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Baroness Blatch: I am not sure whether this will come as too much of a shock to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, but I support government Amendments Nos. 318 and 362. It would be wrong for a male prostitute to be immune from offences that apply to female prostitutes. The noble Lord made some powerful points in speaking to these amendments. He also referred to the activity of kerb-crawling. A person who kerb-crawls should not escape prosecution because his targets were male rather than female. That is an entirely sensible change to the law, and it is surprising that it was not included in the Bill originally. I do not know why it was omitted. It has long been government policy to be "gender neutral"not a phrase I likeon these issues. I thought that that was the thrust of the Bill. Surely it was a mistake not to include it in the Bill initially.
I have not thought deeply enough about the two amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, but his second point was on prison. Although I do not want to say that all prostitution is offensive to some people, prostitution offences run the whole gamut from deeply offensive in terms of public nuisance and the degree to which vast sums are earned to less offensive. I think that it must be for the courts and judges to decide whether imprisonment is the appropriate sentence. I do not believe that it is for us to take the principled position that prostitutes per se should not be subject to imprisonment. That seems very much a matter for the courts. The Bill should establish a framework that provides judges with great latitude to decide the appropriate sentence. However, I have not thought too deeply about the subject because I did not see the amendments at the previous stage.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her support and warm words. I think we are making progress. However, I shall not dwell on it; I shall pick up some of the points that she and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made. As the noble Lord said, if there is a breach of an ASBO, the court can use the ultimate sanction of imprisonment. However, it is worth reflecting on precisely what surrounds the act of prostitution, including noise disturbance, such as the banging of car doors, and more general disruption for parts of our communities. For many, such behaviour is not only offensive but disturbing, discomfiting and distressing. I would find that distressing and I am sure that the noble Lord would also. In such circumstances, we think it absolutely right that the court should have the reserve position of penalising people for the breach of an ASBO.
As for the noble Lord's first point, I think he accepts that his amendment ultimately does not achieve what he seeks to doto unpick aspects of labelling. However, if the police have on record a consistent
We therefore have to resist both amendments. However, I understand the wider issues of concern that the noble Lord is seeking to raise in his amendments. I commend our amendments to the Committee and hope that he will not press his own.
Lord Skelmersdale: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Astor, I should like on behalf of these Benches to support the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I suspect that this grouping is somewhat larger than he originally envisaged. I should therefore like to say why we have joined in tabling the amendments.
I am also unsure about the advisability of "intentionally" as used in these clauses. It is often difficult to prove one's intention. The phrase "intentionally or knowingly", well trailed in legislation, might be a better reaction. I would welcome the Minister's views. On a general point, I wholeheartedly support all those groups that have lobbied us extensively on the need for comprehensive legislation to cover all types of trafficking, not just trafficking for sexual purposes. More resources must be allocated to social services, which provide accommodation, care and support to child victims of trafficking; for example, West Sussex social services which takes trafficked children from Gatwick Airport. However, these clauses are not only about the trafficking inwards; they deal also with trafficking in this country and trafficking from this country to other parts of the world.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It may help if I set out the Government's position at this point. We accept in principle the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in this respect. We do not believe that there is a justification for retaining,
I, too, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, to the Conservative Front Bench. He will be a most welcome addition in our debates. He is very brave to join at Amendment No. 319 in this very interesting and enlivening debate. I hope that the noble Lord will remain on that Front Bench for many years to come.
Lord Skelmersdale: I cannot let that go without comment. I did speak to various amendments on the first day of Committee, which no doubt the noble and learned Lord will remember. Indeed, I rather suspect that my comments were received with approval, unlike those of other noble Lords who participated in the proceedings on that day.
Baroness Blatch: We should all like to be associated with the comments welcoming my noble friend back to the Front Bench, where I believe he belongs. I welcome the remarks just made by the noble and learned Lord. It looks as though these amendments will be accepted.
Lord Hylton: I am most grateful to the Minister for his response and for his reception of the amendment. I look forward to reviewing government improvements in due course. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who has served on many a Front Bench over many years. I beg to move
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I have given an undertaking that I shall bring forward amendments at a later stage. We cannot agree to the current group of amendments because Clause 64 is not covered by them. Therefore, I undertake to bring forward amendments on Report that will have the same effect, and go slightly wider.