pornography—which involves personal activity—is as offensive to me as it is to any of your Lordships. To that extent I hope that we shall be entirely in agreement in considering this Bill.

The second point on which we may all, including the Government, agree is the fact that the United Kingdom is intensely involved in this problem. Of course the offences take place in other countries and the concentration about which we have been speaking this evening has been in Asia. But we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that, in terms of arrests in Asia of people from developed countries for sexual offences against children, the United Kingdom ranks fourth.

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"Ranks" is a nasty way of expressing it; the correct way to put it is that we are the fourth worst. We are therefore deeply involved in this pernicious business, and in a particularly shameful way, in that we in the United Kingdom are supplying the offenders and the poorer countries where the offences take place are supplying the victims. That must be exceptionally shaming for us in this country.

The third matter on which I believe we shall all agree—certainly after hearing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce—is that there can be a power in United Kingdom law to punish offences which take place under other jurisdictions. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to a number of cases where that occurs. He mentioned murder but I cannot remember his other examples—certainly there were more.

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