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We need to ensure that the removal of this term does not have the effect of increasing enforcement action against those prostitutes involved in street prostitution. Clause 16 therefore inserts the word "persistently" so it is clear that an offence is committed only by a person who persistently loiters or solicits in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.

To ensure consistency, we believe that it is necessary to define "persistence". Clause 16 therefore defines it as conduct that takes place,

We have discussed in Committee and in another place whether that definition of "persistence" is too wide. However, we maintain that our definition strikes the right balance between providing offenders with the opportunity to change their behaviour and allowing the police to take action if they do not. Indeed, current police practice is generally to arrest a person for this offence only when they have already been found loitering or soliciting twice in the previous 12 months. Our definition is therefore likely in practice to amount to a narrowing, rather than a widening, of the current offence.

We do not think fears that this change could lead to increased enforcement against those in street prostitution are well founded. As evidenced by a decline in convictions for loitering or soliciting, current policy advocates a welfare-based approach over an approach focused solely on enforcement. Following the implementation of the Government's prostitution strategy, which will increase partnership working between the police and voluntary organisations providing support to those involved in prostitution, there will be greater opportunities for the police to ensure that the welfare approach continues. This is current ACPO policy and will be promoted in a new Home Office circular on policing prostitution.

Amendment 28 would remove Clause 17, which introduces a new penalty for the offence of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, building on the modernising approach that we are taking in Clause 16. The clause will provide an alternative to a fine. As the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has pointed out, too often a financial penalty can have the counterproductive effect of encouraging those convicted of loitering or soliciting to continue in prostitution in order to pay the fine.

We believe that we are introducing a more constructive approach. The order will help those involved in prostitution to address the underlying factors that cause them to continue their involvement in street prostitution and help to connect these people with the support services they need.

There are those who believe it is wrong to criminalise prostitution and those who work as street prostitutes at all. Different views on this were expressed in response to Paying the Price. However, there was no clear consensus to justify a change in the current law. Indeed, a number of respondents felt that the decriminalisation

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of those in street prostitution sent out the wrong message to young people about the acceptability of street prostitution; it would create a demand for sex markets and control those markets. This is why we believe that it is necessary to maintain the law.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but he has prompted a thought: when was the last time that the subject of legalising brothels came up in the Home Office?

Lord Brett: I will take note of that question, if I may, and hope to return to it courtesy of the Box before we end this debate.

Given that we have decided to maintain this offence, it is important that we seek to ensure that it can be used constructively and that it does not exacerbate the problems that it is intended to address. It is not our intention that this should be the sole means of ensuring that support is available to street prostitutes, but sometimes criminal justice action may be necessary. When it is, it is important that the court has the option of imposing a more constructive sentence than a fine, and Clause 17 ensures that it does.

Concerns have been raised about the ability of courts to impose an order without the consent of an offender, but there may be some cases where as a last resort a level of compulsion is justified. However, we recognise that the orders are far more likely to be successful when they are imposed with a person's consent and we will emphasise this in guidance.

The process of exiting prostitution may be long, and there may be relapses along the way. The orders are not intended to be the sole means of helping someone leave prostitution, but, in many cases, we hope they will be a start.

We recognise concerns that there are not sufficient safeguards on the police power of detention in Schedule 1. Our Amendment 29 will therefore impose an upper limit of 72 hours on the time that a person can be detained, in addition to the proviso that someone must be brought to court "as soon as practicable". It is clear from Amendment 27 that the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, extend beyond the period of detention. I accept that she may wish to see a more broad-ranging agenda of reform, but preventing the order being introduced will not improve the situation. It would simply allow the continuance of the current circumstances in which courts, faced with someone who has been convicted of loitering and soliciting, have little alternative but to fine them.

Amendment 30 would remove Clause 18, presumably as a consequence of removing Clause 17. Clause 17 will reduce the rehabilitation period for those convicted of loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution where they are sentenced under the new rehabilitative orders. It means that, in general, those sentenced to the new orders will be required to disclose their conviction only for the six-month period following it, at which point the conviction will become spent. Six months is the maximum duration of the order. As with all spent convictions, it will remain disclosable in certain limited situations; for example, in the assessment of suitability

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for some types of employment. Since we therefore wish to maintain Clause 17, we also seek to retain Clause 18, which is an important element of the rehabilitative process that the orders are intended to support.

Amendments 31 and 32 would remove Clauses 19 and 20, which will replace the two existing offences of kerb-crawling and soliciting found in the Sexual Offences Act 1985 and equivalent Northern Ireland legislation. This will allow the police to prosecute an offender on the first occasion on which they are found to be kerb-crawling or soliciting, without the need to prove either persistence or, in the case of kerb-crawling, that the behaviour is likely to cause annoyance to the person solicited or nuisance to others in the neighbourhood. A number of responses to Paying the Price identified kerb-crawling as a significant problem which contributes to the existence of street prostitution by fuelling the demand and is a source of nuisance for communities affected by street prostitution. Consequently, the co-ordinated prostitution strategy and the subsequent Tackling the Demand review made enforcement against kerb-crawling a key priority in fulfilling the wider objective of tackling the demand for prostitution. The amendments to the law which Clauses 19 and 20 will make ensure that this problematic behaviour can be tackled more easily by the police, thereby sending a significant deterrent message.

Concern has also been expressed that these clauses could endanger further those involved in street prostitution-a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller-forcing them to take more risks in more isolated and dangerous locations, where their clients are less likely to be caught by the police if they engender violence or mistreatment. The Government take these concerns seriously. We are acutely aware of the dangers that those involved in street prostitution face every day and of our responsibility to them when legislating in this area. But tolerating kerb-crawling will not address those dangers. We firmly believe that the most effective way of making the lives of those involved in prostitution safer is to take steps to tackle demand while ensuring that support is available to them, with the long-term aim of reducing the levels of street prostitution. Over recent years, convictions for kerb-crawling have increased, while convictions of those found loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution have decreased, reflecting a shift in emphasis which we intend to consolidate.

3.15 pm

We do not accept that prostitution is inevitable. A vital part of reducing street prostitution is tackling demand and taking more action against kerb-crawlers. Amendment 33 would remove Clause 21, which introduces a new order allowing courts to close premises associated with certain prostitution or pornography-related offences for three months. The measures will be a vital tool in helping police disrupt criminal activity and protect victims of abuse. Currently, when the police raid premises linked with prostitution or child pornography offences, they may find the premises open again for business within hours or days of the raid. While they have the power to arrest those suspected of committing offences involving prostitution or child pornography, they are

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able to close the premises only if they are associated with persistent disorder or nuisance or use of class A drugs. The lack of an appropriate closure power means that exploitative activities may restart as soon as the police have left. Giving the police the power to serve a closure notice under Schedule 2 to the Bill is designed to prevent that.

I understand that the noble Baroness and other noble Lords are concerned that allowing police greater powers to target off-street prostitution would be detrimental to the safety of those providing sexual services in brothels. The police will not be able to use the powers introduced by Schedule 2 to close all brothels. Instead, closure notices and orders will target particularly exploitative activities and will be used in relation only to premises associated with certain specified sexual offences. Before a closure order is made, a court must be satisfied that it is necessary to prevent the premises being used for activities related to the offences listed in Sections 47 to 50, 52 and 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Those are the offences relating to child pornography, child prostitution and causing, inciting or controlling of prostitution for gain found in that Act. The orders can be used only where necessary to prevent activities related to these serious crimes occurring.

Our Amendments 34 and 35 reflect our desire to address concerns about these orders. They add to the conditions already in the Bill by requiring the courts to be satisfied that prior to the issue of a closure notice, which must precede an application for closure order, the police took reasonable steps to identify those with an interest in the premises and gave them a copy of the closure notice.

A closure notice must be served by a police officer before an application for closure order is made at court. One of the conditions that must be met before a police officer, who must be of at least the rank of superintendent or above, can authorise the issue of a closure notice is that he must be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to establish the identity of persons who reside on the premises or who have control of, responsibility for, or an interest in them. The amendment would therefore impose a condition on courts to ensure that the police had properly followed this procedure. We hope that noble Lords are assured that, with that extra requirement, we will provide a clear safeguard for those with an interest in the premises, ensuring that the police take steps to identify and inform them of the closure proceedings, which in turn will give those people a chance to attend court to raise any objections to the closure order before it is made.

We believe that a number of the concerns raised in Committee and in this debate have been dealt with. Given the importance of disrupting the criminal activity that can sometimes be associated with off-street prostitution, it is vital that these new powers are granted to disrupt the exploitation and serious criminal activity that exists not throughout but certainly in some areas of off-street prostitution. Clauses 16 to 21 are important provisions that should be retained to improve our approach to prostitution. I ask the noble Baroness not to press her amendments, and I commend Amendments 29, 34 and 35 to the House.

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In closing, I respond to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. The Home Office considered the merits of a legalised or regulated approach to prostitution, including legislation on brothels, in the Tackling the Demand review published in November 2008.

I should like to add a little something. From listening to noble Lords in Committee and at this stage, I understand that there is some concern that, as the noble Baroness said, while the Government's intentions may be right, some of their methods may prove to be wrong in the event. That is particularly addressed to the question of rehabilitation orders and how we deal with prostitution and the prostitute in relation to the law. I offer the assurance that, as soon as is practicable and meaningful, probably within two years of the commencement of rehab orders, we will conduct an assessment of the nature and impact of the current service provision for the rehabilitation of prostitutes, identify and share good practice and consider the most effective way in which to deliver services to those involved in prostitution, including what works as an effective route out, while monitoring the usage of rehabilitation orders as a means of helping individuals out of prostitution.

I hope that, when we see how this works in practice, that will reassure those who fear that, although our destination may be desirable, the route that we are taking is not the most meaningful. We believe that it is, and I commend the Government's proposals.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister particularly for the last paragraph of his remarks. The offer of an assessment at least offers some comfort to those of us who are very worried about the direction that this Bill has taken. I am grateful to the Minister for the time he has spent in thinking about these issues. The Government have come forward with three amendments. To ask me to be very enthusiastic about Amendment 29, on less time in detention, would be like asking me to be grateful for a very awful present. I am not hugely grateful because I did not like the provision in the first place. However, the provisions in Amendments 34 and 35 are much more reasonable.

We have had a very full debate on these issues over two days, and I am very grateful to everybody who has shown so much concern from all around the House. When we come back to these issues, I hope that we have much clearer evidence-and I am sure that we will come back to them. I hope that we will be in much less of a muddle, as the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, described it, and that we will be able to see what reforms of the law would be constructive. I appreciate the Minister's comment that removing all the clauses would simply revert the law to where it already is, which we do not believe is very satisfactory either. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 27 withdrawn.

Clause 17 : Orders requiring attendance at meetings

Amendment 28 not moved.

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Schedule 1 : Schedule to the Street Offences Act 1959

Amendment 29

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

29: Schedule 1, page 137, line 22, after "practicable" insert "and in any event before the end of the period of 72 hours beginning with the time of the arrest"

Amendment 29 agreed.

Clause 18 : Rehabilitation of offenders: orders under section 1(2A) of the Street Offences Act 1959

Amendment 30 not moved.

Clause 19 : Soliciting: England and Wales

Amendment 31 not moved.

Clause 20 : Soliciting: Northern Ireland

Amendment 32 not moved.

Clause 21 : Closure orders

Amendment 33 not moved.

Schedule 2 : Closure orders

Amendments 34 and 35

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

34: Schedule 2, page 142, line 43, leave out "two" and insert "three"

35: Schedule 2, page 143, line 17, at end insert-

"(9A) The third condition is that the court is satisfied that-

(a) before the issue of the closure notice was authorised, reasonable steps were taken to establish the identity of any person of a description mentioned in section 136B(7)(b), and

(b) a constable complied with section 136C(3)(d) in relation to the persons so identified."

Amendments 34 and 35 agreed.

Amendment 36

Moved by Baroness Gould of Potternewton

36: Before Clause 27, insert the following new Clause-

"Control of sex establishments: local authorities

(1) Section 2 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (c. 30) (control of sex establishments) is amended as follows.

(2) For subsections (1) to (4) substitute-

"(1) Schedule 3 to this Act shall have effect with respect to the licensing of sex establishments and the requirements of that Schedule shall apply to all local authorities.""

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Baroness Gould of Potternewton: In moving Amendment 36 and speaking to Amendments 37, 43 and 54, I shall no doubt also refer to other amendments in this group. I start by thanking the Minister for giving me time to express my feelings about why these amendments are important. I am not sure whether I have convinced him, but we will wait and see. I also thank the Public Bill Office for its help in drafting very complicated amendments.

It is encouraging that the Government have listened to the long-time concerns that lap-dancing establishments were licensed under the same category as restaurants and pubs, while clearly being part of the commercial sex industry. This Bill reforms the licensing category to allow lap-dancing clubs to be licensed in the same way as sex shops and sex cinemas-as sex entertainment venues-although the proposed new description does not take into account that, in many clubs, the word encounter would have made the purpose much clearer. However, I believe that the Government's good intentions are seriously undermined in two ways. The Bill is seriously flawed by the new licensing regime being optional for local councils, by having adoptive provisions, and by there being an exemption for those venues holding lap dancing less than once a month-that is, the occasional use exemption.

The Bill as drafted exempts from regulation premises that organise lap dancing no more than 11 times a year. The effect of this exemption is potentially far-reaching. It will make it lawful for any private individual to lay on occasional live sex shows in their own premises, be it a bar or other private premises. It would also be lawful for an impresario to tour with a troupe of performers to different venues without any need for a licence. The upshot of this exemption is that regulation will apply to proper lap-dancing venues but not to unregulated occasional venues, whether in respect of planning, public safety or the safety of performers. Nor will local authorities be able to ensure the conditions that guarantee the safety of those performers.

I believe that the Bill provides a ready-made loophole for large commercial lap-dancing agencies to create a submarket in hiring out their performers. Ironically, the exemption is not supported either by the campaigners for these amendments or by the lap-dancing industry itself-though for very different reasons. However, we believe that the exemption is completely unworkable. There is surely a better way. Paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 already permits the licensing authority to grant a waiver, the use of which would also have the benefit of maintaining records of use. This would be far more appropriate than the exemption proposed as it would allow local authorities to consider a range of factors relating to the waiver, such as an adequacy of facilities at the venue or the character of the area.

The adoptive provisions will have the effect of preventing local people from being able to object to prospective venues. It is unfortunate that the Government have not taken note of the view of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee or of the petition with 10,000 signatures, both of which demanded that the community have a greater say on applications for lap-dancing clubs. I appreciate that the Government

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might issue guidance to local authorities but this is only guidance and can easily be ignored in some instances-as I am sure it will be-although we may well be told that that would not be the case.

First, I am convinced that stronger action is required by government in order to ensure that local authorities conduct full consultations involving not only the local community but the police and others who might be affected. Secondly, this exemption will mean that the gender equality duty can be disregarded, which is both undesirable and probably unlawful. Thirdly, the first the authority will know of a lap-dancing venue opening in its area will be when the venue has opened, and, fourthly, modern licensing legislation has tended to move away from locally adoptive legislation to national framework legislation. To create an adoptive regime in this way is therefore a retrograde step. The waiver in the 1982 Act could have covered the Government's concerns.

I have two final points. The impact of lap-dancing clubs also extends beyond the clubs themselves. Lap-dancing clubs fuel a sexist culture in which it is increasingly acceptable to treat women as sex objects, not as people. That was recognised in 1979 by CEDAW, a convention which the Government have of course signed up to. Areas surrounding lap-dancing clubs can also become no-go areas for women, with many women and girls reporting that they feel unsafe in their vicinity.

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