On a point of order. I apologise for raising a point of order, Mr. Speaker, although I have given you proper notice. It appears that, under Standing Order No. 7, only one Amendment may be called on the Second Reading of a Bill. In view of the fact that one of the Amendments stands in the names of myself and 65 other right hon. and hon. Members—
That this House, while recognising the need to deal effectively and justly with the problem of prostitution and other street offences, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which retains the term 'common prostitute', abolishes the need to prove annoyance, fails to provide for any system of caution, or to deal with the problem of soliciting by men, gives excessive powers to police officers; and which, relying exclusively on increased penalties, contains no constructive proposals for dissuasion or redemption.
together with a further Amendment, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)
That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.
may I ask you, for the guidance of the House as to the way in which you will be using the paramount discretion which is conferred upon you by Standing Order No. 31, which Amendment you propose to call?
I have no objection to answering that. There are two Amendments on the Order Paper. One is a reasoned Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady and some of her hon. Friends, and the other is in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The first one is a reasoned Amendment, and the second is a "six months'" Amendment, namely, moving the rejection of the Bill.
In accordance with the general practice in these cases, I have chosen the "six months'" Amendment, and the reason for that, if hon. Members wish to look it up, will be found on page 533 of Erskine May, where it is stated that, where a "six months'" Amendment and a reasoned Amendment have been tabled, it is desirable normally to give preference to the "six months'" Amendment.
The common sense of the matter is that the hon. Lady, in her Amendment, outlines a number of reasons against the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton and his friends wish to vote against the Bill, but do not consider the reasons given by the hon. Lady to be exhaustive or complete enough, or do not contain all the reasons they desire to advance. It is in the interests of the House that hon. Members should be free to vote against the Bill on a "six months'" Amendment without necessarily, by implication, associating themselves with the limited reasons given in the reasoned Amendment.
Further to that point of order. May I say, Sir, that we regret your decision, and that many people outside will also regret it, because the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) and a large number of other hon. Members really does represent the views of many women's and other organisations? It puts those who signed that Amendment in very great difficulty because we do not want to vote against the whole Bill, but to express a point of view. To vote for the other Amendment would make us vote against the whole Bill, and, therefore, not express the point of view of large numbers of people both outside and inside this House.
I think that the hon. Lady is mistaken. If she will look at the reasoned Amendment, she will see at the beginning these words:
That this House, while recognising"—
and so on—
declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill…
Therefore, in effect, whether the reasoned Amendment or the six months'" Amendment were selected, the result of either of them being successful would be to defeat the Motion, That the Bill be now read a Second time". The only merit in choosing the six months'" Amendment is that it enables other reasons against the Bill to be taken into
account by hon. Members as a reason for voting against the Bill without pledging themselves to those given in the reasoned Amendment.
All the considerations in the reasoned Amendment are relevant arguments against the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton and his hon. Friends do not think that they are all the reasons against the Bill, but, of course, all these arguments are relevant, in so far as they are allowed, and I hope to hear them expounded by some hon. Members whose names are attached to the Amendment.
Further to that point of order. I should like to draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that there are no signatures of women Members to the Amendment which you have selected, and that the Bill is primarily one which will affect very seriously certain sections of the community of women.
I would ask you this question, Mr. Speaker: is it a fact that the method of the procedure of the debate has already been fixed by you and that it is possible to know in rotation how every hon. Member will be called? Am I right in saying that the method of the debate has already been arranged, and that it is most unlikely that until quite a late hour any woman Member will be called to speak in the debate?
All I have done is to say which of the Amendments shall be put before the House. In that respect, I have made by selection. Of course, the debate is not fixed in advance. It depends entirely upon who gets up, upon what happens and what is said. I understand the importance of this question to women Members, or perhaps I should say to hon. Members who are women, and I will do my best to see that they are accommodated.
I have looked over the list and have formed my ideas about what I shall do, but I have no list in advance which I am bound to stick to. I will try to be as fair to everybody as I can.
Yes, there are occasional precedents. There might be a proper case for choosing a reasoned Amendment instead of a "six months'" Amendment, but the circumstances would have to be somewhat unusual. They do not occur in the circumstances of the debate today. The greater includes the less; the "six months'" Amendment includes all the reasons in the other Amendment.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am glad that we have now come to the business of the day, in which none of us can take any very great delight. We are certainly dealing with a very difficult subject. I will try to express my reasons for wishing to pass the Bill, and the reasons of Her Majesty's Government, as simply and as fairly as I can.
For some time past it has been impossible for many of us in this House and outside it to take pride in the conditions in our streets. It must be absolutely clear, even to the critics of the Bill, whose points I shall take in their order as I speak, and to hon. Members, that certain districts, especially Mayfair, Paddington, Stepney, and the neighbourhood of some of our big termini, are so thronged with prostitutes at present as to create a feeling of revulsion.
I must make it clear that it is not the object of the Bill to make prostitution illegal, or to provide a cure for prostitution. The history of the world would show this to be impossible, at any rate by statute. The object of the Bill is to help clear the streets and, for this purpose, to make it possible to charge prostitutes who ply their trade in the streets and to stiffen the penalties against them.
I acknowledge at the outset, as the Wolfenden Report did, that this will undoubtedly result in driving some of this trade underground, but I am convinced that in the long run it will mean that fewer young women will fall into this way of life, and that the example to young persons—and, indeed, to old—of both sexes will be less disgraceful and the temptation to them less flagrant than it is today. That is my justification for the Bill.
I was convinced some time ago that it was necessary to take action. At that time, my right hon. and learned Friend the present Lord Chancellor was Home Secretary and he appointed the Wolfenden Committee to look into this question and that of homosexuality. The Committee reported eighteen months ago, and some time was deliberately allowed to elapse so that we could consider its Report and give both public and Parliamentary opinion time to make up their minds on the issue. Early this Session— indeed, that was late enough after the publication of this document—a debate took place in which I outlined the attitude of the Government on the questions of homosexuality and prostitution.
The Bill which I now present to the House, and the speech I am now making, follow the line which I took in my speech at the opening of the Session. I have not altered my line at all. They follow exactly the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report on the subject of prostitution. Nothing that I shall say in this debate has any reference to the question of homosexuality, with which the Bill does not deal. I therefore claim that I am not a bit surprised that there should be differences of opinion. No resentment at all will be expressed at any expression of opinion on either side of the House. There has been plenty of time to consider the subject since the publication of the Wolfenden Report.
In the course of my speech I shall refer to the views of the Church of England Moral Welfare Council. It issued a pamphlet which I hold in my hand and which, I think, we have all read and found to be not only very carefully thought out, but to contain much food for thought. I have also recently seen the associations and societies principally interested, with one of which, the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, I personally have been closely associated as an officer for many years. I have also met as many hon. Members as I can on both sides of the House, including both the respectable and the "non-respectable" ladies, and I have discussed the matter as fully as I can with many people. I have tried to get a broad opinion on this matter. During the later stages of the Bill I shall still be available to discuss the matter with any hon. Member.
The main point about the Bill is that it is an instrument designed, while clearing the streets to the maximum degree possible, at the same time to make absolutely sure that anyone apprehended or charged shall be genuinely of the type whose activities we wish to check, namely, the prostitute who pursues her business in the streets and in other public places which are defined in Clause 1 (4). This is not to say that I am not as anxious as the Wolfenden Committee was that everything possible should be done to discourage women, especially young women, from taking to this way of life and to divert them from it if they have already done so.
I accept at once the Wolfenden Committee's proposal, and one of the main proposals of the pamphlet issued by the Moral Welfare Council, that before any woman is first charged with an offence which is described in Clause 1 (1) of the Bill she should have received, if possible, two police warnings or cautions. It is the intention of the Commissioner of Police to arrange that no woman should be charged for the first time with soliciting until she has been cautioned by a police officer on at least two separate occasions. That, as I say, follows one of the main recommendations.
Could the right hon. Gentleman make clear at this point whether those two cautions must be made within the same police district, or whether a woman who moves about the country has to be cautioned twice in each place, by the same policeman, or not, and what statutory authority he has for asking that that should be done?
In answer to the hon. Lady, it is not suggested that the cautions need be in one police district. I am coming to the point about the police station. That is a difficult one and I do not agree with the pamphlet on that point, for very good reasons. It is not necessary that they should be in one district, but it is necessary that they should be registered at a police station where the cautions occur, so that there is a register of the cautions wherever they may have been.
In the course of giving these warnings, it is the intention of the Commissioner of Police that the woman should be asked if she is willing to allow her name and address to be sent to a suitable voluntary-society and, if convenient, to call at the local police station to be seen by a woman police officer, who will help her with advice and offer to put her in touch with a welfare organisation, if she agrees. We hope that that might have some effect in redeeming the woman and getting her away from this trade.
I have been asked whether reference to the practice of cautioning could or should be contained in the Bill itself. I want to present the following difficulties, which we must consider together when we consider this Bill. First, a provision enabling the police to take a woman to a police station for formal cautioning— which is the answer to the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen)—would have to empower them to arrest someone against whom they did not intend to bring a criminal charge. This would be open to strong objection on principle. Therefore, I do not propose that in the cautioning the woman should be asked to go inside a police station because that would result in the possible preferment of a criminal charge which could be used against the woman later in a possible trial.
Secondly, if the statute were so drawn as to make cautioning a constituent of the charge such a procedure might prejudice the woman if it meant—as must be so in such cases if she denied committing an offence—bringing her before the court. That, I believe, would defeat the whole object of the cautioning system. It may be said that some of the difficulties I have referred to must exist in Scotland and have been overcome there, but I understand, on inquiry and examination that the procedure followed in Glasgow is a non-statutory procedure. In any case, it has to be realised that the scale of the problem we are concerned with in London is different and any formal machinery which operates satisfactorily in an area where the number of prostitutes is small would not operate equally well in; n area where the number is very large.
Therefore, in any further discussions, which I am quite prepared to have, about putting cautioning in the Bill, we must face the difficulties I have mentioned. To use my wording again, we must not make cautioning a constituent of the charge. I want the cautioning to be a redemptive attempt to get the woman away from prostitution and not to be part of any charge preferred against her at a later date after two cautions have taken place. I can assure the House that the practice of informal cautioning will generally be adopted in the Metropolitan Police District.
While I have no authority to give instructions to the police in other areas, I shall commend the practice to chief constables who, no doubt, will give weight to the views expressed in the House. My Department will also take an early opportunity to discuss the matter with their representatives. I say this because I realise that there are many hon. Members who, while satisfied that we can work a cautioning system—and we can discuss the possibility of some reference to it in the Bill—feel anxious because in the other parts of the United Kingdom they cannot have the same assurance, but we shall take the opportunity of seeing that this practice, if possible, is carried out in other districts.
The right hon. Gentleman has very fairly said that he has no power to give instructions on this point outside the Metropolitan area. Would he explain to the House what power he has to give such instructions inside the Metropolitan area? If a constable sees an offence being committed on the streets, as defined in this Measure, has he, the Commissioner of Police, or any other person in the country authority to tell a constable not to charge the offender?
No, Sir, I do not want to go into that. All I can say in answer to that is that I deliberately used the words and said it was the intention of the Commissioner of Police. I did not use words which would have led to criticism by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who is so acute in these matters. I said that it is the intention of the Commissioner to administer these cautions in the way in which they are administered in Glasgow; and I see no reason why that should not be done with success in the Metropolitan Police area, and in other forces, too.
In this way, and because I hope that the Bill will discourage women from adopting this way of life and remove some of the temptations to which young people are now exposed, I hope that we shall not only deal with conditions in the streets which constitute a public nuisance, but also make a positive and valuable contribution to the discouragement of vice and the redemption of those who are in danger of adopting it as a way of life. The main purpose, as I said, is to clear the streets of prostitutes plying their trade openly and to give the police effective powers to that end.
The Bill, of course, has other objects, namely, to deal with the problem of all-night cafes and to follow up the undertaking I gave about those who live on immoral earnings gained from the practice of prostitution. These objects are less controversial and are not contained in the pamphlet, but are ancillary to the main one I have described. I shall take the main Clauses of the Bill and take into consideration amendments to them suggested from a variety of sources.
Subsection (1) of Clause 1 provides that
It shall be an offence for a common prostitute to loiter or solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.
That gives effect to the recommendation of the Wolfenden Committee relating to street offences, namely that they should be reformulated so as to eliminate the requirement to establish that the conduct of the prostitute caused annoyance to inhabitants, or residents, or passers-by. The present maximum penalty in London is 40s. for the first and any subsequent offence. In urban areas outside the Metropolitan Police District it is a fine of 40s. or 14 days' imprisonment.
Subsection (2) of the Clause gives effect to the recommendation of the Wolfenden Committee by providing for increased penalties. That follows on the lines of the Report and the provision is for £10 for the first offence, £25 for the second and for the third or subsequent offences a fine of £25, or three months' imprisonment, or both. I do not think that I need refer in detail to subsections (3), (4) and (5).
Both the reasoned Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the name of a number of hon. Members opposite and the pamphlet to which I have already referred take exception to the terms of subsection (1) of Clause 1 on a number of grounds, and I should like to deal briefly with the main points which have been raised.
First, objection is raised to the abolition of the need to prove annoyance. In my view, as in that of the Wolfenden Committee and of the police, this is essential if the provisions of the Bill are to be effective for the purpose of clearing the streets. I certainly accept the view of the Wolfenden Committee, expressed in paragraph 252, that to re-enact this requirement would be to enact a dead letter. I would remind those who like to look a long way back in these matters that the words "dead letter" in relation to annoyance were first mentioned in paragraph 35 of the Macmillan Committee's Report in 1928.
I also agree with the view of the Wolfenden Committee, in paragraph 255, that
both loitering and importuning for the purpose of prostitution are so self-evidently public nuisances that the law ought to deal with them, as it deals with other self-evident public nuisances, without calling on individual citizens to establish the fact that they were annoyed".
I agree that it is unreasonable that they should be required to do so.
From our inquiries we do not think that individual citizens would be willing to give evidence of annoyance, any more than they have been in the past; or if residents were willing to do so on one or two occasions, I do not think that they would be ready, or could be expected, to go on doing so.
In any event, let us look at this as a practical matter. Much of this trade is carried on in areas where there are no residents, for example, in Hyde Park or in streets in which the premises are mainly business premises which are not occupied at night. Here, there is normally a fluctuating body of passers-by, many of them from outside London. They could hardly be expected to provide evidence of annoyance and could not themselves provide evidence of a nuisance which is not so much a nuisance to any particular individual as a general and self-evident nuisance to the community at large.
From the experience I have, from what magistrates say, and from the present difficulty of proving annoyance, I have no doubt that it is a dead letter, and I think that in framing this law with this one change of leaving out the need to prove annoyance we are simply doing something which has been strongly recommended and which is in tune with what is practical at present.
The next objection has been to the retention of the term "common prostitute". The objection to this was mainly on the ground that it is unfair, but I must tell those right hon. and hon. Members who are critical of the Bill that they must remember that the main change in the law is the removal of the need to prove annoyance, which has been proved for some years to be a dead letter, and that the term "common prostitute" has been part of the statute law since 1824. There is no great novelty in it.
Much as I sympathise with those who object to the term—although after all, it is facing the fact by using that term— it is no novelty in our statute law. What the Bill does is to remove annoyance, to re-enact the same term as has been used since 1824 and to increase the penalty. In itself, therefore, it is not a very great novelty in our statute law.
I speak from memory here, although I have to have these matters very much at my fingertips, but I think that that is dealt with in paragraph 234 of the Wolfenden Report. This reads:
There is no statutory definition of the term 'common prostitute'.
The Committee went on to define what the term includes in the eyes of the courts. I have seriously considered whether the phrase as set out in paragraph 234 of the Wolfenden Committee should be included in the Statute, but if my hon. Friend reads it I think he will agree that it would not improve the law. I do not think that it would be any more attractive than the present term, which is understood by the courts, and I have decided not to include the definition mentioned by the Wolfenden Committee. Indeed, the Wolfenden Committee, in paragraph 234, did not suggest that it should be part of the statute law.
In facing up to the question whether we include the words "common prostitute" in the Bill, I think that we must get back firmly to the purpose which the Bill is designed to achieve—that anyone apprehended or charged shall be genuinely of the type whose activities we wish to check, namely, someone publicly pursuing her trade or business by soliciting or loitering in the streets. I do not think 4hat we can find any other term which makes it absolutely clear that the charge will be confined to that type of person. I cannot see that there is anything very novel in putting it in the Bill. It was closely reasoned in the Wolfenden Report as being the only safe way of drafting the law.
The Committee itself emphasised that if drafted like this it would provide a valuable statutory protection for women who do not belong to this class, but who might, because of their behaviour, which is perfectly innocent, be wrongly suspected of doing so. The very fact of including those words, which have been part of the statute law for much longer than a century, will be a very great safeguard for innocent women if we enact the law in this way, because to establish a charge under the Bill it will be necessary to satisfy the court that a woman is a common prostitute—
—and that on the particular occasion she was loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. It will, therefore, be necessary to prove both before the woman can be convicted.
Is not the danger not so much that a charge might be made as that an innocent woman is running the risk of arrest and of being taken to the police station, even though ultimately no charge is made against her?
No, Sir. I think that the preliminary system of cautioning, followed by the fact that the element of the charge must be established when the woman is brought before the court, will show that it is very rarely that an innocent woman will suffer.
I will give the hon. Member some statistics to show what I mean. It is very seldom indeed that a woman charged with soliciting disputes that she is a common prostitute. I have made full inquiries, and my hon. Friends the Joint Under-Secretaries of State have taken great care to go to see these things for themselves, as I have. I am informed that during the past two years over 12,000 women were charged in the West End Central Division, of whom not one pleaded not guilty to the charge. These figures go a long way to show that the police do not make mistakes and charge respectable women with these offences. That is the experience which we have gained in investigating this matter.
It may be that some of those charged will in future, because of the increased penalties, deny that they are common prostitutes, and, if so, that will have to be proved. I understand that the normal method of proving it will be to show that on recent occasions the woman charged has been seen soliciting and going off with men. There is no legal decision which establishes that previous convictions can be used to establish that a woman is a common prostitute, and I must leave this as a matter which the courts must decide.
I think that, normally, it would be easier to adduce evidence by her conduct immediately before the occasion which is the subject of the charge and on recent previous occasions. I do not expect that it will be necessary, as is suggested in the pamphlet by the Moral Welfare Council, to seek to rely normally on previous convictions. On this matter, however, I must leave the question to the court and I cannot give any further ruling as a Minister.
Do we gather that previous convictions are not to be submitted as evidence, but that a circulated report of cautions, which, the right hon. Gentleman and myself know, are given informally, "We know you did not do it, but do not do it again"—is now to become part of the practice and that a record is to be passed from one police station to another? In the mind of the magistrates, that sort of evidence, at least by implication, will be part of the evidence against a woman, whereas previous convictions are not to be.
No, Sir. It is important to get this clear. I cannot give a ruling on previous convictions. I could not say that on no occasion will a previous conviction come up; that must be a matter for the courts. I said "not normally" and that is as clear as I can make it, because I cannot interfere with the conduct of the court.
In the case of cautions, it would not normally be the practice that they would be regarded as evidence. Again, I cannot interfere with the rules of evidence of the court. The charge would have to be proved in relation to episodes and actions taken immediately prior to the charge being preferred. That is the only way I can see. Indeed, it is the practice at present, except that it does not operate very well as the penalties are so light. That is the existing practice which, I think, works normally and is understood.
Does the right hon. Gentleman see that his explanation, so far from improving the situation, makes it infinitely worse? He is saying that it is a necessary part of the prosecution to prove that the defendant is a common prostitute and that the courts are perhaps not to do this by reference to previous convictions and certainly not by reference to cautions on previous occasions. Accordingly, the right hon. Gentleman says, a woman has to be proved to be a common prostitute by police evidence of other incidents of which she may have no knowledge and which she will be completely unable to rebut.
The figures I gave from the West End Central Division indicate that there is fairly good accuracy in being able to tell whether a woman is a common prostitute. [Interruption.] I am perfectly well satisfied that the police are able to distinguish by the activities of a woman and by the evidence, of not only one policeman, but of two policemen, of what a woman is up to when they condemn her as a common prostitute and bring her before the court. I am satisfied that that can be carried out by the police in the way in which it has been carried out and that that is the fairest way of doing it.
What the right hon. Gentleman is now saying makes it worse again. He is saying that he relies confidently on a verdict not by the court, and not on evidence produced by the police, but by the police, who will decide whether a woman is a common prostitute, and the courts will accept it when they say so.
No, Sir. That gives me an opportunity to make the situation clearer to the hon. Member. It depends entirely upon whether the court accepts the evidence put before it. I cannot take the place of the magistrates or of the courts, but I am satisfied that the magistrates and the courts will know a common prostitute when they see one on the evidence put forward to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am satisfied from the investigations I have made that the evidence put forward to them will be thorough. I cannot take the place of the courts. This does not depend upon the police alone. It depends upon the evidence put forward by the police to the court. That is the way it has been done and that is the way in which, with even more care than before, it will be done in the future.
The Home Secretary has referred to the practice of the courts. The practice of the courts is to accept the police officer's statement, "I know this woman as a common prostitute." The Home Secretary said a moment ago that the provision in the earlier legislation about the need to prove annoyance has been a dead letter. That was proved and accepted by the courts in exactly the same way. If it was ever challenged, the police officer said, "I saw that persons were annoyed" and invariably that evidence was accepted.
I agree with the Home Secretary that it was a dead letter, because the decision was taken on what was known to be unsatisfactory evidence. Today's Bill makes no provision for any different kind of evidence for proving that a woman is a common prostitute. Now, however, it is proposed that she shall be sent to gaol. Surely, the Home Secretary realises that in future the issue is likely to be contested.
I realise that the issue is contentious. What the hon. Member has said fortifies my case, for he has acknowledged that the need to prove that a man was annoyed was a dead letter. Therefore, by taking that out of the Bill, I have done something which is straightforward by removing a provision which was known not to operate and not to have any importance. Anybody who has been working in courts dealing with these matters must know that to prove annoyance, as was said so clearly by the Wolfenden Committee, is a dead letter. Therefore, I believe that the new system will work as well as the old and, by removing something which is not operating, will be a clearer and better way of operating the law.
My note says that over 12,000 women were charged. If there is any mistake in that, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be speaking at the end of the debate and will correct me if my information is wrong. I think that we had better call it 12,000 cases, but my right hon. and learned Friend will give the answer when winding up the debate.
What is the alternative to retaining the reference to a "common prostitute"? To Substitute either the words "any person" or "any woman" is open to grave objections. These would be aggravated if, as proposed by the Church of England Moral Welfare Council we substituted "for any libidinous purpose", which is a much wider phrase than that in the Bill, for the words "for the purposes of prostitution."
In my opinion, on the best advice I can get, this would mean that any woman waiting for a man for a "libidinous purpose" might be guilty of an offence. It seems to me much less objectionable that we should say explicitly what we mean and define precisely those against whom we are legislating. Under the wider definition, the police, if they made a mistake, would obviously have an easier answer and they might, in certain circumstances, be tempted to take risks which they would not run under the stricter wording used in the Bill. Therefore, I agree with the Wolfenden Committee that we are wise in the Bill to provide as strong safeguards as we can by making the definition quite clear.
Further, so far as it is right and proper for the criminal law to deal with men who pester women for immoral purposes, the necessary provision exists in Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, as consolidated, which states:
It is an offence for a man persistently to solicit or importune in a public place for immoral purposes.
This offence carries severe penalties: six months' imprisonment on summary conviction and two years on indictment. It has been a matter which has concerned me from the start that we should not appear simply to be legislating against women, but that we should keep the legislation against men in existence. It will be seen—this is the answer to those who have been anxious about this—that the penalties against men are heavier than those proposed in the Bill against women and that the definition is also broader.
It will thus be asked why a single composite Clause cannot be inserted,, in the Bill dealing with men and women together. The fact is that men and women present different problems and cannot be dealt with in the same way. If hon. Members will be kind enough to think back to the speech I made at the opening of the Session, they will remember that I used certain arguments which, at that time, seemed to me to be well accepted by the House. Those arguments were based on the facts of this distressing trade. The women are easily identifiable; the men are not.
The public nuisance is created by those women who follow prostitution for profit as a regular calling and a way of life, who frequent the streets to find customers by loitering or soliciting for that purpose. I told the House in the debate on the Wolfenden Report how anxiously I had considered whether it would be right and practicable for the law to deal with the prostitute's customer—that is, the man— as well as with the prostitute. But the man who is the prostitute's customer does not ordinarily need to loiter or solicit; and, in fact, to take a perfectly - human point, he is very often not annoyed— the very reverse. He appears briefly on the scene and is then gone.
If the criminal law takes account of the difficulties that we have to face in relation to the purely practical matter, it does not impute greater moral guilt to the woman, or punish one party and fail to punish another whose offence is the same, for the following two reasons: first, the law takes account of the facts of the situation; and, secondly, where a man does create serious nuisance by persistently importuning either women or other men he can be dealt with under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act and, if convicted, he is rightly subject to penalties heavier than those to which prostitutes would be liable under this Bill.
Also, Section 32 covers a much wider range of offences than would be covered by the Bill if it were amended on the lines proposed by the Moral Welfare Council.
No, Sir. I have not got any figures, and it is very hard to get them. There have been much fewer prosecutions under this Section dealing with men than under the Section dealing with women. I have ascertained that, and the hon. and learned Member knows it.
I see that there is today a Question on the Order Paper, which was not reached, which asks:
…how many persons were convicted in the years 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958, respectively, in the Metropolitan Police area, for offences under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956.
The answer is:
320, 320, 307 and 284 respectively. Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act came into force only on 1st January, 1957. The figures for 1955 and 1956 relate to the corresponding offences under Section 1 of the Vagrancy Act, 1898.
That is the latest information, I believe.
I have not got those figures with me. Even if solicitation by a man were brought within the scope of the Bill, it would still be necessary to keep Section 32 to cover a wider range of behaviour, including not only pestering of young or innocent women by men, but also pestering by men for homosexual purposes but not for gain. Therefore, if we tried to bring the two provisions in one Clause they would overlap in a most unsatisfactory way, and, indeed, would leave out several things that we want to deal with. So much for the way in which it is possible to deal with men under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act.
There is one other matter put forward in this pamphlet with which I should like to deal. It is suggested that the Bill should require a court, before sentencing a person convicted of soliciting for the first or second time, to remand an offender for social or medical inquiries unless it is satisfied that this would serve no useful purpose. This goes slightly beyond the recommendation of the Wolfenden Committee, who did not recommend that the court should be required to remand such cases but merely proposed that, in order to emphasise the court's existing power, that power should be re-enacted in the Bill. We consider that the courts already have this power and it would be unnecessary and wrong to re-enact it.
Courts freely exercise their existing power when they consider that this can usefully be done. In fact, I have ascertained that it is the general practice of Metropolitan magistrates, when a woman is so convicted for the first time to arrange for her to see the probation officer, and, if the probation officer reports that there is some prospect that she is likely to give up this way of life, to remand her so that further inquiries can be made. It would be quite wrong to fetter the discretion of the courts by requiring them absolutely to adopt this course in all cases in the absence of special reasons to the contrary. Since remand would often have to be in custody, this would involve an unjustifiable deprivation of liberty. Therefore, in respect of that recommendation I think we already have it in the practice of the courts. In respect of cautioning? we propose to adopt broadly the recommendations.
On the question of penalties, it is generally agreed that there is a clear case for increasing substantially the penalties fixed more than 100 years ago. Some people have suggested that though an increase in fines is justified, imprisonment is disproportionate to the gravity of this offence. But, on reflection, we have to deal with a very serious nuisance, and we accept the view that imprisonment is necessary as a final sanction and deterrent following upon the advice of the Wolfenden Committee itself. I share the hope of the Wolfenden Committee that the possibility of imprisonment may make some courts more anxious to try, and some women more anxious to try, and some women more willing to accept, probation. So much for the main and contentious Clauses.
Would the right hon. Gentleman assist the House on this matter? The law already enables courts, in certain circumstances, to imprison offenders of the type that the Bill has in mind. Are there any statistics of the number of occasions when courts have seen fit to use those powers under the Town Police Clauses Act, and so forth?
That is outside the inner area of London. If my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has any information on this point I will endeavour to give it to the House.
I wish to refer shortly to Clauses 2 and 3. Clause 2 provides heavier punishment for offences of allowing prostitutes and disorderly persons to be in refreshment houses and for kindred offences. This Clause was not based on the Wolfenden Committee's recommendations, but arose from strong representations made to me about nuisances created, particularly in Stepney, and I decided to listen to the advice given to me by a deputation from Stepney. Evidently, all-night cafes frequented by prostitutes need dealing with most strenuously. In particular, the Clause allows the court to disqualify premises or a licence-holder on a first—not only on a second or subsequent—conviction, and I hope that this will enable us to deal with that problem.
Clause 3 gives effect to something which was welcomed when I spoke earlier—the view expressed by three women members of the Wolfenden Committee that the existing penalty of two years' imprisonment for living on immoral earnings was inadequate, at least to deal with the worst cases of large-scale exploitation of prostitution. They made the point that such increase might also serve to offset the danger that increased penalties for street offences might encourage a new growth of what are called "middlemen". So I hope that these extra penalties will be welcomed by the House.
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I did not envisage that I should have a reception different from that which has been accorded, and I have no complaint whatever about the queries, all of which —somewhat unlike some of our debates— have been on points which have been put to me and which I have endeavoured to answer. I am aware that there is considerable demand that at least some reference to cautioning should, if possible, be included in the Bill, and I have made, I hope, a sympathetic answer to that while pointing out the real difficulty of not making cautioning part of the charge. That would be worse for the women involved. That we shall have to work out in discussion together.
I was also aware that I should get into considerable trouble from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and others, as I have not been here for many years for nothing, on the question of how evidence is submitted to prove that a woman is a common prostitute. I knew that that was a difficulty, and that has come out in the course of our discussion. I endeavoured to give the best answers I could, because I honestly believe that this can be supported without disregard to human or personal liberty. Also, I have answered the point which has been so ably pleaded by the Wolfenden Committee about the dead letter of annoyance, ably confirmed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot).
The right hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent what I said about that Clause. I did not say that it was a dead letter in the sense that it had ceased to be necessary to prove it. It always was necessary to prove it. The point was that, so that the courts should apply the sanctions against prostitutes at all, they accepted the slenderest possible evidence of annoyance. Those practising in the courts have for some time felt very disturbed at the kind of evidence which was accepted in support of that matter All I am saying is that the practice of accepting some kind of evidence to establish that a person is a common prostitute will continue. It is not that the law was a dead letter, but that the law has been badly enforced and will continue to be so.
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to make his point of view clear. I have no wish to misinterpret what he said. It only confirms what I said that, by removing annoyance, I am removing something, to put it in very simple English, which was very difficult to prove. Therefore, I am not, in fact, making very much difference in the law of the land. It was a convenient shield, not necessarily for the hon. Gentleman, but for some people who thought that there was that extra form of evidence available when, in reality, that evidence was not very important. By keeping the Clause as simple as I have, I am trying to face the reality of the situation.
I have dealt with the penalties. I realise that there is anxiety about imprisonment. I have myself investigated this, and I think that, on the whole, it would be better to keep it in as a deterrent. These are matters which we shall, no doubt, hear a great deal about in this debate and during the subsequent stages of the Bill.
The Bill as a whole is designed to deal with a grave problem which I beseech hon. Members not to underestimate. It is. I am sure, impossible to devise legislation on this subject which is wholly acceptable to all the interested parties. I have given much thought to the Bill. I have strong traditional sympathy with redemptive work among prostitutes and with the spirit which inspires such work. At the same time, as Home Secretary, I have a duty to see that public order and decency is preserved. I therefore commend the Bill for the further consideration of the House as one which will give powers to improve the present state of our streets and which will, in my view, provide the best safeguard that innocent people are not apprehended and charged.
I think it would be agreed that there is a sphere which it is proper to leave to the dictates of the individual conscience; I mean the individual and the individual conscience as fortified by the teaching of religion and the generally accepted standards of the society in which we live."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 366.]
Those words are not my own. They are the words which the Home Secretary used in the debate on the Wolfenden Report when he was describing the extent to which the State should intervene in moral matters. What he said on that occasion is equally applicable to the extent to which a party should dictate to its members in matters of this kind. My right hon. and hon. Friends wish to register the strongest protest that the Government are imposing a Whip on this occasion. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised the point a week ago and evoked this comment from the News Chronicle:
… what can people feel but contempt when they find that against their better judgment Tory M.P.s are to be whipped through the Lobby in support of the Street Offences Bill? This is the prostitution of Parliament.
The Bill contains provisions about which even penologists and social workers do not agree. How, therefore, can it be expected that all Conservatives or all Socialists should take an identical view? I am bound to say that uniformity of outlook is the more surprising and the less impressive in a party which is supposedly dedicated to the task of setting the people free. We ourselves, although
I shall express certain views officially on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, will leave it to a free vote of the House, so far as we are concerned, because issues of morals and personal freedom are involved.
We regret also the proposal of the Government that the Committee stage should be taken in Standing Committee. By-tradition, Bills which affect the rights and freedoms of the citizen are taken on the Floor of the House. The Government's decision to take this Bill upstairs is the more surprising in view of the fact, Which they have announced today, that the House Purchase and Housing Bill Committee stage is to take two days on the Floor of the House next week. We are forced to the conclusion that the Government believe it is better to distract attention from the dangerous provisions of the Street Offences Bill as they will be revealed during the Committee stage.
In his rÔle of penal reformer, the Home Secretary constantly refers to his distinguished kinswoman Josephine Butler. This afternoon, in his role of the strong man cleaning up the streets, he has made rather less reference to Josephine Butler. I think it is a little ungentlemanly of the right hon. Gentleman to use his distinguished kinswoman as a "gimmick" or an alibi, but, when occasion demands, to throw her overboard.
I do not at all resent what the hon. Gentleman says. I was referring to the fact that for a very long time in my life I have been an officer of the association formed in memory of Josephine Butler. I said that at the opening of my speech in order to prove that I was still the same person.
The right hon. Gentleman was unable to cite any of Josephine Butler's principles in support of the provisions of the Bill which he is commending to the House. He appears to have learned more from Samuel Butler than from Josephine Butler. Josephine Butler taught us that morality cannot go hand in hand with injustice or expediency, for expediency gives men what they seem to need while denying them those things they really need. Samuel Butler, on the other hand, taught us that life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.
The right hon. Gentleman's conclusions, in our view, though they may be sufficient to him, are not sufficient to us, and they are certainly drawn from insufficient premises. We do not wish to minimise the importance of the problem, but we believe that the Government have been panicked into this Bill. We do not believe that we should accept such radical changes just because of the prevailing mood of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Joint Under-Secretary yesterday gave certain figures of the numbers of women involved in prosecutions for prostitution offences in the Metropolis during the last two years. Whether the figure relates to the number of women or to the number of offences, all of us would agree that the number is too high. But it is very small indeed compared with the estimate which the Lancet gave of 80,000 prostitutes in the much smaller London of one hundred years ago.
I am not aware that there has been any increase in the extent of the problem since the days before the war, although it is perfectly clear that the scene of operations of the prostitutes has changed. My view is confirmed by the Wolfenden Report, which says:
We have, in short, no reliable evidence whether the number of prostitutes plying their trade in the streets of London has changed significantly in recent years.
The figures, therefore, are unimpressive and the conclusions which the right hon. Gentleman draws from them unconvincing. His attitude reminds me of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's lines in "Aurora Leigh," when she said:
We talk by aggregates,
And think by systems, and being used to face
Our evils in statistics, are inclined,
To cap them with unreal remedies.
We do not believe that the remedies which the right hon. Gentleman suggested are the real remedies which the situation requires. The truth is that we do not know the real extent of prostitution and the causes of it. Until we know more about it, I would not feel justified in taking the drastic steps which the Home Secretary wants, steps which we believe violate some of the cherished principles of this country.
I should like to turn to our specific objections to the Bill. We do not object to the proposals in Clauses 2 and 3, nor do we object to the aim behind Clause 1. Clearly, the fewer prostitutes we have the better. They are a source of temptation to men and girls alike. They are a nuisance in the streets, and those of us who are husbands and fathers would welcome their disappearance.
But the House must realise the alternative that it is accepting in pursuing this policy. Unless we can reduce the scale of prostitution, we can only prevent the parade of it by driving it behind the scenes. That means less control of prostitutes, that the powers of the protectors of the prostitutes will be increased, and that there, will be more possibility of corruption in the police forces. It means the establishment of a squalid call-girl network into which taxi men, hotel porters and others may well be dragged. And let us not blind our eyes to the possibility that many men who are at present discouraged from resorting to prostitutes because of the embarrassment of having to pick up prostitutes on the streets may be more encouraged to do so by the comparative ease and discretion of the call-girl system.
Those are the dangers which are inherent in the right hon. Geneleman's proposals. To some extent we are prepared to take that risk. For example, we do not object to bringing the scale of fines up to date. We object strongly, however, to some of the proposals and innovations which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. As a good Conservative, the Home Secretary should remember the advice of Burke, that to innovate is not to reform, and that,
It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.
We therefore hope at a later stage to amend the Bill, and I propose to indicate to the right hon. Gentleman the anxieties we have in mind. We object to the retention of the term "common prostitute", about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke at some length. We believe that it militates against the presumption of innocence and that it introduces prejudice into legal proceedings. We must not allow our moral disapproval to lead us to perpetrate what may be a grave injustice. I should like to quote the observations of
the National Council for Civil Liberties. The Council states:
It is clear that the condition of being a common prostitute is to be considered as established even when there has been no previous conviction for prostitution, since by sub-clause 2 a specially reduced penalty is applied; for a first offence. Yet she must already be a 'common prostitute' in order that her loitering should constitute this first offence".
We believe that, coupled with the removal of the need to prove annoyance, this constitutes a real threat to, for example, the prostitute who is out shopping or sitting quietly and peacefully, without upsetting anybody in a public place, or, perhaps, to the prostitute who has retired from business. It is especially in respect of minorities of our population that this House must always be most jealous and anxious to maintain the traditional liberties of the people.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about his proposals with regard to cautions. I do not believe that his proposals really remove the dangers which we foresee. I think that it is possible that the system of cautioning under some circumstances will do more harm than good. The cautions will be administered by the police without due process of law; evidence will not be taken on oath before the caution is administered; and the person concerned will have no opportunity to defend herself and to prove that the caution is not warranted.
If it is known that the general practice of the Commissioner of Police is to be that prosecutions should not be instituted until two cautions have been administered, then a new element of prejudice will be introduced into the courts. Moreover, if the system of cautioning is good, I believe that it should be put into the Bill so that it can be applied uniformly, because it is most important that there should be uniformity in the law throughout the land.
If the right hon. Gentleman believes in his proposals, I think that he should make them mandatory upon the police and not merely hope that chief constables in counties and county boroughs will accept the advice which he tenders to them. It may be that at some time we shall have a less progressive Home Secretary than we have at present. All of us have painful memories of his predecessors at the Dispatch Box who have been less sensitive and less progressive in these matters than himself. I would be reluctant to rely upon some of his predecessors to insist, as he will do, upon this point of view being brought to the attention of chief constables.
This brings me to another of our objections, namely, the removal of the need to prove annoyance. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to this need as a dead letter and said that that was the view of the Street Offences Committee and the Wolfenden Committee. Both those Committees, however, were directing themselves to the most effective way of dealing with the limited problem put to them, but we in this House must look at the problem in a much broader light than that, because we are the custodians of the rights and liberties of the individual.
Although the provision about annoyance may have become a dead letter, it was always there, and any woman unjustly accused could always have recourse to it and insist upon the police proving that annoyance had been caused. If we remove this provision there will be a danger both to respectable women and to prostitutes alike.
I should like to quote to the right hon. Gentleman what Josephine Butler said on this subject. She said:
Our laws permit, and justly so, the arrest or warning of persons guilty of any disorderly conduct in the streets, or obstruction of the way, or annoying passengers. But they do not permit, and it is hoped they never will, the arrest of persons, either men or women, because they are known by the police to be persons of immoral character".
We maintain that if the right hon. Gentleman forces this point of view through the House and through the Committee we shall be doing exactly what Josephine Butler warned us against 61 years ago. Hon. Members have always been aware of this danger ever since those admirable speeches which Mr. C. H. Hopwood made during the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885. Mr. Hopwood said that if we removed the need to prove annoyance we would be automatically increasing the powers of the police.
We are not here to legislate solely for the convenience of the police. I do not wish it to be thought that we on this side are against the police, or critical of them. I believe that our police force, in the Metropolis and throughout the country, is more efficient and less corrupt than any in the world. But policemen are human and policemen make mistakes, and there is a great deal of wisdom in the warning that The Times gave in a leading article on 19th December, when the right hon. Gentleman presented his Bill to the House.
To choose the occasion when really severe penalties may enlarge that danger also to enlarge police powers to arrest loiterers and, in contested cases, to secure convictions without convincing evidence, is to invite both trouble and injustice. The Bill seems, moreover, to single out one class of citizens … to be denied everyone else's right to loiter.….
Another point that worries us is the inequality in the treatment of the sexes. I appreciate the concern shown by the right hon. Gentleman on this score, but I found his arguments singularly unconvincing. It seems grossly unfair that we should discriminate against the women when we reflect that there are far more men who resort to prostitutes than there are women prepared to cater for them— and without the demand for the prostitutes prostitution would disappear.
Perhaps I may here quote once again from the writings of Josephine Butler. She said:
All the proposals for dealing with solicitation, and other repressive measures applied to women alone, while they have an appearance of virtue about them have this evil in them, that they tend to foster in the minds of men the unequal standard which is at the bottom of the whole mischief.
If it is an offence for the woman, I believe that the man concerned should be guilty of an offence at the same time. If it is an offence against decency for a woman to offer herself for sale in the street, I find it an equal offence against decency for a man to buy what is offered to him.
The Home Secretary really cannot get away with this argument that the situation is genuinely covered because Section 32 of the Sexual Offence Act, 1956, applies to importuning by men. Importuning is a much more serious offence. It implies persistence, which is unnecessary in a charge of soliciting. The man who is charged with importuning is not branded before his trial. Precise evidence is demanded by the court, and previous convictions are not mentioned until the verdict has been reached.
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this procedure under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, is normally used only in cases of men importuning men, and although the Home Secretary, rather surprisingly, had not the figures of the occasions when it had been used in cases of men importuning women, I think that I am right in telling the House that, until recently, there were no examples of that having happened. In the last two or three years, however, the Act has been used in Nottingham and Oxford to arrest men importuning women.
I may tell the hon. Gentleman that not only has it been done in Nottingham, but it has been done so effectively that the male soliciting females has been completely removed from the streets.
I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will have an opportunity to develop the line of argument later, because I do not believe that that is the general effect throughout the country.
That touches on the point to which I now come, and that is our objection to reliance on imprisonment. In the debate on the Wolfenden Report, I said that I was not happy about the Home Secretary's suggestion that imprisonment should be one of the penalties for a woman found guilty of these offences. I believe that a term of imprisonment will lay these women open to further corruption and, at the same time, expose their fellow prisoners to corruption. As I said in that debate:
… I am not anxious to make our prostitutes into thieves, or our thieves into prostitutes."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 385.]
I have seen no reason at all to change my mind since.
I believe that if these women go to prison in increasing numbers they will constitute a problem for the prison governors. And they will impose additional burdens on our over-worked courts, because more women charged with the offence will plead not guilty.
But the real argument—and this is where I come to the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux)—the real argument against prison sentences is that there is no proof that they are a deterrent in such cases. Once again, I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not have the figures for the whole country because, of course, the power of imprisonment exists practically everywhere except in London.
If we look at the Reports of the Prison Commissioners—and I have been doing a little research into them to as far back as 1948—we find that each year a large number of these women go to prison and that a very large proportion of them are women who have already undergone sentences of imprisonment.
In the last year for which figures are available—1957–211 were in prison for non-indictable offences in relation to prostitution—other than for non-payment of fines. Of those 211, 89 had had previous prison sentences. Eighteen had had two previous sentences; 13 had had three previous sentences; three had had four; four had had five; nine had had between six and ten, and six had had between eleven and 20 previous sentences of imprisonment. In the face of those figures, it is a little difficult to maintain that imprisonment is an effective deterrent in this type of case.
Let us go to the year 1956, which, I think, is even more impressive. In that year, more than half of the prostitutes who were in prison had undergone previous prison sentences. Out of 165 prostitutes who went to prison in that year, 89 had already been in prison for offences connected with prostitution. Twenty had had two previous sentences; 15 had had three; seven had had four; nine had had five; 13 had had between six and ten, and eight had had between eleven and twenty previous sentences.
I will weary the House only with the figures for one other year—1955. In that year, again, more than half of the prostitutes in prison had already been to prison for offences connected with prostitution. Out of a total of 235, 128 had been in prison before. There were 27 who had been in prison twice; 16 had been in three times; nine had been in four times; four had been in five times; 16had been in between six and ten times; 14 had been in between eleven and twenty times, and three had been in prison more than twenty times. How can the Home Secretary seriously suggest that to extend this sanction of imprison- ment to the Metropolis will make a ha'porth of difference—
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has followed my argument. I was saying that in the case of a large proportion of those prostitutes—more than half—it is quite clear that prison sentences are not a deterrent. Although they have been in prison once or more, they are still prepared to ply their trade, even at the risk of going to prison again.
In view of those figures, I am not surprised that an interesting decision was taken two or three days ago by the Treatment of Offenders Committee of the Magistrates Association. I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), who is deputy chairman of the Magistrates Association, that that Committee decided, by twenty-one votes to six votes—votes of experienced magistrates—that the proposal to include prison sentences in the Bill was something that it deprecated. I believe that that decision also expresses the point of view of many hon. Gentleman in this House.
I hope, therefore, that if the House decides to give a Second Reading to this Bill a determined effort will be made to amend it drastically in Committee on the broad lines proposed—I do not commit myself to the details—by the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, the Howard League and the National Council for Civil Liberties. I hope that the Home Secretary then will pay rather more attention to the arguments which are used than he appears to have paid to the arguments used in this House when we debated the whole scope of the Wolfenden Report.
In the meantime, there are a number of things I should like him to look into rather more closely. I want him to consider whether it would not be desirable to have more women police handling problems of this kind. I wonder if he will consider whether, in taking action as he proposes in respect of all-night cafes and places of refreshment, the time has not come for there to be more adequate supervision of privately-owned proprietary clubs in which all of us know rackets of this kind continue. And I hope that he will look rather more into the extent to which a period of remand can be used as part of the process of redemption.
These are views which I have put forward on behalf of the leaders of the Opposition. We felt it necessary to put them forward, not because we underestimate the importance of the question, but because we wish to ensure that in doing what is—rather unfortunately— called "sweeping the dirt under the carpet" we do not sweep away our traditional and cherished civil liberties at the same time.
I am sure that so many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) will forgive me if I do not follow him very closely in all he has said. I shall try to make the very few points I wish to make quickly. All I want to do is to tell the House about the measures we have introduced in Nottingham to deal with this evil, because I think that they provide very good evidence not only of the fact that this Bill will fulfil its purpose but also that it is fair and just.
As to the question of justice, I think that one of the principal criticisms against the Bill is that it discriminates unfairly between the sexes in that it lays down penalties, and, indeed, increased penalties, for women for soliciting men while there is nothing in it about penalties for men soliciting women. I know that my right hon. Friend has pointed out that men soliciting women can be dealt with under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, but, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale said, and I agree, that is really very seldom done. Most people and, I think, most police forces seem to have decided either that it is quite impracticable or else too difficult to tackle.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is doubting that, but hon. Members have only to remember that we are just instituting a plan to equip every man in our police force with a R.T. pocket set so that headquarters can speak to any member of the force individually wherever he is at any time of the day or night. We have been pioneers in many other forms of modern police work. That is why we, and we alone, are able to combine the 6 ft. height standard with a waiting list for recruits in our police force.
Thus it is no wonder that we should be pioneers also in this very much simpler matter of dealing with the nuisance of men soliciting women. This type of person nowadays normally uses a motor car and is generally known as a "pavement crawler", which describes his activities very accurately. As this was a nuisance in the city, we in Nottingham decided to take action. The police first published their intention in the Press, and after that—it was only last November— we got busy with police cars. It was found perfectly simple to obtain ample evidence for conviction.
In one case, the evidence in which I have been reading only lately, police in a car observed one of these men crawling by the kerb. He saw a woman, got out, followed her and spoke to her, and did it on three successive occasions. He did it to another prostitute, then saw the police car and made off. It was then perfectly easy to overtake him and stop him and to present to him such a complete statement of his movements for the last 35 minutes that he had to admit it was a "fair cop", and he said:
I admit I was looking for a woman. Please forget it, officer. I promise you will not see me in town again.
This system has been in practice only these last two months. There have been two cases in which we obtained convictions, and fines of £7 and £10 respectively, were imposed—not very much, I admit, but at least one of them is five times the amount of the maximum fine for a woman soliciting men. Moreover, it should be remembered that the publicity attendant upon a man's being convicted in such a case is an infinitely greater
punishment than the publicity attendant on a prostitute for soliciting.
At any rate, as the result of these measures which we have taken, first the publicity given in the Press and next the successful action by the police, that nuisance is eliminated from the streets of Nottingham, and there is no reason why this should not be done by any other police force equally effectively. That, I think, will entirely do away with the objection to this Bill that it unfairly discriminates against women in this respect.
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman misconceives the criticism. The criticism is not that the Bill is uneven between the sexes in that women who solicit can be prosecuted but that men who solicit cannot. That is a very small part of the criticism. The criticism of inequity is that under our law, which the Bill perpetuates, it is accepted as a crime to offer for sale what it is no crime to buy. That is quite a different matter.
No. I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne on that point. I have heard him elaborate it before, but nevertheless I consider that the principal criticism has been the one I was dealing with, that the question of men soliciting women is not dealt with. The hon. Member shakes his head, but in the reasoned Amendment to the Motion for Second Reading in the names of the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) and others it is specifically mentioned as one of the reasons why women are discriminated against by this Bill.
The other measure which I wanted to mention results from the fact that the £2 maximum fine has become quite meaningless. We in Nottingham have taken steps to get round that difficulty also, and since about mid-summer last year it has become the common practice of the justices there, on a conviction being obtained for soliciting, rather than to impose the maximum £2 fine to bind the offender over in sums ranging from £25 to £75 under the Justices of the Peace Act, 1361. Of course, if she offends again within a period of 12 months, then those recognisances are estreated. We have several cases of that pending at present. Quite a number have been brought, and in one case three months' imprisonment resulted from failure to pay.
It is said by some people that all that that is doing really is getting round the law and imposing a higher penalty than is allowed. That is not, of course, the case. An offender has nothing to fear if the offence is not repeated. If she chooses not to keep the peace, well, then, of course, that is another matter. By this means and in a comparatively short period we have practically banished prostitution from the streets of Nottingham where it was previously very rife. It might be of interest to hon. Members to know that, contrary to what some people feared might happen, the prostitutes have not been driven to the public houses to ply their trade. What has happened is that they have been driven into the streets of other towns not far away, and there are two cases pending in Nottingham of prostitutes who have been convicted in other courts.
The two instances which I have given meet two main criticisms against the Bill. First, if police everywhere really make up their minds to deal with the question of men soliciting women, not merely do they have the authority under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, but they certainly have the powers to exercise that authority effectively. Therefore, that disposes of the charge against the Bill that it discriminates unfairly between the sexes. The measures which we have taken in Nottingham to get round the difficulty of the £2 maximum fine have shown by their successful results that the higher penalties imposed by the Bill for soliciting will be effective also. As has happened before, Nottingham has shown the way, and I hope that the House will follow it by giving a Second Reading to the Bill.
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
May I first express my gratitude to you Mr. Speaker, for having selected the Amendment in my name. The selection of that Amendment should cause no embarrassment whatever to those who have their names to the reasoned Amendment. It is open to them to vote as they proposed in the reasoned Amendment against the Second Reading for the reasons they there set out, but it does not preclude me from voting against the Second Reading for very much wider reasons, which I shall attempt to set out.
We have had, as usual, from the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) a well-informed and moderate speech. I was particularly glad to hear it, because he established a fact of which I have no doubt, which is that if police and magistrates choose to use their existing powers they can move these women off the streets. The only trouble is that they will go somewhere else. There are two very fundamental questions which I want to ask the Home Secretary. They are two questions which were not answered in the course of his speech. Firstly, if we want to drive women off the streets, where would we prefer them to go to? Secondly, if we decide to close their traditional market, what are the alternative marketing arrangements which we would prefer them to adopt?
The Home Secretary quite candidly said that it was not the object of the Bill to provide a cure for prostitution. He did not suggest that as a result of the Bill there would be any reduction in the number of existing prostitutes, though he hoped that there might be some reduction in recruitment. Where does the right hon. Gentleman propose, or where does he desire, that they should go, and by what methods does he desire that they should market their wares? These are fundamental questions which must be asked.
I shall be coming back to those two questions, but I am going to deal a little generally with this intensely difficult problem of prostitution which has baffled not only our own but every known civilisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said that, of course, every father and husband would wish to see prostitution abolished. I doubt whether every husband and father would be wise to wish that. I do not know. Indeed, my deep ignorance of this subject was brought home to me very forcibly by an incident which I witnessed.
I was going to see a film in the Curzon Cinema and there were twenty minutes of it to run, so I had a coffee in a café which happened to be opposite a door which was being used by two girls. I was so interested in what I saw that I watched for over two hours. During that period I saw eleven men go up the stairs with those two girls. The longest visit was under a quarter of an hour and the average time of the visits was under ten minutes. A common factor in those men surprised me the most. It was their sadness. [An HON. MEMBER: "Before or after?"] This is a serious matter. There was this curious spectacle of these sad men going up the stairs and these sad men, such a short time afterwards, coming down alone. I do not pretend to understand. This sort of sad compulsion is something to me as difficult to understand as colour would be if I had been born blind. But it is there, and I had the feeling very strongly indeed that if we were to stop this business outright we might be doing something which would be pretty dangerous. I think that interference in things which one does not understand can be pretty dangerous.
We have had no kind of investigation into this problem. That is what is so wrong. I find the Wolfenden Report a profoundly disappointing document. There is in it the observation, which apparently is put as being axiomatic that:
… prostitution is an evil of which any society which claims to be civilised seeks to rid itself; but this end could be achieved only through measures directed to a better understanding of the nature and obligation of sexual relationships and to a raising of the social and moral outlook of society as a whole.
Apart from its priggishness, that statement seems to be almost directly in conflict with all known experience.
Certainly Dr. Kinsey, in his Report, shows that so far from prostitution going out with an improved moral outlook in society all our experience so far is that the stricter the general canons of morality are in society the larger the number of prostitutes. The more lax the moral standards, the fewer the prostitutes.
It is certainly the experience as reported by Kinsey, and it is not a very difficult one to understand. There is less prostitution when there is more amateur competition, but whether we desire more amateur competition is a different matter. Again, as far as America is concerned, the evidence in the Kinsey Report is that, of the people to whom Dr. Kinsey spoke, 70 per cent, of the adult males used or had used prostitutes. That is hardly likely to be an under-estimate, because traffic with a prostitute is something which a man is more inclined to forget than invent. Are the figures anything like that here? We are in total ignorance. If the service is as generally used as all this, are there not very considerable psychological and other dangers in interference? We do not know. I would suggest very earnestly indeed that before we interfere with this problem, which has, as I say, baffled countless civilisations, we should appoint an inquiry by people who are neither too pure nor too prim to talk to prostitutes and their customers. Let us get down to this problem and know the facts before we decide to interfere with the existing arrangements.
The next point to which I want to come is the one to which I have referred already. If we want to get girls off the streets where do we want them to go?
Hon. Members can make these various observations, but this is a pretty serious problem. Let us consider it for a moment. I agree that the spectacle of a number of girls on the streets is highly offensive to the people who prefer the dirt under the carpet, even though they know that it is there and even though they know that dirt under the carpet is inclined to fester and breed. But having the girls on the streets has certain very marked advantages. They can be seen, and because they can be seen they are under fairly effective inspection and fairly effective police control. If we cannot see them, it is much more difficult.
I was stationed in Glasgow during the war. There they had the Scots system. There I did not see girls on the streets but it was practically the only place one did not, including, I remember, a place marked "Gentlemen". They were to be found everywhere and it made things very much more difficult particularly for our young sailors and young Wrens. When a girl is on the street, the extent to which she can be persistent is very limited indeed. I walk through a main area on my way home. I never had a girl so much as hang on to my arm. The hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department tells us that she had an experience of a girl saying to her, "Get off my beat," to which, I understand, she replied, "Don't be saucy",—and honours were about even.
As to serious interference, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman this: are there any cases at all known to the police where prostitutes have beaten up a respectable woman in the mistaken belief that she was poaching on their territory? [Interruption.] What I am asking is whether there has been even a single instance known to the police of a woman who is not a whore having been beaten up on these occasions. It may have occurred but it is extraordinarily rare. There are occasional fights between prostitutes and they also are fairly rare. Get them into pubs, dance halls and cafes and the places where they were in Glasgow when we get them off the streets and this certainly will be infinitely more common. I assure hon. Members that it has been. The girl on the street has very little opportunity to proselytise other girls, to persuade them. In a pub or dance hall it is a very different situation. I certainly saw that operating in Glasgow and I believe that our London system is very much the better.
The other question I want to deal with is this. If we propose to close their traditional market, what other marketing arrangements do we want them to make, because they will make them? In fact, of course, they will use agents and we shall have a sort of part-time pimping by taxi drivers, liftmen, commissionaires on doors, and the sort of thing there is in New York.
I say quite frankly that T find that sort of thing much more disgusting than the opportunity of being able to see on the street girls whom I know will be practising anyway. That is the alternative. It is, however, a very much more grim alternative than that, because by driving them off the streets we shall impose organisation on them. That has been the experience in America and everywhere else. In London, vice may be obvious but because it is obvious it is substantially unorganised.
If my hon. and learned Friend believes that the Messina brothers' organisation is broken up, I beg of him to make some further inquiries. I can give him the name and address of one of the Messina agents in this country.
My information is quite different from that of my hon. Friend. By and large, I am told that the Messina organisation has been broken. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I am wrong, does anyone have the slightest doubt that if we do not have the girls on the streets, if we do not have a relatively free market available to them, there will inevitably be infinitely more organisation and infinitely more of the Messina business. Of course there will be.
Are we to understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition that the girls to be seen on the streets are a kind of safety valve which precludes other people from plying this trade elsewhere? If he really thinks that the only place where this trade is plied is on the streets, he has a great deal to learn.
I am certainly not saying anything of the sort. I am saying that the fact that there is what may be called a free market available, which can be seen, makes organisation anywhere infinitely more difficult, and that where there are the other examples, as may be seen in New York and as I saw in Glasgow, we have an infinitely higher degree of organisation.
Indeed, Mr. Morrow, who is the very responsible news editor of Columbia Broadcasting, has recently described what it happening in New York, and New York is a city where just this thing has been done. The girls have been got off the streets. Mr. Morrow says:
Prostitution has become such a standard cost item for big business concerns in this country that some companies now keep call girls on their pay rolls to please their customers. It was said that the use of girls for hire had become so prevalent that some madams submitted monthly bills to companies instead of demanding separate payments for each date.
He introduced a man whom he described as the president of a world-famous international company, who said there was—
… absolutely no doubt that prostitution per se does help business.' This is the fastest way I know to have an intimate relationship established with a buyer. The point is that I know that the buyer has spent the night with a prostitute I provided. In the second place, in most cases the buyers are married with families. It sort of gives me a slight edge— well, we will not call it exactly blackmail, but it is a subconscious edge over the buyer'.
And this is introduced in New York as the general practice of big business there. Is our big business less keen as salesmen than the Americans? Are our out-of-town buyers less interested? If people doubt that, have a look at night clubs as an expense item. Do we really want that sort of thing, that sort of level of organisation, in this country?
So much for the question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman—what alternative marketing arrangements do we want them to make? It will certainly be organised vice if we close the open and free market.
I am saying that if we chase the girls off the streets we shall chase them somewhere else. When they are on the streets we can keep an eye on them and can keep a fairly effective control of them. If they are off the streets it is an infinitely more intractable problem and an infinitely more uncontrollable problem.
The other question is that of fines and imprisonment. At present the police have a perfectly adequate control in that they can pull in any girl and keep her locked up till morning, when she comes up before the court and pays a fairly trivial fine. If the police want to remove the girls from any street or area there is no difficulty in doing so. The only problem is that they go somewhere else. If we ask the police to remove them from the Bayswater Road, they will do so without the least difficulty, and they can do this under their present powers, but the girls will go somewhere else.
We should think this out and decide where we want them to go. I believe we ought to move them, as we can move them, out of residential areas and into well-lit streets which are not used for residential purposes.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend regards Bond Street and Piccadilly as particularly workers' areas, but those are the kind of non-residential areas which have been traditionally used and where this is no immediate nuisance. If we move them out of the residential areas they are probably better on the streets than practising anywhere else.
As regards fines, there is the power to control now and in so far as we add to the penalty, we are merely adding to the power to extort. We all know that there are at present some police who are corrupt, though that is pretty rare. Because the fine is a relatively trivial one, it is only worth while to pay relatively trivial sums at this stage, but remember this the police are dealing with girls who are infinitely richer than they are, girls who are earning between £5,000 or £6,000 a year, with the extraordinary privilege of paying no taxes. If we step up the penalty, if we threaten their means of livelihood, and their very large earnings, which is what imprisonment comes to, we are providing the incentive to corruption to quite an enormous extent, and doing it without increasing the control of prostitution at all.
I believe that measures to interfere with this practice ought not to be taken without thought. In this country we have a system which has developed on pragmatic lines. Our national public opinion precludes anything like controlled houses. On the whole we have a system which precludes the worst social evils that arise from prostitution. In England there is much less link between prostitution and crime than there is in most other places. There is less link between prostitution and gambling. There is less link between prostitution and drink. There is less corruption of the police by prostitutes, less organised vice. I do not say there is none of these things but there is less. It is a system which, on the whole, has given us fewer social evils from prostitution than has been experienced in any other great city I know, and it is bought at the price of the girls being obvious, which is an unlikeable sight.
I say this, and I say it with great seriousness to the Government, for heaven's sake before abolishing this pragmatic arrangement, which has been built over a very considerable time, think out what we want to put in its place. At present the Government have given no thought to what they wish to substitute for the free market they want to bring to an end. They have given no thought to what will be the consequences of bringing it to an end. These are very serious matters and I urge the Government to take back the Bill, have an inquiry, ascertain the facts, decide what they want to substitute for the existing arrangement and then bring use a properly thought out Bill. This is an occasion when, because they have said that something has got to be done, an ill-considered Measure, the consequences of which have not been considered, has suddenly been introduced. The Government ought to take back the Bill and reconsider, for we are in danger of creating very serious social evils.
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made a very interesting speech in moving the Amendment.
I approach the subject with great diffidence. I sympathise with the Home Secretary in having to make up his mind what action to take in an important problem. This is a matter with considerable legal difficulties. As merely a retired or hedge lawyer, I am incapable of judging those difficulties, but I have come to the conclusion, in accord with many others, who have signed both Amendments on the Order Paper, that the Bill should be rejected, for it is hardly a subject which amendment can bring into line with our thought.
Those who argue in my way are bound to meet the question: what would they do instead? I do not entirely accept that objection. For one thing, we are dealing with the oldest profession in the world and we cannot expect in a few months after the Wolfenden Report, the first inquiry into this matter for some time, to be able to make up our minds; nor can we necessarily expect the Government to be able to produce a satisfactory Bill so quickly. The Government, after all, have not been able to bring in a Bill to deal with certain much clearer reforms needed in the law about homosexuality. Thirdly, I reject the argument that any legislation is better than none. Such a concept can lead us into very difficult waters. Fourthly, I agree with many suggestions implied by the reasoned Amendment.
I shall confine myself to two main reasons why the House should reject the Bill. First, we should not be content to sweep this nuisance under the carpet, in the phrase which is always used. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and others, that it will bob up in another place. Indeed, the Home Secretary himself pointed out that if there were a drive in a certain district in London, that district could be cleaned up, but prostitution would simply be moved to a neighbouring district. Secondly, the Bill is open to so many detailed criticisms that it should be withdrawn rather than amended.
I agree that there is a nuisance caused by prostitutes in some districts, chiefly in London, for which their ponces and customers must take some responsibility. I have lived in those districts and I know that the number of prostitutes in those areas could be a nuisance However, this is a localised problem. Indeed, the whole Bill is aimed at a narrow geographical problem, however serious it may be in certain areas.
The object of the Bill is to push the prostitutes off the streets in those areas. As the hon. and learned Member has said, to achieve that object in a few limited areas may lead to the more serious social problems of call-girls, squalid rendezvous, all sorts of advertising and a more carefully organised vice racket than we now have.
I thank the hon. Member for giving way. I simply want to say that a statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government will be made at the end of business tonight to put in its proper perspective the question in relation to the news from Cyprus earlier. I express my regret to the hon. Member for having interrupted.
I am much obliged to the Home Secretary.
I was arguing that if we dealt with this problem in the way suggested by the Bill, we might get something worse. Again, I agree with the hon. and learned Member that we are relatively free from widespread corruption in this country. Indeed, hon. Members must agree that probably nine-tenths of the country does not have such a problem. We must keep a sense of proportion.
Clause 2 deals with the control of prostitution and so on in cafes. The Government want prostitution taken off the streets and yet they also want to prevent cafes from becoming centres for prostitutes. The hon. and learned Member was entitled to ask where the Government want this trade to go, for it is admitted that it will continue to flourish. Are they satisfied that they will not cure one evil merely by encouraging a worse evil?
Furthermore, the view that we should simply sweep the girls off the streets and leave it at that is rather inhumane. In our previous debate on the subject, the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), who has experience of the Home Office, said that in Part III of the Wolfenden Report there was much guesswork. I agree with him.
The hon. Member used the word "inhumane". That needs a little more description. Is it inhumane to drive off the streets women who are disgracing the city in which they live and shocking the residents of the areas in which they operate?
I want to be brief and not to go into great detail and that is why I did not elaborate. However, I was not talking of the approach of the Home Secretary or of his assistants as being inhumane; nor did I mean that the prostitution of a girl of 14 was not inhumane. I meant that the whole approach to the problem was inhumane, for it is a matter which will have wide human repercussions. It is not sufficient to sweep an admittedly unsightly and squalid nuisance from the streets of London and leave it at that.
The National Association of Probation Officers has said:
We regard the Bill as too hasty; we stress the need for more research into the problems it tries to deal with; in our opinion the Bill will simply drive underground a problem now open to be seen and the consequences in extortion and the organisation of vice may be far worse than the problem now being dealt with.
That is not the unanimous view of the association, but it is a view which is widely held among people in intimate contact with the problem.
The hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) in our earlier debate said:
Are we to drive them underground? If we do, shall we not thereby create a system in this city in which there are far greater opportunities for corruption and for much graver evils, in which other persons earn and enjoy more of the fruits of the labour of these women."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 478.]
I do not know whether the hon. Member still holds that view but he seemed to me to put my point very clearly. While I agree that there is some need to clear the streets in some places, Parliament would be wise not to allow that fact to obscure the wider implications of the Bill.
Secondly, I agree with some of the detailed criticisms of the reasoned Amendment of the hon. Lady the Member for Holbom and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger). I want to concentrate on one or two matters which affect the individual and his or her protection under law. Like other hon. Members, I object to the expression, "common prostitute". It is not sufficient to say that it has been in common use for 125 years. It purports an attitude towards these women which is not useful and which I believe to be priggish.
It is also particularly objectionable in this context, as was pointed out in various places, including a leading article in The Times of 19th January, since it involves the giving of bad character in evidence before a conviction has been secured. One of the Home Secretary's reasons for retaining the phrase "common prostitute" is that he believes that in so doing he is doing something to protect innocent women from being brought up for loitering.
It is certainly an important criticism that innocent women may be arrested for loitering on the opinion of a single policeman, but I doubt whether the retention of the phrase in itself will give her much security. Even with the phrase, an innocent woman may be put in extreme difficulty and in a very unpleasant situation and be faced with the necessity of proving that it is untrue to allege that she is a common prostitute.
Yes. I agree. This is linked with the omission from the Bill of the need to approve annoyance. Most people feel some difficulty about this, because there is a strong case for saying that it is a dead letter. However, I find some of the arguments for removing it from the Bill unconvincing. It was said that even the toughest Members of Parliament would shrink from trying to prove annoyance. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Grimsby is particularly tough, or whether I am, but I notice that he said that he would be prepared to prove annoyance if he were really annoyed, and I think that I would be prepared to do the same thing.
By going into the witness box and trying to prove it. I do not deny that it is an unpleasant business, and that it is sometimes a difficult matter, but I do not think that we should accept that people who are genuinely annoyed must be spared the obligation of supporting the law. Nor do I think we should exaggerate the amount of annoyance.
It has also been said today that if we expect people to prove annoyance they may be victimised. I should have thought that we could protect people against victimisation. That argument does not seem conclusive by any means. I would also say that we should not put too much weight upon the behaviour of Members of Parliament. They are notoriously sensitive people, and the rest of the population may be much tougher than they are.
Another point is that conviction will frequently take place upon the evidence of only one witness. I believe that that is the English custom, although it is slightly doubtful to anyone from north of the Border. As to the question of imprisonment for prostitutes, I adopt the reasons advanced against it by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), both in the previous debate and in this one. I do not believe that it is the right remedy. There are strong and practical arguments against it.
Today the Home Secretary outlined his views upon warnings, and most people will attach considerable importance to them. As I understand it, he will arrange that no one will be charged by a police officer without previous warning on two separate occasions. He will give some sort of advice or direction to the police in and outside London on this point. On previous occasions he has been asked to give directions—one society has been urging him to give some advice to the police about preventing the sale of tobacco to people who are under-age— but he has always refused to do so. He should tell us a little more about the way in which he intends to reconcile this method of procedure both with his legal powers and the customs of his office.
I share some of the feelings which women have expressed about the Bill. It is aimed at a certain type of woman who will bear male sins. In spite of what the Home Secretary has said, I do not find convincing his argument for not taking any further steps against the male partner or the kerb crawler. The hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) gave us some interesting information about events in that City. The position there may be as he says, but the Act to which he referred is not being widely used at present, and if we are to rely upon that Act it will have to come into much more common usage.
I welcome the provision of stronger penalties for those found guilty of living upon immoral earnings. We should have a further investigation into the problem, and do much more welfare work among young girls. One Member spoke of the need for more women police, and I agree with that.
Our knowledge of the subject has not progressed far enough for us to be able to say that the Bill provides the right solution. On the face of it, it seems to have very grave objections, which have been voiced not only in this House but by most responsible people outside.
For those reasons I recommend its withdrawal and reintroduction after drastic further consideration and amendment.
Like the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I have very little personal experience of the problems with which the Bill attempts to deal. I have not even had the advantage of close observation of the activities of certain persons described by the hon. and learned Member. Indeed, I go further, and say that never in the whole of my life have I been annoyed by a prostitute in London. It may be said that I am not very promising potential material, but that does not answer the case, because in my earlier days, in Paris, I was often seized on both sides and marched along the boulevards.
However, when I have seen ladies loitering in the street I have not been under any misapprehension as to their intentions. A glance in their direction has brought a whispered word of invitation which has allowed of no mistake. Therefore, the question of annoyance is beside the point. There must be an opportunity of apprehending women who loiter for the obvious purpose of prostitution.
I rise mainly to make one special point. I support the Bill, and in particular Clause 3, which increases the penalty for living on immoral earnings, but I am very disappointed that my right hon. Friend has not taken powers to deal with the deportation of colonial immigrants who live on immoral earnings. That point is pertinent to the debate and, although the matter has been mentioned in the House from time to time, it is not irrelevant for me to give some figures regarding the City of London.
In 1956, there were 106 convictions in the Metropolitan Police area for the offence of living on immoral earnings, 74 of which—or 70 per cent.—concerned immigrants either from the Republic of Ireland or Colonial and Commonwealth countries. There were 11 from the Republic of Ireland; 37 from Malta; 18 from West Africa, and 5 from the West Indies. In 1957, the total figure rose to 130, of which 82 cases concerned people from the Republic of Ireland and the Colonies and Dominions.
This is a growing problem, because in 1951 the total number of cases of this offence was only 54, and immigrants were responsible for only 13. My right hon. Friend already has the power to deport aliens convicted of these crimes but, strangely enough, aliens are not seriously implicated. In 1956, only one alien was convicted of living on immoral earnings, and in 1957 there were only two.
This matter has been debated in another place and, as recently as 5th December, in this House, and I think that there has been a general consensus of opinion that immigrants—whether from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland—who indulge in these abominable crimes have forfeited the right to the hospitality of this country and should be deported.
Another reason why that should be done is because, although they are a relatively small minority, they cast discredit on their law-abiding compatriots. When this matter was debated in the House on 5th December, my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said:
As my right hon. Friend said at the Conservative Party's Blackpool Conference, which has already been mentioned, the Government have under consideration the possibility of legislating on that matter. I must point out to the House that it is not a matter that can be quickly or easily decided. Naturally, consultations are necessary with all the other countries of the Commonwealth, and I speak as a lawyer when I say that the legal issues involved are unbelievably complex."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 1586.]
I do not in any sense accept that point of view. Every Colony, every independent member of the Commonwealth, has reserved to itself the right to deport from its shores immigrants from this country who misbehave themselves and who are convicted of certain crimes. Did any of those Colonies and independent countries consult our Home Office or our Government before they took this right unto themselves? Why, then, should we consult them? Are we proposing to abdicate our right to govern this country as we think fit because of these considerations? Does
any hon. Member assert that, were we to return to their own countries those people who have abused our hospitality in such a disgraceful manner, it would cause any trouble within the Commonwealth? I maintain that to say so is absolute nonsense?
I ask my right hon. Friend to take a sensible view of this matter. If my right hon. Friend cannot introduce some addition in this Bill during the Committee stage to deal with this grave problem, I hope that in the near future he will introduce an independent Measure to take account of it.
Today the House has a great responsibility. Not only are we discussing a very serious social problem but, it seems to me, we are in danger of departing from some of the highest principles of traditional British justice in our attempts to deal with it.
It is a matter of great regret that the Wolfenden Committee was asked to report on both homosexuality and prostitution. It is clear to anyone who followed the proceedings of that Committee that far less thought and study was given to Part Three than to Part Two of the Report. It is also noticeable that no prostitute gave evidence before the Committee. There was far too little investigation into the whole problem. I think it improper that a Measure should be brought before this House, based on the findings of a Committee which, I feel, did not investigate the problem thoroughly.
Had the Home Secretary wished to refer to any report when drafting the Bill, I wish that he had gone back to the Report of the Street Offences Committee, the Macmillan Report, originally published in 1927 and reprinted last year. That Committee seemed to me to come to much more enlightened conclusions. It suggested, inter alia, that the subject could best be dealt with by the introduction of a new and comprehensive Measure to deal with the nuisance caused by street misbehaviour by men or by women.
It is most unfortunate that the findings of that Committee have never been debated in this House and that the Government should have preferred to use the Wolfenden Report as a basis rather than the Macmillan Report when drafting this legislation. It is quite clear from the Wolfenden Report, and from this Bill, that we do not know why girls take to the streets, or why men take to girls who take to the streets. Several hon. Members have referred to the disgrace caused by these girls being on our streets. No one has yet referred to the disgrace caused by men who pay these girls to stand in our streets. I feel that that must be taken into consideration in our approach to the Bill. It is a discriminating Measure by which an attempt is made to deal with the supply without dealing with the source of the demand.
References were made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to the enormous sums earned by these girls. I feel that the proper reply to my hon. and learned Friend is to ask: who pays them these enormous sums? If no cognisance is to be taken of the responsibility of men for this social evil, it is impossible for the House to deal with the matter. Because the Bill fails to take account of that, it is impossible for me to support it.
I hope that opportunity will be taken to go into the causes of this problem, not only from the point of view of the girls but from the point of view of the men. The Church of England Moral Welfare Council has investigated some cases of men who take advantage of the invitations of prostitutes, and has found that, on the whole, they are often rather lonely and miserable people, in whose private lives there has often been a marriage breakdown or some unhappiness. The girls themselves are often pitifully young, much younger than they try to look, and they need a great deal of help. I am glad to say that in many cases they receive help from women police, from probation officers and moral welfare workers and from others who try to assist them.
But one has to recognise that there comes a time when some girls settle down to this way of life. We do not know why. We are not aware of the flaw in a girl's personality which makes her take up this extraordinary mode of existence.
I cannot accept that money is the only reason. There must be some fundamental difficulty which makes it possible for a girl to live this type of life. Once she is doing so, and there are men prepared to pay her to do so, it may be that society must be tolerant to the hardened prostitute, as with all other minorities in our midst. Certainly, I consider that this House, and society in general, has no right to condemn a woman without also condemning those who pay her.
What worries me especially about the Bill is that the basic approach to the problem is not constructive in any way. Moreover, it calls into question very important principles of justice. It retains the term "common prostitute". For that reason alone I think that the Bill must be opposed. The retention of this phrase means that a woman defendant is brought into court as a person of low moral character. The scales are already weighted against her. I find it a most extraordinary reversal of our tradition that a person is innocent until proved guilty. I find it an extraordinary reversal of our cherished ideal that we are all equal before the law. This Bill will create a section of the community, a section of third-class citizens, to whom these principles do not apply.
The hon. Lady may not be aware that for some offences and on some occasions persons may be described, and are described, in the indictment as persons who have been convicted. That is not so rare as the hon. Lady seems to imagine.
The danger in the Bill is that, in every single case, the defendant is brought into court with her character defamed. I maintain that it is the business of the court to concern itself with the charge brought against the defendant, and not to concern itself with the defendant's sex or character.
Is the hon. Lady saying that, in the present administration of the law, which, I understand, will differ in no way in the future, there has been a serious miscarriage of justice, or an injustice to persons so charged?
I must make it quite clear that my objection to the Bill must not be taken to mean that I am satisfied with the law as it is. I want to see the term ''common prostitute" taken out of the law altogether.
There is no statutory definition of common prostitute, and I think that we should get into most serious difficulties if we continued to use the term in circumstances in which we are proposing much heavier penalties. I would point out that, in the higher courts, I have noticed with what extreme delicacy and great care the court is concerned to try not to bring the woman's morality into disrepute, in divorce cases, for instance. But here we have a defendant brought into court already described as being a common prostitute.
Who is to decide when a woman is a common prostitute? What defence is a woman to have against this charge? The Home Secretary has suggested that he is prepared to give instructions to the police to give two cautions. I should like to know under what statutory powers he proposes to give these instructions at all. I should have thought that the reserve powers of the Police Commissioner might be called in question here. Certainly, so far as I can gather, he has no power to give such instructions in police forces in other parts of the country. Furthermore, this may be the view of the present Home Secretary, but does it mean that any future Home Secretary, without coming back to this House, could change the instructions to the police?
Has my hon. Friend also considered that there is also no power to give these instructions to a private prosecutor, but that this procedure is available to the man who is organising vice and wants to get rid of a competitor?
I also want to ask whether the instructions will mean that a police officer must caution the person, and whether, if he is seen not cautioning a girl whom another police officer thinks to be loitering, that policeman will be disobeying his instructions? I have tried to work out how this could act in practice, and I am very worried about it. For instance, the hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith), who is Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and is not now in her place, is reported in today's Press as describing how she was mistaken not long ago at a bus stop as being a common prostitute by another prostitute. If one prostitute can mistake the hon. Lady for a prostitute, how can any young police officer be expected to know the difference?
I put this matter forward in all seriousness, because it is a very unfair decision for a police officer to have to make.
I only want to make it clear that it will be extremely difficult for police officers to judge whether or not a woman is a common prostitute, or for what purpose she happens to be in the street. I dislike the use of the word "loitering" in the Bill. I like loitering, but I happen to represent in this House, and to live in, a constituency in which there are many streets and districts where a great deal of this trouble goes on. They are very disreputable, but very interesting streets. It is most unfortunate to suggest that in future there will be something illegal about loitering in these streets, even if no one tries to prove that one is "loitering with intent".
Most people who are jealous of English law do not like very much the fact that prosecutions can be brought for loitering with intent to commit a felony, but how infinitely more disreputable is it to suggest that it should be made a crime to loiter with intent to do something which is not itself a crime? Having been mistaken by a young policeman for a common prostitute, one is cautioned, but one has no appeal against that caution. One has no statutory right to dispute the rightfulness of the caution by the police officer.
And if it happens, as it might well do, in the crowded area which I represent, it might well happen on polling day, when one might be canvassing in Such for votes, which is definitely more difficult than canvassing in the sense that we are discussing today. The fact that there is no appeal against this caution will be a serious undermining of justice.
Having been cautioned twice, if I followed the Home Secretary correctly, the woman is brought into court as a common prostitute—
—on nothing more than the police evidence. I took down the Home Secretary words, and he said that this was the kind of girl whose activities we want to stop. I think that that is putting an overwhelming burden on the police, and is something which is quite unacceptable to those who believe in justice.
I must refer to what this term means. One of the difficulties is how to get rid of the label or stigma of prostitute. There are many women who are helped by welfare workers and others, or by their own families, especially youngsters. If they have an indictment against them for being a common prostitute, how can girls get rid of it? I was deeply impressed by a case I heard at Marlborough Street Court, in which a girl was called as a witness in a matter which had nothing to do with a sexual offence. She was actually called as a witness in a case of arson. She gave her name and address, and for occupation she said, "Waitress." Immediately, a policeman at the back of the court got up and said, "Excuse me, but that woman is a common prostitute."
This girl's sexual life was completely irrelevant to the case. She was doing a public duty in coming forward as a witness in that case, because she happened to see the fire started, or something like that, but the fact that she had a previous conviction as a common prostitute was disclosed in court. This was a label which the police wanted to fix on a woman who was known to them. If such a woman gets into any other kind of trouble with the police, the fact that she has, rightly or wrongly, been labelled in this way is made to count against her.
When hon. Gentlemen like to think of common prostitutes, I should equally like to name some men as common frequenters of prostitutes. Suppose she is rightly named. She is still a citizen of this country, and has her rights under the law. She has a right to go wandering round the streets, to go shopping, to go visiting, to sit in the park, or to go for a walk in the park, and yet it could be—I do not say it would be—that under the Bill well-known girls—for most of them in areas where the business is well established are well-known to the police— would, as one of them said to me the other day, be afraid to go into the street at all.
If no evidence were given by the police of what she was doing in the park she could not be convicted of loitering for the purpose of prostitution.
I am sorry, but I cannot be interrupted again, as my time is getting short.
Under Clause 1, if a girl who is known as a common prostitute is loitering in a street, but not for the purpose of prostitution, a police officer who suspects that she may be doing so can bring a charge under subsection (3). That is out of line with the sort of justice which any citizen, whatever her character, has a right to expect in this country.
I do not support what has been said about the need to prove annoyance. We are told that the law in this respect has been brought into disrepute, but that is partly the fault of its administration. I once saw a girl get away with it by pleading "Not guilty" to a charge of causing annoyance. Obviously, there was a feud going on between her and the police officer who was giving evidence. She denied the charge saying, "I defy you to prove that I was annoying that man. He comes every Wednesday at 11 o'clock, and he was not in the least bit annoyed". She won her case. These girls have the right to say that they were not annoying anybody.
On the contrary, how infinitely more are women and girls subjected to annoyance from men, and from the kerb crawlers particularly. One cannot walk down some streets in my constituency without being stopped very many times. This has happened to me many times, so I cannot imagine how many times it must happen to girls who are younger and more attractive.
The Home Secretary prayed in aid Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act. I am sorry that he is not at the moment in his place. I thought there was something hypocritical about the fact that he quoted that Section as indicating equality before the law of men and women. It was absolutely farcical. I asked a Question on Monday, 15th December, about the convictions against men accused under that Section of importuning women. The right hon. Gentleman takes that Section so lightly that he could not tell me. He replied:
I regret that this information is not available. Men who importune women and girls are usually charged with using insulting words and behaviour, and neither the statistics of this offence nor those of proceedings under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, enable this type of offence to be distinguished from others"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1958; Vol. 597, c. 156.]
If that is all the weight the Home Secretary attaches to the subject he cannot say that he is treating the matter seriously.
Moreover, under Section 32 the woman who wants to bring a charge against a man has to prove annoyance. There has to be evidence of importuning and soliciting. She cannot just get a policeman to say, "This man was loitering with intent to importune," nor is the man brought into court, named as a common importuner. I cannot see how any hon. Member can pretend that we are giving equality between men and women in this respect.
The Home Secretary referred to the bad example set by prostitutes to other girls. I have three of the largest railway termini in my constituency. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the danger to young girls—who are often running away from remand homes or homes—arises at those railway stations not from girls who hang about there but from men, who wait about in those termini for the sole purpose of meeting girls in those circum- stances. There is no attempt to deal with that kind of nuisance in the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman must try to find some way of ensuring that there is some nuisance committed. That is why I am sorry he did not feel able to adopt the suggestion of the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, that he should make it an offence under Clause 1 for "any person to loiter, solicit or importune in a public place in a way constituting annoyance or nuisance." The Bill also fails to make any difference between importuning and soliciting, and that is a serious defect. It is infinitely more serious to be importuned in the street by having someone hang on to your arm and try to stop you going along the street than to have somebody ask, "Are you doing anything tonight?" or "Are you in a hurry?" One can smile and pass on, and very little nuisance can be said to have happened.
One of the most serious aspects of this matter is the attitude of the public to the problem. Since my Amendment has been on the Order Paper, as well as before, several of us have had representations from many organisations which cannot be accused in any way of trying to condone prostitution but, on the contrary, are devoted to trying to solve the problem of prostitution at its roots. We know that the National Council of Women, the Association of Moral and Social Hygiene, to which the Home Secretary referred, our Roman Catholic friends in St. Joan's Alliance, the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, the Fawcett Society, the Mothers' Union, all leading women's organisations, are against the Bill.
Arrayed against the Bill are most of the very people who will have to try to work it. I refer to the moral welfare workers, on whom we shall have to rely for some of the work which is done, but more particularly to the probation officers. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would pay more attention to the views of the probation officers. They are the most overworked and underpaid of those who try to do a constructive job in society.
The Wolfenden Committee suggested that a prison sentence would not of itself reform anybody, but would help to make a girl accept probation. Probation officers themselves say that the threat of imprisonment will not make girls more likely to accept probation. We cannot accept the Bill as a good thing for probation, although probation has been used successfully in many cases. If it is to be so used we must get the cooperation of the girl. Whatever his views on the matter, I beg the Home Secretary to pay attention to the views of those who are very experienced people and who will have to put into practice the Bill which he proposes to pass.
I wish to say something about very young girls, who gravely concern us all. It is optional with a court, when sentencing, to use the care-and-protection procedure, but it is not mandatory. It would be a terrible thing if a young girl under 17—I would like to see this age altered—were to be sent to prison as a common prostitute. I want assurances from Her Majesty's Government that they will try to amend the Bill so that that will not happen to the younger girls.
With the body of opinion in the Press, in women's organisations, among professional workers who have to deal with this problem, all against the Bill, I feel that the Home Secretary cannot hope to carry it through with anything other than the formality imposed by the Government Whip on supporters of the Government. This is such a grave Measure of social justice—I should say of social injustice—that I very much hope he will take it back again.
Nothing I have said should be taken as inferring that I am in any way unaware of the seriousness of this problem, but I believe that these proposals will not deal with the problem. They will not deal with the causes of the problem. They will attack only the poorest and often the least literate section of women engaged in this work. They do nothing to deal with the offences by men which, as I have indicated, are very unequally dealt with. On the other side of the scale, they put into jeopardy some of the highest principles of British justice. It would be a great misfortune for this country if that were allowed to happen.
We may be proud, as I am sure we all are, of the work our police do, but younger countries in the Commonwealth look to this place for help and guidance in dealing with their social problems. They are countries where, perhaps, the police are not so mature, so experienced and incorruptible as are the police of this country. I believe that the Bill as put forward today would set a disastrous example not only in this country, but throughout the world, which looks to the Parliament at Westminster to set a high standard in these things.
A lot of detail about the Bill has already been gone into by many hon. Members and as the time is getting on I propose to limit myself to one point only, which, to me, is perhaps the most important point of all. There, I follow the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger), as it deals with the attitude of the public towards the Bill.
I think that we are all concerned these days at the loosening of moral standards and the weakening of the religious outlook. I must confess that I was really shocked by the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) and the cynical attitude he seemed to me to take towards this Bill, when he disapproved of such radical changes for the mood of the moment. I thought that that was a very cynical statement to make.
I am certain that if this country is to survive the spiritual life of the nation will have to be quickened. There is a very great responsibility on us of the older generation in this matter Those on both sides of the House who have dealt with young people would agree with me that the young learn, and learn most willingly, from example. If the outlook of our generation is too tolerant, too easy-going and too indifferent to the matters we have been discussing this afternoon, the younger generation will take their cue from that same outlook.
I feel very strongly that if our streets are to be left as they are, as the breeding place for vice, and if it is said that nothing can be done either because it is too difficult, which was the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)—I do not think that it was a very helpful one—or because it does not really matter, then we can hardly expect our young people to take the matter seriously. If I may quote Latin, I would say:
Facilis Descensus Averni".
It is all too easy to become a prostitute and all too easy at present for a young man to pick one up. If we think that that does not matter, why should the young—who, after all, look to us—think that it does matter?
We are told that other systems will replace soliciting in the streets and that there will be organised efforts as an alternative to this easy approach. I have no doubt that that will be so. People have talked a great deal about dust under the carpet. People have also said what I believe to be true, that in a Government Bill like this we cannot stamp out prostitution. That means there will always be some dust, anyway for some time to come. But I would rather have that dust under control, under the carpet, than floating around the room.
I believe that if vice is taken off the street and is organised, deplorable as that may be, it will be more difficult, more complicated, and more expensive for the client, and the organisation will be more easily tracked down by the police and finally stamped out than it will be to get rid of individuals or—if hon. Members prefer—private enterprise in the streets. Increased penalties, increased risks and increased expenses are, I believe, all deterrents.
Above all, this Bill will justify the vast majority of young people who want to lead a decent life. It is very important that we should help them to strengthen their purpose and not to talk entirely of helping the prostitute. Surely it is more important to help these young people than to show too much anxiety about the girl who has voluntarily taken up this occupation. Of course, one must help her; of course, every organisation available must help. Indeed, I think that we must do more than that.
As I said in the earlier debate, I should like to see, parallel with this Bill, a real effort made in the educational world to study the problems of the adolescent and not to concentrate on what I would call pure sex teaching. We really must get hold of the problem in our schools by teaching parenthood and civic responsibility in a better way. Surely we all agree that it is no good turning out good scientists if we do not turn out good men and women. I believe that we are missing the boat in our schools at present by not concentrating far more on the develop- ment of character, individual responsibility and learning how rather than what to think.
I am convinced that in supporting the Bill we are helping those young people who want to lead a proper life. If the country is, in the spiritual sense, to remain a great country then the attitude of public opinion in this matter is vitally important. If we fail our younger generation in this we shall have only ourselves to blame if they, in turn, fail in their historic task.
The issues before the House are by this time fairly clear. In an earlier debate the Home Secretary said that
the function of the law in this field was to clean up the streets and to prevent exploitation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 374.]
The difficulty which most of us face is that in certain respects the two things are incompatible, because in so far as we drive vice off the streets, we make conditions easier for exploitation. That is the dilemma which faces most of us. Very few of us are not disturbed and distressed by the state of the streets in many parts of London, and we recognise that something needs to be done about it. There has been almost universal welcome for Clauses 2 and 3, which I hope will go some way at least to satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) who, as we all recognise, has very difficult problems in his constituency.
But when we look at the controversial Clause 1, we are brought face to face with this dilemma which is, to put it fairly simply: which is worse, sexual vice or the kind of corruption which I think is certain to ensue if the Bill passes into law in its present state? Anyone who has studied even in the most superficial way what has happened in the great cities of the United States will realise that if certain powers are put into the hands of the police and if there are penalties of the kind proposed in the Bill, there is bound to be a very great possibility of serious corruption of the police force.
That is not to say that there will be anything like universal corruption or that policemen are any easier to corrupt than other men, but when the penalties to be imposed are so much more severe than in the past, a completely different situation arises from that existing at present, when the penalty of 40s. is agreed by all to be almost negligible. At the moment it is not worth the girl's while to try to corrupt the police and it is not worth the police constable's while to take any risks in accepting that very small amount. A completely new situation arises when there are very heavy fines and the possibility of imprisonment.
It means, moreover, that a girl who wants to take up this way of life will be very much more in the power of those who organise this trade than she is at present. She may be able to cope with being brought up at Marlborough Street every now and then and with paying her £2 fine, but when she is faced with the problem of paying not £2 but the penalties in the Bill, then she will fall far more easily into the hands of someone whom she may at first regard as a protector but who obviously will become her exploiter. For the man who is organising this business, it will be very much worth his while to bribe those concerned, particularly when there is the possibility of imprisonment of the prostitute, because that would take his stock-in-trade, the prostitute, off the streets for a period and mean that he would be unable to obtain any profits from her services.
We have to face the fact that if we pass the Bill as it stands we shall clearly make it much more probable that we shall have increased organisation and increased exploitation and, correspondingly, increased opportunities and probability of corruption of the Police Force. The connection which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) mentioned between crime and vice, which is so obvious in certain other countries, will, I am afraid, become apparent in this country. On the whole, we have been relatively free from it.
We have had so many interruptions that I do not wish to give way.
I feel that this question of a kind of corruption which will be so much more difficult to eradicate ought to be taken more seriously than some of the supporters of the Bill seem to have taken it. I recognise the difficulty, which we have discussed, about the use of the term "common prostitute" and the difficulty about proving annoyance, and I do not wish to go over again what I think are the very impressive arguments in the pamphlet produced by the Church of England Moral Welfare Society, but I think we ought to weigh them very carefully.
The Bill reads:
It shall be an offence for a common prostitute …".
If the English language means anything, that means that if a person is to be charged under Clause 1 (1), it is a prerequisite that the police, in preferring the charge, shall have decided that she is a common prostitute. That labelling of the girl can therefore take place before she appears before the court. At this preliminary stage, when this designation is decided, as far as we can understand she has no redress and no appeal. It is simply her word against that of a police constable.
Furthermore—and this is a very serious point—there is no time limit. We are to have a register which apparently is to be life-long. Someone may have been cautioned as a young girl somewhere in London—
—and that will be recorded. She may be inexperienced and have made no protest. She may possibly have been engaged in prostitution. She may then leave that way of life completely for a number of years, but for ever more her name will be on the police register.
It is on the register without her ever having been before the court. If she has had two cautions, she is registered. We shall have a class of registered women. I do not know whether the Attorney-General is disagreeing with me, but I should be obliged if he would intervene and put me right if I am wrong. It is the only way in which I can read the Bill.
It would be much more useful if we had information now on this subject, which is a vital matter of justice. If the suggestion were, "If she has been engaged in the occupation of a common prostitute at any period within the last two years," that would be a different matter, but in fact there is absolutely no time limit. In subsection (3) we read:
A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he finds in a street or public place and suspects, with reasonable cause, of committing an offence under this section.
We can hardly suppose that he will carry round a card index of all the persons who have ever been cautioned in any part of the United Kingdom. Over the years, if the Act comes into force, clearly the list of persons who have been cautioned at one time or another will be immense. We have been told that 12,000 cases were dealt with in the West End Central Division last year.
This means that women will be liable to be taken to police stations on the suspicion of a police constable, whether or not they have previously been cautioned. Except in certain instances, when the constable happens to know the woman, it will be impossible for him to say whether she has been cautioned previously. If a police constable has to have no more than a suspicion, there will be a serious possibility that women who are completely innocent will be subjected to the annoyance and humiliation of being taken to a police station on a charge of this kind.
Several hon. Members have spoken of the treatment accorded to men and to women. In some respects, men are very hardly dealt with, in the sense that Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act provides extremely heavy penalties which, in many cases, are quite unfair to the men. The penalty is often out of proportion to the offence if one regards sexual offences, as I do, as being equivalent on the part of either sex.
On the other hand, from the reply given this afternoon by the Home Secretary, from the information given by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) and from other information which we have, it is clear that for the soliciting of women by men, Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, with its extremely heavy penalties, is a dead letter.
We have heard a great deal about the dead letter of the annoyance provision
concerning prostitutes, but not one word about the dead letter concerning the soliciting of women by men. There is the extreme annoyance of kerb crawling. The Wolfenden Committee was extraordinarily ineffective in its remarks on this matter. It is not only kerb crawling. The Home Secretary must be under a misapprenhension about what happens. I read his remarks in the earlier debate on 26th November, in which he brushed this matter aside as being of no consequence. He said that
the man does not normally loiter, because he has no need to. He appears once on the scene and is gone."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 379.]
Obviously, the Home Secretary regards this as of no consequence.
All I can say is that any women who live in Central London know perfectly well that one does not need, I 'trust, to look like a prostitute to be solicited by men. I lived in a flat in Edgware Road for nine years and I can give the assurance that simply to stop and look in a shop window, especially on a Saturday night—it might be just a grocery shop, not even something selling ladies' underwear—was quite enough for a man to come up and make some remark from which his intentions were quite as clear as the intentions of any prostitute. That is a frequent happening in streets in the West End of London. I speak from my own experience in the Edgware Road and Charing Cross Road, but, I must confess, not in Park Lane, where there is too much competition.
It seems to me that we ought to have one law for both sexes in this matter and that a woman who is annoyed at all in this way should not have to prove that there has bean persistent importuning. If it is sufficient for a woman to be brought before the court for loitering, surely it is sufficient for a man, when he approaches a woman who has no wish to be approached, also to be brought within the same law. As prostitution and sexual offences of that kind are not crimes under our law, one need not carry the argument to extremes by suggesting that something should be done about the clients of prostitutes, but the question of soliciting by men and kerb crawling is something which ought to be, and, I think, could be, brought within the purview of the Bill.
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) that this is part of a much wider problem which we can hardly deal with by legislation in this House: that is, the whole question of our attitude to sex and morality, particularly among young people. There is no doubt that there has been a change of attitude towards sexual behaviour and, in many ways, there is a much more healthy and much less hypocritical attitude than in the past. One must, however, recognise also that the mere fact that venereal disease is now regarded as less dangerous because of modern methods of treatment and the fact that contraceptives are more easily obtainable are bound to have an effect upon the attitude of both young men and young women, and not merely the younger ones, although it is, of course, the younger ones for whom we should have much greater concern. Therefore, we should have the most complete assurances that everything will be done on the social, remedial and educational side to deal with what is a difficult problem of modern society.
The previous sanctions of fear of disease and fear of conception having been to some extent removed, it is for us as a society to see that more positive attitudes of morality in the relationship between the sexes are inculcated. We cannot however, do that by legislation. We ought to do some things by legislation, but I am greatly disturbed by the provisions of Clause 1 of this particular Bill, because it is extremely doubtful whether it will to any great degree diminish the evil of commercial vice and I am quite certain that it will considerably increase the grave dangers of corruption.
For that reason, I shall oppose the Bill.
I am glad to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). I agree with what she has said. I am certain that women as a whole are as anxious as men that this evil in our society should be eradicated, but we differ, perhaps, in the way in which it should be done and how it can be done.
We have had an interesting week. On Monday we started with the Mental Health Bill, which will bring in a new era of ideas for mental disease. We then had a Bill to deal with pensions which, we hope, will provide more security for old age. Today, we come to this Bill, which makes no particular reform but merely increases penalties.
Several hon. Members have said that there has not been sufficient investigation. The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency has done considerable investigation in these matters. Two very distinguished women, Dr. Fairfield and Dr. Jean Graham Hall, have studied this matter considerably, and I am sorry that some of their suggestions have not been incorporated into the Bill.
I am worried about the matter of cautioning, to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred. When young women are cautioned, will they be given any kind of certificate? If so, will it last forever, or will they keep it for, say, two years and then, like a driving licence, it can fall into disuse? Otherwise women will have the stigma of cautionings where-ever they go. I am not at all keen on the idea of cautioning. I am fortified by an article by Dr. Jean Graham Hall, who interviews people and collects a great many individual opinions, in which she states:
The first time at court is a day which every business girl"—
that is, a prostitute—
remembers and that is the day when she must be stopped. The wise use of that first court appearance would be much more effective than cautioning. The Committee recommends that courts be given explicit power to remand, up to three weeks in custody if need be, prostitutes convicted for the first or second time in order that a social or medical report may be obtained.
As we know, there are many magistrates who are interested in this work of reformation.
It is suggested that a more effective course would be for every prostitute on first conviction to be sent to a special remand home for fourteen days and, if thought proper, to a special rehabilitation centre from one to three months so that her history and circumstances can be fully ascertained by a trained social worker. That is far better than any form of imprisonment. If a girl is sent to prison as a common prostitute she comes out with no stamps on her card. It is difficult for any ordinary person to get a job in those circumstances, and the common prostitute has this label which will not help her to lead a different type of life.
It has been said that men can resist everything except temptation. The Report of the Wolfenden Committee says that the ease with which prostitutes can be met is itself the motive for the traffic. That may be so, but I do not think the proposals in this Bill will be of any help in this respect. Since the Wolfenden Committee Report was originally printed, consideration of the problem has been given by various organisations which have been mentioned by those hon. Members who have spoken against the Bill. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for receiving so many deputations. I think it has done a great deal of good, because for the first time in recent years the various societies have got together to study these conditions. I am very hopeful that, as a result of the helpful recommendations made by the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, we may be given rather more time to consider these proposals before coming to a definite conclusion.
I rather wonder whether, if the House of Commons consisted of 602 women and 28 men, this Bill would have come before the House today. I am quite sure that from the other side of the House we would have had a "charter for husbands," as it has been called, relating to maintenance for husbands by women if necessary, on a legal basis, as has been mentioned in The Times. That has always been one of the programmes of the Married Women's Association.
Speaking of prostitution, it is essential to consider the background of the women concerned. The Report of the British Social Biology Council is very enlightening. We are dealing with a very poor type of woman as a whole. Many of them have been to approved schools or borstal institutions, and in many cases they are married and their marriages have gone wrong. In some cases, as one learned only recently, some are keeping invalid husbands and, unfortunately, this is the only way in which they can do so.
In this legislation we are aiming not at the woman who stands quietly in a doorway, perhaps dressed in such a way as to attract attention, but at prostitution itself, and that is where I part company from my right hon. Friend. I do not think it is possible to do it in these ways, and I would be grateful if we could consider putting the word "importuning" into Clause 1, because "soliciting" is too weak. It is too easy to get into trouble for loitering or for appearing to solicit. If a woman happens to be of a friendly disposition, there is nothing to stop her passing the time of day with a man or perhaps asking the way, and this may be taken for soliciting. It is not only my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State who has been accused by prostitutes of being on their beat. Quite a lot of people in Paddington, where I live, have had that experience, and I think it might be possible also for the police not to make such accurate judgments as they should.
Although I realise that the Wolfenden Report has been out for eighteen months, I cannot see why there is this hurry. As is pointed out in the Report, this is no new problem. We have heard of what has been going on for over 100 years, and in paragraph 232 of the Report we read:
A senior officer of the Metropolitan Police in his evidence … on the law relating to the Protection of Young Girls said in 1881:
… at half past twelve at night a calculation was made a short time ago that there were 500 prostitutes between Piccadilly Circus and the bottom of Waterloo Place.'
We now understand that in that area there are about 800. Taking into account the great increase in the population, I do not think the problem is any greater than it was in those days.
One sympathises with the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) in the difficulties which he has, but in Paddington, where we have formed the Paddington Moral Welfare Committee, we have our own difficulties, though, thanks to better lighting and so on, we have been able to eradicate some of the evils in that area. I am not saying that they have gone for ever; they have probably gone down to Lancaster Gate. But if those residents take the same action, if we get some concerted action, it will be of great help to the police.
As has already been pointed out, one of the reasons why people are frightened of saying that they are annoyed is the use of this word "common prostitute." One does not want to take action against a common prostitute. One does not mind taking action against a thief or perhaps against a trespasser, but directly one brings a case against a woman who is
technically known as a common prostitute, naturally the newspapers get hold of it and it is thought that the worst can probably be believed. Dr. Jean Graham Hall, in her article, with which I concur, says:
the term 'common prostitute should be abolished. A policeman in the case of a charge of larceny does not give his evidence by saying, 'I saw the accused, whom I know as a thief, walking along' … and we know that prostitutes dislike this anomaly.
If we give this Bill a Second Reading, I hope that consideration will be given to removing the term "common prostitute." It is not at all helpful in any form of reformation.
A great deal has been said about young people. I have not been able to get any particularly up-to-date figures, but the other day when I was at a police station I made some careful inquiries into the ages of the people concerned. The following percentages are rather interesting; under 21 years of age, 7 per cent.; 21–29, 48 per cent.; 30–39, 33 per cent.; 40–49, 10 per cent.; over 50, 2 per cent. In fact, in the British Social Biology Council's Report they were mostly aged 24 or 25. One was actually 49½Therefore, though there is a danger to young people, I feel that we may be exaggerating the number of young people who take up this profession. We must therefore keep the extent of the problem in proportion.
I hope that the higher fines may be of some help. I think that they may stop the beginners, but they will, I am afraid, make the others have to work all the harder, because while they are paying the fines they will have to pay for their flats and so on, and they will probably get into the hands of organisations. Strange to say, I think that when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was sitting, as he said, in a cafe opposite a place in Curzon Street, he was actually sitting opposite the house of one of the Messina brothers. The hon. and learned Gentleman watched these people going in and out. I myself have watched them going in and out. I do not think that that is an improvement on the present system of merely having the women in the streets. There is one practical consideration anyhow. If they stand there they can go in and out quickly and take a larger number in an hour than if they are standing about in the streets, when they will at least have to walk somewhere and take a little longer time about it.
I suggest, too, that the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) about the Justices of the Peace Act, 1361, is important. Far more use could be made of that by magistrates' courts. It does provide for women being bound over to be of good behaviour, and that does, perhaps, give them the chance they really need.
I hope that some provision will be put into the Bill—this is connected with the point about "common prostitute"—to deal with what is known as kerb crawling. Kerb crawling now is not limited to men. Kerb crawling by women in cars has started, women who will start with the label "common prostitute" because they are actually soliciting from cars. The men will not have this label; they will not be termed common prostitutes. If we remove the word "annoyance" this is the sort of thing that may happen. I know of an occasion when a man was going round a London square and constantly stopping. When the police caught up with him he said that he was boosting the batteries of his car. In fact, he was actually talking to two women. The police could have taken him up, but the women at that time said that they were not being annoyed. The question of annoyance is of very great importance.
We in the House must not have double standards of morality, one standard for men and one standard for women. As we were reminded by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), we must remember what has happened in America with what is known as the call-girl system. If anyone reads the book Cast the First Stone, he will certainly be put against the American system.
No women like to see other women on the streets. We have to remember that they are there for only one purpose. They are there for the customer. Men are on the streets for two reasons; they are there for the women and they are very often there for other men. Women do not solicit other women. It is therefore unfair that the customer should every time get off so easily.
The risks under the Bill are too great. There is the problem of mistaken identity. Annoyance has gone. There is the matter of cautioning, which I mentioned at the beginning. There is the danger of the high prices demanded for lodgings. I understand that anything from £5 to £25 has been charged in some areas. The economics of the trade will become dangerously inflated. That is a word we all often use today, but to this kind of trade it will certainly apply. Women will need more capital and there will be more organisation. Therefore, they will be forced to go to licensed premises, to milk bars, or to make more use of taxis.
The area we are discussing is a comparatively small one. Looking at the map, the police know exactly where they can find these women. The problem does not, so far as I know, greatly affect any of the provincial towns. Anyhow, in provincial towns of the size of my own, everybody knows everybody and people learn how to be a great deal more discreet.
If nothing more has been done by this debate, if we have not been able to convince my right hon. Friend that his Bill is not, perhaps, the most desirable way of fulfilling the aim the Wolfenden Committee had in mind, it will have alerted the general public to the situation. It has certainly alerted the Churches, and we hope for more of their co-operation in the future. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider the points which have been put to him. Certainly, we must not go back to the kind of thing done in the play "The Skin Game", when blackmail can be used. I am quite certain that, if the Bill goes through as it is, blackmail will increase.
It has been said that young people will have less trouble and they will be less in danger. I very much doubt it. Young girls, perhaps, will go into the kind of rooms, basements and so forth we know about, and they will have very much more difficulty in getting out. Young men, if they see these women on the streets now, may not find them all that attractive, but if it is known that they are, as it were, to be found in dens and dives, they will be attracted to go there purely out of excitement and curiosity to see what is really going on.
I should like to see an effort made to clean up the streets, but not in such a drastic way as is proposed in the Bill. For that reason, I am afraid I shall be unable to vote for its Second Reading tonight.
I do not propose to follow what has just been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). I think that this may be a unique occasion, for I, a male Member of the House, am following four hon. Lady Members of the House in making my speech. I do not think that that has ever happened before, and, perhaps, on such a subject as this, it might create a little embarrassment, because it is my intention to try to convince at least some of those hon. Ladies that they are absolutely wrong in their views. What we have to do is not to speak about what is not in the Bill. We must realise what is in the Bill. We must realise, also, what would be the effect of the Amendments if they were carried.
It is no good any hon. Member, male or female, disguising the fact that prostitution has been increasing and giving the country a very bad name among those who come to it from abroad, quite apart from among those who have to live in it. I live in an area where we have just about had enough of it. It is very easy for hon. Members to say that the prostitute cannot help being there because the men want her. It is the prostitute who goes there first. Let there be no mistake about that. If nothing is done on these lines, what has been happening in this so-called honourable profession— where the honour comes in, I do not know—for over a hundred years will not only continue, but will become even worse.
I have never had a word of praise for the Government since they have been in power, but I acknowledge their courage in coming forward with a Bill to do away with this shocking menace in our large towns, particularly in London. Do the hon. Ladies who have spoken realise what some respectable working-class women are suffering as a result of having these pests in their midst? I am speaking on behalf of the respectable working-class women of Stepney, who have asked me to do all I possibly can to see that this menace is eradicated from among them. Not only is it sometimes dangerous for women to walk along the streets where the prostitutes hang about. It is also very dangerous indeed for the boys and girls who can see these things taking place day after day.
When the House of Commons is confronted with a problem like that, are we to go on for ever saying, "Put it back for six months"? There is only one way to clear these girls off the streets and that is to make it difficult for them to be on the streets. The increased fines will obviously, make it more difficult for them to be there. As the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport said, new recruits may think twice about coming in, if they have to pay out to the courts the money they have earned. I am all in favour of them. I would not object to imprisonment provided that the women and children of Stepney are not pestered with this disease.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Lobby tonight probation officers are asking that we should not oppose the Bill and have announced that three Scots girls were new arrivals in Stepney tonight?
What about worrying about the women and children in my constituency? Maybe the hon. Lady has not prostitutes in her constituency—I do not know. If she wants them, we will transport them there.
If a case has been made for voting for the Bill, I am sure that it was in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) tonight. He is a responsible Member and he has moved the Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "What?"] He is a learned Member, anyway. The Amendment says, in effect, that we have to have prostitution, but that so long as we park it around various streets there is nothing to worry about. Those who vote for the Amendment are voting for the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). They are voting to herd the prostitutes into streets which are non-residential and where it is nice and light. That, to me, is the case he made in support of his Amendment.
When it comes to the question of police powers, I do not think that it can be said that the police will have any more powers under the Bill than they have now. The question of what constitutes a common prostitute applies now as it will after the Bill has become law. I have been asked by the people in my constituency to see that the police have more powers than they have at present.
My hon. Friend may be correct in saying that the police have no more powers in one sense, but the consequences of the use of their powers will be very much graver for the prostitute.
I do not accept that for a moment. With the law as it is at present, we have not seen any real consequences of the power they possess. I have not seen it in the newspapers and I have not heard it in this House. If there were any question of increased police powers there would certainly have been a Question on the Order Paper about it, or something in the newspapers. I do not think that the police will abuse the powers which they will have under this Bill any more than they abuse them now so far as prostitution is concerned.
Another very important point concerns the social well-being of the people. If the Amendment is carried nothing will be done about the all-night cafes.
My hon. Friend will appreciate that we are not responsible for the Amendment which Mr. Speaker chose. If the Amendment of the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) had been chosen it would have been on one Clause of the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend will not necessarily assume that those who are forced to go into the Lobby because of Mr. Speaker's decision necessarily disagree with him on penalties, and so on.
I want this Bill, but I repeat that if the Amendment were carried tonight nothing would be done to clean up the streets—nothing would be done to clear up the cafe situation which, I can assure the House, is a very serious menace.
Young lads who have some money in their pockets are going into cafes late at night and mixing with these girls and, before they know where they are, they are in dire trouble. That is one very important reason why I think that all hon. Members should support the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said that the Government had acted in panic. How can they have acted in panic fashion when it is eighteen months since the Wolfenden Committee's Report came out and most of us have been complaining that nothing has been done? Surely everyone who has read the Wolfenden Committee's Report must agree that the members of the Committee have given a considerable amount of time to this matter. The Report is something which entirely agrees with the views of the people in my constituency. Everyone knows that Stepney is a working-class constituency. I do not think that we have any wealthy people there, even including me. I would not be uttering these words tonight unless I were absolutely satisfied of their representation. I have seen these things take place.
The unfortunate part is that many hon. Members, even when they speak of important subjects like this, have never seen what is happening and are only looking at it theoretically. Theoretically, I suppose, all those who have spoken against the Bill today have been—
Sometimes we have to face facts. We cannot have our laws based on the opinions of many of these theorists, who can see no further than their noses, and who care less about what is happening to the majority as a result of the actions of a minority.
It is a very nice thing to say that we have to look after the minorities. But the minority of prostitutes make things awkward for hundreds and possibly thousands of decent people in Stepney. Why should we look after minorities like that? Let us look after the minorities who have a good case and not a minority who are casting a slur on the whole country by the things they do and the way they do them. Do not let us run away with the impression that these prostitutes are nice girls.
One has only to go into certain streets, particularly in the East End, where these girls are on the corners, blocking the pavements, to find how difficult it is even to exercise one's right as a respectable citizen to walk on the pavement. The time of the police is occupied in dealing with this menace when they could be far better occupied in doing some other work for the benefit of the whole community.
I fully support the Bill, and I congratulate the Government on their courage in bringing it forward. There may, of course, be Amendments to it in Committee, but when it comes to cleaning up our streets, which is the most important thing from my point of view, whatever party had brought the Bill forward would have had my support.
That was really delightful. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed every word of that good, briny, naval speech, right from the heart. It had not one word of theory in it, but the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) knows a great deal more of the practical background of prostitution than most of the speakers we have heard today. His speech was second only to that of the Home Secretary, and I certainly give it the second prize. I listened to every speech throughout the debate on the Wolfenden Committee Report. I did not get in on that debate. Also I have listened to the whole of this one so far. Unlike some hon. Members, who have expressed in their own words a complete ignorance of the subject, I claim to have some really specialised knowledge of it at first hand.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that he had two important questions to pose. He also said he was completely ignorant of this subject. He asked: if we take the girls off the streets, where are they going and what kind of marketing arrangements are we going to make for them when we get them off the streets? I propose to answer both those questions in the course of my observations.
I start by saying this, because it is important that one should claim some special knowledge of this subject, which I think is peculiarly one where the person with first-hand knowledge has more right to be listened to than those without. I started my professional career in Treasury Chambers and did well over 300 cases, acting usually as a pupil, for the Church Commissioners, dealing with every kind of case of prostitution, pimping, brothels and the like. Getting away from that, I have in the course of my career dealt with both the Messina and the Maltese Brothers and with at least 50 to 100 poncing cases. I must have seen 200 or 300 prostitutes, and I have a file on the reasons why they entered prostitution. With that background, I think I know a little about the way their minds work.
I must say, to begin with, that it has not been clearly underlined in this House or in this country that prostitution is lawful and that under the terms of this Bill prostitution will continue to be lawful. Let us be clear about that. We are not seeking to outlaw it, we are seeking to outlaw what the hon. Member for Stepney has referred to as the gross public indecency of it. The essence of this Bill, and its only purpose, is to remove the public disorder which is occasioned by the nuisance and annoyance of prostitution. It is because it is an offence against public order that this Bill is being brought in, and that is the principal purpose we all have in mind.
Therefore, although the United Nations, and before that the League of Nations, frequently called upon this country and the Home Office—who, I may add, at that time did nothing about it—to try to secure that prostitution should be outlawed in this country, as it has tried to do in others, we have always taken the originally hypocritical view that we would do nothing about it, and at long last this Government have the courage to tackle a problem which no other Government in history has been willing to tackle. Furthermore, let me point out that we have heard a lot of theories and ideas, and particularly muddle-headed thinking as usual by the Leader of the Liberal Party, who contributed not one whit to the discussion by claiming that we had better go and think again, whereas many of us have spent years of study of this subject and could read no end of papers to indicate what should be done. Nevertheless, despite that background, the Government have brought forward this Measure which, I hope, will reach the Statute Book. Whether it requires amendment is another matter, although I think that it requires very little amendment.
Let us get one thing clear about the prostitute. The question of annoyance and nuisance is not that occasioned by one prostitute on the streets. No one is concerned to worry if Park Lane or Shaftesbury Avenue has one whore standing on the corner. It is the pride of prostitutes—if I may use that term—or the parade of prostitutes congregated in an area which causes a nuisance. Therefore, we do not require evidence to satisfy the public that they are a nuisance or annoyance. They are a nuisance and annoyance per se the moment there is a number, a gaggle or a pride of them together in any one area. Therefore, it is unnecessary to set about proof, because what is a public disorder is self-evident and, as such, does not require to be proved at law. On the other hand, I equally disagree with the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that there is anything in this Bill which would violate the cherished principles of liberty in this country. That is a matter which I particularly want to deal with from the purely practical experience of the courts.
The causes of prostitution are as follows. Time will not permit to cite the arguments in detail, but the first is laziness. The girls drift into prostitution because it is the laziest and the easiest occupation to drift into. Today over 95 per cent, of the prostitutes in this country are in it solely for one thing, and that is lucre, hard money. They are professionals. There are none left of the old idea of Josephine Butler's poor old girls of the past. There is none of the romance of "Fanny by Gaslight" in the modern tart. She is a hard girl who knows exactly what her value is.
I have talked to them in my chambers. I have asked, "What is your price? Do you take a lower one? "The girl replies," No, I am in the Piccadilly area. I can command £3 there. If I was at Shepherd Market I could command £5." You cannot get them below their price. So do not let us have any sentimental slush about these girls not knowing their market price. According to the area there is the market price. It is almost as if it were a shop window and there was a rateable occupier.
Secondly, some prostitutes start through heredity. Quite a number of the mothers of these girls were prostitutes before (hem and they are following in a good old tradition. I will give only one example here of a girl in Shepherd Market with whom I had to deal a short while ago. She turned up because her boy friend was being charged with living on her immoral earnings, poncing. In fact the two lived in an extremely luxurious flat in Kensington. They arrived in a Rolls-Bentley, driven by him, to see me in chambers. They were very upset because they were deeply in love. They were living together and they said they would be particularly upset if he were convicted because they played bridge with the neighbours in the evening and they did not want it to get out that she was a prostitute.
Having arrived, I asked her the following questions. I asked first, "What is the nature of your business?" She said straight away," Well, I work in Shepherd Market from Monday to Friday only from 4 o'clock to 9 o'clock—regular trade union hours. During this period of five hours she takes five men a day at £5 apiece, which is £25 a day, £125 a week. In order to make up this ludicrously low income, she takes one man every month for £100 inclusive for the weekend. This makes a total income of £6,000 a year.
I then asked her, "What Income Tax do you pay on that?" She replied, "I do not have to pay any Income Tax. You see it has all been paid by those who give me the presents." Whereupon I asked her to give me some advice because I said that what barristers receive are presents. She said," Well, aren't you lucky, you don't have to pay any Income Tax either."
As the hon. Gentleman will have noted, unfortunately ours are not tax-free emoluments.
The background to this was as follows. This lady, unfortunately, came into difficulties because she was compelled to be out on the streets. She said to me, "The most terrible thing about this is the poor girls who are still on the streets. The aim of every prostitute is not to be on the street. They all want to get accommodation of their own. Best of all, we should like to live as the mistress of one man. or perhaps a syndicate of two or three men"-the sort of thing to which the hon. and learned Member for Northampton objected, a syndicate of businessmen, a company promoter who thinks he would like to keep a prostitute. In Victorian days, of course, they did just that.
They do it in New York now. They are going back to the old Victorian habits. However that may be, that was what she told me.
I have confirmed that. The girls do not want to be on the streets. Those on the streets are there only because they do not have a clientele. If they can find a way of getting off the streets and getting accommodation of their own, they wil: do so. They all hope to do so and they support the Bill to a girl. They recognise that we have had inflation and that they ought to pay a higher" Income Tax" and that £2 was the rate in 1840 and that £20 is not a very different rate today.
However that may be, that is the background. It is laziness, or heredity, and money and nothing else. These girls are in a hard business. The country's problem is that unfortunately our tourists and our young people who go to London see this filthy, shameful sight on the streets. It is a very bad thing, and we have to deal with it. If we conclude that we have to deal with it, I agree that we must do so with justice.
I come to the second part of my argument. The Bill will clear the streets. Its penalties will do that. The police will now have the necessary power. Why are they not able to do it at the moment? The police could clear the prostitutes now, but they would merely come back. A study of the areas will show that, for example, the West End Central Division is the worst and all the prostitutes there are congregated on the other side of the Ritz Hotel. Not one prostitute will be found on this side of the Ritz. They will be found all round Bond Street and certain other streets in that neighbourhood. If one goes to Paddington one will find the prostitutes in a certain area of Paddington, but on the other side of Paddington there are no prostitutes. There are prostitutes on one side of Shaftesbury Avenue, but not on the other. In the old A Division, there are no prostitutes.
On the other hand, there is a major problem in Hyde Park. It is the problem of what I call the "mystery girls", the girls coming into the business as entirely new girls. They dare not go to a regular beat because the other girls might get upset. For instance, the Messina girls are outside Atkinsons in Bond Street. They have always been there. They have been there for 25 years and they have never been moved. It is nonsense to say that the police could not have moved them. Of course they could have done so, but the penalties were so absurd that the prostitutes would have come back.
I agree that there has been some corruption, but it is wrong to believe that corruption will be worse with these provisions. On the contrary, it will be far less. The reason is that once the girls are off the streets they will not be able to pay the man on the beat or the sergeant a bribe, since the Home Office will say immediately," We have strong powers and yet C Division"—the Division with most prostitution at the moment, in West End Central—"has all these prostitutes in Bond Street, in spite of the new laws".
Once the girls are off the streets-as they will be driven off the streets—any corruption between police officers on the beat will be impracticable. Any corruption would have to be at a very much higher level, among those in charge of the stations, and that is much more unlikely. For that reason, the whole argument about corruption is fallacious.
I want now to comment on the Bill's proposals. I welcome the warning system, provided that what the Home Secretary means by it is understood. Let us get it clear. He is suggesting a purely administrative system. It has absolutely no relation to court procedure. It is simply a method of giving the girls a chance to know that if they carry on they may later be prosecuted. From a practical point of View, it is impossible to write that warning system into the Bill. I should like to do it, but it could not be done.
The practical reasons are these. If a prostitute is prosecuted in the courts and if it has to be proved that cautions have been given before that prosecution, certainly one and possibly two officers will have to be called to prove the previous warnings. A third officer will still have to be called to prove that the third behaviour was that of a prostitute and even to prove yet another factor, that the woman was loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution.
To have to do that might be a considerable hindrance to the administration of justice, because of the multiplicity of officers. It is not as easy as that. If a caution had been administered three or four months previously, the officer concerned might be on leave at the time of the prosecution, might have been transferred to another job, might even have left the police force, or any one of a number of things.
Therefore, so long as it is understood that this is merely a device for two purposes, both administrative, the first to give a caution to watch out and the second, by far the most important, redemptive, that is all right. This is an opportunity which is the old Josephine Butler coming through in the Home Secretary—if I may make such a doubtful remark about it. It is the Home Secretary's feeling coming through that there is a chance to get a girl into the care of a hostel or social worker. Then comes the other aspect, that the courts will use the remand system to remand the girls for a time so that they can be redeemed, if possible.
There has been a terrible "hoo-ha" about the phrase "common prostitute". I do not suppose anybody likes the phrase and, if one can alter it, all well and good. It can be altered without altering the Bill. The definition of "common prostitute" is quite clear. It is a woman offering for reward her body commonly for the purpose of general lewdness. That is a
definition which was given in a case in 1918. If necessary. Clause 1 could be made to read:
It shall be an offence for a woman to offer for reward her body commonly for the purpose of general lewdness by loitering or soliciting in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.
However, that is merely toying with words. It is precisely the same whether it is done that way or with the expression "common prostitute".
I should leave the phrase. The lack of knowledge of this subject shown by the hon. Lady for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) caused her to think that a woman who appeared in the dock charged with this offence was automatically a common prostitute. She is not automatically a common prostitute. She has to be proved a common prostitute.
Of the last 10,000 cases in recent years, I think that only one or two women have challenged being called a common prostitute. I do not believe that a woman who was not a common prostitute would permit herself to be so convicted. If she did, her morality would be so low that she virtually would be a common prostitute.
Now that the girls are to go to prison, it is very likely that there will be many more contested cases. The issue will be whether a woman was loitering with the necessary intent. Once it is stated that she is a common prostitute, the prosecution is more than half way to proving its case. Is it not contrary to the general principles of our criminal law that in this new offence, where it is loitering but not loitering to commit a crime, the prosecution should be able to give evidence of the person's character before conviction?
I do not agree with that. To a large extent I agree about the question of loitering. That is the most difficult point about the Bill. But with regard to the common prostitute, there is some talk about the difference between the treatment of men and women. I do not agree that there is any difference. Under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, a man can be charged if he persistently solicits or importunes. Importuning is the usual charge in respect of a man, but he can be charged with persistently soliciting. I agree that that charge has not been very much used, but there is no reason why it should not be, and it has been used by the very able Superintendent Popkess of the Nottinghamshire Police. I warmly endorse the very short but able speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) about the methods that that police force uses, which are still open to other police forces.
A common prostitute is a woman who persistently solicits. If we want to prove that a woman is a common prostitute we have to prove that she is a woman who persistently solicits, and we are therefore using the same language in respect of her as we are in the case of a man who persistently solicits, because we have to establish that she does persistently solicit, unless we are dealing with a call-girl living in her own house—and the Bill does not deal with that case. Men and women are therefore in the same position, and I suggest that Section 32 of the 1956 Act must be kept in being, and quite separate, for a reason which has not been mentioned in any of these debates.
One of the grave difficulties involved in getting women off the streets arises from the fact that somebody will have to find the men for them, and we shall have men touts in the streets. Those men will go out with little cards bearing such words as "Mary Blank, 29 Down Street, 7–10 p.m." They will do that, working on commission, as runners—and they will be run in under Section 32, because they will be persistently soliciting or importuning men for an immoral purpose, not to go with them but for an immoral purpose just the same. That is why I suggest that Section 32 of the 1956 Act should be left as it is, and quite separate.
Before my hon. Friend leaves the common prostitute, may I point out to him that although he suggests that" once a common prostitute, a common prostitute for life", and that there does not seem to be any case of a common prostitute's reforming, a burglar may be convicted, but when he next appears in court he is not labelled as a common burglar and therefore half convicted already.
I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend raised that point. Although I may be wrong, on my reading of Clause 1 it would not be open to the prosecution merely to prove a previous conviction. I would say that it would have to produce evidence that the woman was behaving as a common prostitute. I know that the Home Secretary is undecided as to the view which the courts will take of the matter, but if I were advising for the prosecution in the case of a girl coming up for the first time, or for the first time in recent months, I would say that it had to produce evidence to show that the woman was behaving as a common prostitute, that is to say, that she was offering her body for reward commonly for the purpose of general lewdness, for the purpose of 'prostitution. "Commonly" would mean" generally", in the sense that there was a system in the matter.
I do not see any reason why the question of annoyance should be included, because to my mind it is implicit that public disorder is an annoyance to the community and not just to the individual. It has been argued that it would be annoyance to the individual, but that is a pure legal fiction. The same result would follow whether the word was there or not. The police constable who was called would say," At about seven-thirty last night I saw the woman A, known to me as a common prostitute, go up to the man Y, and I saw him look at her with disapproval. It caused annoyance to the gentleman." She would be convicted. I am against benevolent perjury, because that is what it would be. I do not think we should include the word "annoyance".
I am in some doubt about the word "loitering". In the case of a woman who was convicted three or four months previously, and where there is some evidence that she had been behaving as a common prostitute, three, six or nine months earlier, and she was found loitering outside a cinema, on a corner, it would be very difficult for an officer to determine her intention. I agree that by putting in the word "loitering" the Government can conquer this evil in our streets in a fortnight because they can tell all the girls to go, whereas in the case of soliciting there must be some evidence that the woman in question committed an overt act. In the case of loitering there does not have to be any evidence of an overt act. I hope that this point will be discussed carefully in Committee. I may move an Amendment, at least in order to have a discussion, to omit the word "loitering".
Subject to that question, however, the Bill is very well drafted. I think it will achieve its purposes. Furthermore, no member of the Opposition has been able to suggest any other way of dealing with the matter.
Where will the girls go, and what arrangements will be made? They will go to flats and lodgings throughout London. Commissionaires, hotel men, taxi drivers, touts and similar people will be used, but those men will not be able to live on the earnings of the girls because of the heavier penalties in the Bill. One difficulty about the present definition of a brothel is that if two girls share the same accommodation it can be a brothel. I draw the attention of the Home Secretary to that fact. We must be very careful not to make the law too tight against girls if we get them off the streets into accommodation, because if we do the girls will say," If we are to be prosecuted when we are in accommodation, just as if we are on the streets, we may as well go back on the streets." I think there is something in that.
There is one other difficulty. In the case of Langtry—he was the man who took a commission for giving introductions to prostitutes; he also ran a marriage guidance bureau quite separately and as a legitimate business—in this case he was" run in" for living on the immoral earnings of prostitutes. He said," I have never lived on the immoral earnings of prostitutes, I do in fact live on prostitution." There is a great difference. We must be careful that the porter at a well-known hotel, for example, who may say to a man," I know where you can find a girl," will not be run in for living on the immoral earnings of a prostitute if he takes 10s. as a pourboire—I use the French phrase because it is perhaps more appropriate.
These matters may require that some small amendments be made later to the law in order to meet those difficulties. I shall support the Bill in the sincere conviction that it has been ably handled and understood by the Home Secretary.
I confess that it is with some apprehension that I speak from this Box after nearly fourteen years in the chill and distant heights behind me. I wish that I could have had a less sombre theme for a maiden speech from this Box than the subject of prostitution. Unlike the hon. Member for The Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who entertained the House with his speech, I do not profess any expert knowledge of this subject, although I have had some modest experience in the matter both in the profession of the Bar and on the Bench.
It is a problem of great difficulty. The question of whether the law should intervene in the matter of street offences of prostitution and offences of a similar kind comes in the border-line between law and morals; a highly controversial territory where, as we have learned during the course of this debate, there are strongly held and differing views.
It is the very nature of the subject matter of this debate which, it seems to me, would have made it an eminently suitable one for hon. Members to have expressed their free opinion. That is the position which we on this side of the House have adopted. Bearing in mind the thoughtful speeches which we have heard from hon. Members on this side of the House, I should have thought that it would have been more consistent with the dignity of the House as a whole, and, in particular, of hon. Members opposite, for us to have had a free expression of opinion on the Bill. I should have thought that would have proved of greater value to the Government than the process of whipping into the Lobbies.
In introducing this Measure the Government are treading on dangerous and difficult ground. From the material received in the last few days one can see that seldom has a Measure purporting to be a Measure of social reform and moral welfare been so much condemned as to its fundamental provisions by almost all the responsible organisations concerned with social reform and moral welfare.
Most hon. Members will have read the impressive pamphlet from the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, which has been referred to by the Home Secretary. It tears to tatters the main legislative changes in the Bill. In addition, the views of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, of which the Home Secretary is a distinguished Vice-President— the association was founded by his famous kinswoman, Josephine Butler— has expressed itself strongly against the main recommendations of the Bill.
The Bill is a negative Measure in the sense that it does not provide any method of treatment of this selected class of persons against whom it is directed. It relies, frankly, on deterrence by heavier fines and by the method of imprisonment. In addition, it deprives the prostitute of some limited protection which the law as it is at present does provide, over and above what is suggested in the Bill, and it gives considerable additional powers to the police, as I hope to show in a moment. There may, of course, be justification for these substantial changes, but the responsibility for proving that justification rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Government, and I am bound to say that I was not convinced of the necessity for these measures by the speech of the Home Secretary.
I suppose that most people would think that prostitution is deplorable, is demoralising and is wasteful, but, as has been pointed out by many speakers today, it has persisted in many civilisations and for many centuries. The failure of attempts to stamp it out by repressive legislation shows quite clearly that it just cannot be eradicated through the agency of the criminal law.
Indeed, the Wolfenden Report makes this approach to the matter, and points out that as long as there are enough men willing to pay prostitutes enough to keep them in the trade, and there are enough women available to meet that demand, prostitution will continue, and that no amount of legislation directed against it will secure its abolition.
This broad statement at the beginning of the part of the Report dealing with prostitution recognises the importance of the male client, the customer, without whom, of course, the trade of prostitution will not continue. What is complained of by my hon. Friends, and by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), in the speeches of these hon. Ladies, which have delighted the House, is that the legislative changes proposed by the Bill recognise hardly at all the responsibilities of the male client, the customer, and directs all the fire against the prostitute alone. This is the basic reason why the Bill has seemed unjust to most women's organisations and to the hon. Ladies who have spoken in the debate.
If one recognises that the law itself is not concerned with private morals or with ethical sanctions, the fact still remains that the law is clearly concerned, and must be concerned, with the outward conduct of our fellow citizens, in so far as that conduct injuriously affects the rights of others. The question that has been posed in this debate, and has been the subject of our main controversy, is whether the conduct of prostitutes and their customers that we have in the streets now so far offends against public order and decency, and so exposes the ordinary citizen to what is offensive and injurious, that the criminal law should arm itself with the stronger sanctions contained in the Bill.
Let us for a moment consider the extent of the problem. It is generally thought that it is most acute in London, and it is very largely a London problem, and in parts of London at that. There is no evidence that it is either new or that it is worse than it was in the past or at any time in the past, but what does seem to have happened—and I can fully sympathise with the indigation of my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards), because his area is one of those affected—is that, as the Wolfenden Report puts it, prostitutes
have shifted the scene of their activities to other and more residential areas—
like Stepney, Paddington, Bayswater, and other areas of that kind.
The result is that in certain limited areas of that kind there is little doubt that street solicitation, and the blatant and aggressive presence of prostitutes in considerable numbers in those limited parts of our streets and of a few provincial towns, is causing a good deal of public concern and annoyance. It is fit and proper that we, with our responsibilities here, should take due cognisance of that feeling.
There is the danger of exaggerating the extent of the problem, and of somewhat panicky measures to deal with it. The problem may prove in the end to be, as I have said, local—as it does appear to be—but also limited in its operation, and temporary. Nevertheless, the view of the majority of our fellow citizens now is that the time has come to take action against this blatant prostitution in those restricted residential areas.
In reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate on the Wolfenden Report, I was impressed by the remarkable speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). He said, as I think rightly, that the trade as a whole is sustained by a number of casual customers. Part of the trade, at any rate, would be reduced if energetic police measures were taken to remove it from the streets. I also share the view that the presence of prostitutes openly carrying on a profitable trade with apparently almost complete immunity is an encouragement to young girls, to whom, as the Wolfenden Report puts it,
a life of prostitution had not yet become a fully formed intention.
The ease with which a prostitute can be met in the street is a promoter of the traffic of prostitution and an active temptation to men of all ages, and particularly to the growing youth.
There is evidence that street soliciting and the congregating of prostitutes in the course of their business at street corners is causing genuine annoyance, if not disgust. One can go so far as to say that in some areas it is not the prostitutes who have been driven off the streets, but respectable women. Therefore, the view that I and most of my right hon. and hon. Friends take is that the State is justified in taking action to deal with the problem.
It is not sufficient for us to pronounce from this House simply that men can refrain, and so let men refrain. Moral exhortation has, unfortunately, not been effective in the past, nor is it likely to be effective in the future. The more difficult question is: what is to be done? We are presented by the Government with a Bill which is the Government's solution. It is for the Government to justify it. The problem with which the Bill seeks to deal has been considered by two distinguished Committees, first, the Macmillan Committee, in 1928, which was presided over by Lord Macmillan, and secondly, the Wolfenden Committee.
Eminent public men gave their services on both Committees, but I must confess that in the approach to the matter of street offences and the legislation concerned with it I prefer the remedies proposed by the Macmillan Committee to those of the Wolfenden Committee. The view I take is that the Bill, following the Wolfenden recommendations, has the major fault of being undoubtedly unjust and unequal as between men and women and laying unfair emphasis on the conduct of the women alone.
I think, further, that it deprives a class of outcast women of a protective barrier in the courts, namely, the right to insist, where they resist the charge, that the prosecution shall prove annoyance. That eliminates a defence which, it is true, has been a dead letter in the past, but now that we have prospects not only of the elimination of the necessity to prove annoyance, but of a considerable increase in the severity of punishment, it may well mean that the absence of evidence of annoyance will be, far from a dead letter, a valuable armoury for the defence.
Coming to Clause 1 of the Bill, the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) spoke of the terrible "hoo-ha" about the phrase "common prostitute" The "hoo-ha" about it was such that the Macmillan Committee of 1928 took the views which have been expressed by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport and commenting on the use of the phrase "common prostitute", said:
In view, however, of the strong feeling entertained on the subject in certain quarters, and of the desirability of framing an enactment equally applicable to persons of both sexes, we think that the expression 'common prostitute' should be omitted from any redefinition of the offence of importuning and that general terms applicable to all persons of either sex should be substituted.
Can the hon. and learned Member say whether he or any of his hon. Friends have ever asked a prostitute whether she objected, because I think that not one has objected to the phrase?
That may be but, with respect I think it is beside the point.
We have to consider future cases and new legislation which changes the character of the legislation. It makes it more severe in that it introduces an element of imprisonment, which largely is nonexistent at the moment, and it is legislation which makes the task of the accused more difficult by the elimination of the need to prove annoyance.
In the debate on the Wolfenden Report on 26th November, the Home Secretary said:
Many people feel that both the substance and the language of the present law relating to street offences is archaic, harsh, and unjust to the women."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 377.]
I think that if he considers those adjectives in relation to Clause 1 of the present Bill, he will see that that language will equally apply.
The result of the Clause is remarkable. As has been pointed out in the course of the debate, loitering for the purpose of prostitution is not in itself a crime. Nor is soliciting for the purposes of prostitution in itself a crime, either on the part of a man or a woman, but Clause 1 in its present form makes both crimes if done by a common prostitute, even if no annoyance is caused and even though no nuisance is proved. The view of most of us on this side of the House is that that is unsatisfactory and a dangerous legal provision.
The Home Secretary has sought to justify the use of the term "common prostitute" on rather remarkable grounds. It was said to be necessary to protect the respectable woman from the dangers of a mistaken arrest. That was the justification given for it. Why is it less dangerous to let the police caution a woman once, as has been the position in London, after which she is branded as a common prostitute? Either the police can distinguish a prostitute from a respectable woman, or they cannot. I should have thought that they could.
By leaving in the phrase "common prostitute" and so easing the task of proof of guilt by these other changes in the law, we are in grave danger of perpetrating potential injustice in the future, and injustice to a harlot would tarnish the administration of our law as much as injustice to anyone else. I have been a little startled to find that there seems to be a view in some parts of the House that there should be one law for the harlot and one for every other kind of citizen. I have been even more astonished to hear that from one who is devoted to a faith in which Mary Magdalene once played a significant and poignant role.
The position with regard to penalties, I confess, causes me a good deal of apprehension. Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends have no objection to the proposal to increase fines. I think that it might have a dissuading effect on some prostitutes. We have grave doubts, however, about the suggestion of short terms of imprisonment and are, indeed, opposed to it. The Wolfenden Report itself is under no illusions about this. It says:
We do not deceive ourselves into thinking that a short term of imprisonment is likely to effect reform where repeated fines have failed.
I think that the statistics quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale were a startling demonstration of the comparative uselessness of short terms of imprisonment as a mere deterrent. The imprisonment of prostitutes for short terms might corrupt the criminals, as the criminals might corrupt the prostitutes.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has pointed out with such eloquence on several occasions, our prisons today are not educational or rehabilitation centres. One can hardly think of a worse place to send a prostitute in the hope that she will be rehabilitated there. Most of the time in prison will be spent in idleness, and what the prostitute needs to be encouraged to do is a good, honest week's work—and, unfortunately, there are few facilities for providing that in our prisons today.
I understood that even in women's prisons there are not the facilities which should be available, but if there are, then I am glad to hear it, and that diminishes the force of part of my anxiety.
Perhaps the Attorney-General can give some assurance about this matter. I understand from some of my hon. Friends, who have great experience in the matter of prison conditions, that even in many women's prisons there is room for much concern about the circumstances prevailing.
The main justification put forward by the Home Secretary for the prison sentence was that it would make the use of the probation service more probable and more frequent. I wonder whether the existence of that kind of prison threat or compulsion would not destroy at the very beginning the psychological conditions for a genuine rehabilitation. It is because the Government have not given any indication of any real determined campaign of rehabilitation that I am most disturbed by their proposals to deal with the present problem.
We need to be told a good deal more by the Attorney-General of the proposals for police cautioning. My own view is that the suggestion is a good one, particularly that the woman concerned should be asked whether she can be put in touch with a moral welfare worker at once; but there are features of the cautioning system upon which we need further enlightenment.
Where the present arrangements need strengthening, however, is when the prostitute is brought to court. It is true that already courts have powers to remand offenders, but I am not at all sure that to remind magistrates of their powers of remand for the purposes of obtaining a social and medical report, there ought not to be inserted in the Bill a requirement that before sentencing, especially, early offenders for soliciting, the court should first remand them to a special remand home for these inquiries to be made. This is a measure which is particularly important in the case of young prostitutes.
If ft is thought necessary to deprive these women of their liberty as well as increasing the fines against them, there is much to be said for the suggestion that special rehabilitation centres should be set up for the treatment of these women by trained social workers. I see much more hope in that proposal than in the mere solution of imprisonment in women's gaols.
I readily appreciate that what is to be done by way of rehabilitation of the prostitute is not an easy problem. As Dr. Tom James has pointed out in his most valuable study on prostitution and the law, which I commend without impertinence to the Attorney-General, social workers in this field have had to accept the basic psychological principle that nothing can be done with the hard cases unless the women want to be helped. When that moment comes, it is vital that we should have the machinery available to give real practical help and especially help to find interesting work. The fate of the prostitutes whom the Empress Theodora placed in a refuge on the Bosphorus should be remembered. Many of them threw themselves in the water in despair from boredom.
The position with regard to the work of social welfare and rehabilitation is not satisfactory, although hon. Members who have expressed their anxiety about our ignorance of some of the problems of prostitution may like to know that work is being done. For instance, I am told that in the Maudsley Hospital a valuable piece of research is being done among men who are clients of prostitutes by Dr. Gibbons, with a grant from the Mental Health Research Fund. In Stepney, valuable work is being done by welfare organisations. At Euston Station, the Salvation Army is doing significant work, as is the Catholic Church.
At the end of it all, however, one gets the impression that what is being done in rescue and rehabilitation is all too little. Valuable social organisations like the Marriage Guidance Council are starved for lack of funds, yet we know from the experts in these matters that a large proportion of the girls who take to prostitution come from broken homes. They are children of parents whose marriages have been a complete and utter failure. If we could make our contribution to preventing breakdown marriages and unhappy, miserable homes through the agency of organisations of this kind, this would be a most valuable contribution to the solution of this great problem.
Finally, we need far more probation officers. A great deal of this work falls upon their shoulders and there are at the moment too few of them. There is serious undertaffing. These are the broad and the more fruitful lines on which this grave problem is to be tackled rather than by means of the machinery of merely repressive legislation.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should like to register a protest from this side of the House at the fact that by virtue of the way in which this debate has been conducted two of my hon. Friends in support of the Government have been virtually cut out of this debate by the fact that the hon. Member—
I am sure that it would be in accordance with the custom and courtesies of the House that I should begin by offering my congratulations to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) upon his maiden speech from the Front Bench. I congratulate him most sincerely. In doing so, I would add that I was able to sympathise fully with his reference to the number of years that he has waited on the back bench before he had such an opportunity, having waited much longer myself and not yet attained it. I hope, as I am sure we all do, that on a future occasion when the party, as a party, will be offering advice to the House collectively for a collective decision, he will have further opportunities of displaying the wisdom of the elder statesman which was conspicuous throughout his speech tonight.
We have had an extremely interesting and useful debate. I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was saying just now, because there has been a complication in the ordinary procedure of our House in the exchange of speakers on one side or the other, which, undoubtedly, may have resulted in a not unjustifiable sense of grievance on the part of some hon. Members who have been left out.
Will the hon. Gentleman agree with me that the real opposition in this debate has come from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and himself, who are opening and closing on an official Amendment to the Bill, and that it is a farce for the Front Bench in these circumstances, with a free vote on the other side of the House, to try to recapitulate according to the normal procedure of the House?
I do not want to be led into a debate about that, because I do not want to exceed the time allotted to me for the purpose of our discussion.
What I was about to say when the noble Lord intervened was that those complications arise directly and inevitably out of the refusal of the Government to do what we all hoped they would do—make this a free discussion with a free vote, with all right hon. Members and hon. Members free to decide, according to their own honest judgment, in which Lobby they will vote. We will necessarily get a complicated situation if one side has a free vote and the other side has not, and I am sure the noble Lord agrees that the complication would have been better resolved by hon. Members opposite having a free vote, too, rather than our having an unfree vote.
It is important to realise exactly the limitations of the question we are discussing. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) was perfectly right when he said that we are not concerned tonight with questions of prostitution at all. There is no room here for sentimentality, on the one side, or moral indignation, on the other. Even if we were discussing prostitution, I should think that one might begin by remembering, as a useful guide,
He that is without sin … let him first cast a stone".
It is very easy for fortunate, respectable and moral people who occupy a worthy and respected place in society to be superior and patronising about others who have, perhaps, been subjected to moral, physical, mental, and economic temptations which they have escaped.
The real social evil which has aroused so much sincere and passionate discussion tonight is the social evil of prostitution itself. We are not now dealing with prostitution. Prostitution is not an offence. The Report, upon the recom- mendations of which the Bill is based, expressly stated that prostitution is not an offence and ought not to be made one. We are dealing with a much narrower point which arises out of prostitution but is not prostitution itself.
We could pass the Bill unamended. Contrary to my own belief, it might have the effect of clearing all prostitutes, male and female, from all the streets of all our cities. I think that that is unlikely, but, for the sake of the argument, let us concede that those who think otherwise are right. When all had been done, we should not have touched at all the real canker in society, which is prostitution itself. We are not seeking to do that. The Government do not pretend that their Bill has anything to do with it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) thinks that it has some effect upon it, but an adverse one. So let us be clear about it. Let us not go into paroxysms of moral fervour and indignation—let us not be like those who
Compound for sins, they are inclined to
By damning those they have no mind to.
We are dealing simply and solely with the removal from the streets of the outward and visible evidences of an inner evil which we do not propose to touch at all.
That is my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards), whose speech I listened to, I assure him, although I did not agree with it, with the greatest sympathy. I have known my hon. Friend as a colleague and, I hope, friend in the House for many years. I have every sympathy with his desire to remove from the lives of his constituents this thing which disturbs them so much, as it would disturb anybody who was faced with it in any other part of London or in any other part of the country. But I know him too well to believe that if the Bill were passed unamended, and if it had the result he would like it to have, of cleaning up the streets of Stepney, he would be one whit happier if he felt that the only result of it would be to drive prostitution underground, or into some other place.
I thank my hon. friend for his remarks about me, but I want to assert that if this is allowed to go on, as it is at present, then it means extreme danger. Whatever way it will solve itself after it has cleaned up the streets, I am quite prepared to consider when the time arrives.
That is one approach. I know that it is a sincere approach, but it is not mine. It is not the approach of any one, so far as I know, of the voluntary social workers, whether the Church of England, the Council of Civil Liberties, or any of the other organisations, probation officers, or the Howard League for Penal Reform. My hon. Friend must attach some importance to the fact that not one of these organisations is prepared today to support the Government's Bill. It may very well be that my hon. Friend is right and they are all wrong, but I am sure that he will concede the possibility that it may be the other way about.
To deal with this partial, geographical manifestation of a social evil which we propose to leave untouched so far as the Government's proposals are concerned, what are we prepared to do? What do the Government propose that we shall do?
There are two Amendments calling for the rejection of the Bill. For my part, I agree with every single one of the reasons advanced in the reasoned Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pahcras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger). The only reason why I signed the other one, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton instead of that one is that I cannot regard, and I do not think that she, on reflection, would regard, the reasons contained in her reasoned Amendment as exhaustive. There are other reasons as well as those for opposing the Bill and those who think those reasons are sufficient can, I suggest with a clear conscience, vote for the rejection of the Bill for the reasons which best satisfy them; and I feel sure that they will do so.
What are the things to which they object? They begin by saying that this thing is unjust in itself; unjust because it is contrary to the general principles of our law. It is contrary to the general principles of our law because it makes that an offence in a woman which is not an offence in a man. That is their first point. A great many people, from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, have been at very great pains to try to explain that away and to persuade us that there is nothing in it. I think that their arguments have lamentably failed and I would be extremely surprised if either the Home Secretary or the hon. Member was really satisfied with his own arguments.
Section 32 of the 1956 Act was quoted in aid. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said that, after all, this was really only another way of applying the common prostitute idea as set out in Clause 1 of the Bill. He said that in that case all that a "common prostitute" means, is someone who persistently does that very thing and, therefore, he argued that the two things are exactly the same. Of course, they are nothing like exactly the same. As a challenge to the hon. Member, would he be prepared, and the Home Secretary perhaps also be prepared, to amend Clause 1 so as to say that it shall be an offence persistently to loiter or solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution? There would then be no discrimination between men and women. There would then be no discrimination between common prostitutes and uncommon prostitutes. There would be no discrimination between prostitutes and other women or between male prostitutes and other men.
It would be simple, but I venture to say that, simple as it is, it will be rejected by the Government because they do not want the law to be altered in this way. They begin by dividing mankind, for purposes of the law, into the two sexes, treating each of the sexes differently, to the disadvantage of the women. Having done that, they differentiate among women, according to those who are common prostitutes and those who are not, so that a woman who is not a common prostitute may loiter and solicit to her heart's content. Having discriminated so far, they then do the worst thing of all: they discriminate among the common prostitutes according to those who can afford to ply their trade off the streets and those who cannot.
I do not believe that there is any one of those who ply their trade on the streets, whether in the West End or in Stepney, who would not willingly ply it off the streets if she were able to do so. It was one of a number of things in the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet with which I agreed. They do not willingly run all the extra risks of street trafficking—the long hours of walking up and down, the constant risk of being picked up by the police, the nights spent in the prison cell and the long, dismal, grim, dreary procession of common prostitutes going through the dock the next morning for hours and pleading guilty, with mechanical evidence, mechanical conviction, mechanical fine, and back to the streets again the same night.
People who are able to do it in ways not attacked by this Bill would rather do it in those ways than do it in this way, and that is why I say that the Bill discriminates between the successful and the unsuccessful practitioners of the profession. Plainly that is so.
Indeed, that is what the Government themselves put forward as a principal reason for the Bill. Never mind the others. It does not matter whether they are organised outside or not, say the Government. All we are concerned with is the parade in the streets, say the Government. If only we can look away and pass by on the other side and be made unaware, then the Government and those who support the Bill will be perfectly satisfied and perfectly happy.
Let us consider one or two other things which are involved; for instance, proof of annoyance. There has been much humbug talked about this. Speaker after speaker, the Home Secretary and the Wolfenden Report have said that the reason why it is now advisable not to require proof of annoyance is that proof of annoyance cannot be obtained. They say it cannot be obtained because nobody is willing to come forward and say, "I was annoyed".
It may be that the reluctance to come forward and the reluctance of the police to exercise their powers to issue subpoenas and compel a relevant and material witness to give evidence are due to the fact that it is very rare that anyone is annoyed by the fact of an individual prostitute. The Wolfenden Report makes that clear. The girls are prosecuted not because what the individual prosecuted girl does is a nuisance, but because it is a nuisance that there are so many others who are not at that moment before the court.
That is made perfectly clear in the Report. What makes the nuisance or the annoyance is not the act of any single prostitute, but the fact that there are so many of them on the streets; so that the girl is not only prosecuted without evidence of annoyance, but is prosecuted for an annoyance she does not commit. She is not responsible for the presence of the others, but it is for that that she is convicted.
The noble Lord should be the very last Member to make an intervention of that kind. Would he like to be held responsible for all the things about which he has protested and which have been done by his right hon. Friends? He would regard it as most unfair, and so would we all.
I have left myself little time to deal with other matters, but I call attention to Clause 1 (3), about which the Home Secretary said nothing and of which we have more or less lost sight during the debate. It says:
A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he finds in a street or public place and suspects, with reasonable cause, of committing an offence under this section.
That is an extension of the law. It is a new police power which will not exist unless the Bill is passed. At present, a police officer has power to arrest for this offence if the offence is committed in his sight. He may then make an arrest without a warrant. Does the Attorney-General say that that is a power which exists now? I am content to assert, perhaps in my ignorance, that there is no such police power at the moment.
This is a very serious matter, because it removes completely the protection which the Home Secretary thought that he was casting over the woman who was not a common prostitute—and whom no one would describe as a common prostitute—who happened to be in the street, or to put herself in a situation in which a constable might suspect, with reasonable cause, that she was a common prostitute. The Home Secretary has said that one of the reasons for retaining the words "common prostitute" was to protect the innocent woman, but having done that he takes away that protection in Clause 3.
As for this curious procedure of interfering with the statutory obligation of constables in the matter of the commission of offences, I regard it as a very disturbing proposition. A constable is not responsible to a watch committee, a chief constable, or any superior officer in deciding whether or not he makes an arrest. It is a most serious offence to interfere with the constable in the free exercise of his statutory duties, and on the question of whether or not he would exercise his constabulary powers Apparently the Home Secretary is to go to the constables in London—he admits that he cannot go to them anywhere else —and tell them, "Parliament has passed an Act which renders a certain thing an offence, but I am directing you not to prosecute for that offence until it is committed by a person for the third time". He has no power to do it, and the constable who ignored his instruction would be doing his duty in accordance with the oath that he has sworn. I should like to hear a great deal more about this proposition.
Admitting that we are not dealing with the major evil; admitting that we are dealing only with the outward manifestation of that evil, in places where it causes offence to people who are not minded to participate; admitting, for the sake of the argument, that we are entitled to make these grave inroads upon traditional civil liberties for the purpose of achieving that limited purpose, I say in all seriousness to the House that in my opinion, having paid that very high price, we will get nothing for it, because it is admitted—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South quoted the relevant passage—that we cannot deal with prostitution by penalties; and nobody thinks that we can.
If we cannot deal with prostitution by penalties, we cannot deal with it by increasing them, and if we cannot deal with it by increased penalties, we cannot deal with a particular class of prostitute—the most helpless, the poorest and the least successful—by increasing those penalties. We will not achieve the purpose that the Government have in view, and we will have sacrificed a great deal of our judicial system in the endeavour to do it.
I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members realise what a deep evil this is, and that they will not be led away by passing the Second Reading of a Bill which admittedly, confessedly, is not intended to deal with that evil; and which deals most inadequately and unsuccessfully with the small part of it with which it professes to deal.
Not infrequently those who wind up such a debate as this begin by commenting on the character of the debate. Tonight I can say with the utmost conviction that we have had a good and serious debate on a most difficult subject, one which should be serious because of the human problems involved. We have had some extremely thoughtful and excellent speeches and some which, I must confess, were rather surprising to me. The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) falls into that category. We had a forthright and cogent speech from the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards). I was a little surprised to find myself agreeing with much of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)—that is not a usual experience.
The critics of this Bill have had full opportunity to develop their criticisms, including those made in the last two speeches of half-an-hour. If my voice permits, and if I can do so in the time, I will do my best to answer all the points which have been made.
I start with a general proposition which I think will command universal assent, that we are all of opinion that the present law is unsatisfactory. That was the view of the Wolfenden Committee, and it is also recognised in the Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mrs. L. Jeger) and her hon. Friend, because the Amendment commences
… while recognising the need to deal effectively and justly with the problem of prostitution and other street offences …
Where we differ is in our opinions about what, if anything, should be done. Some hon. Members have made it quite clear that in their view nothing should be done at the present time. Others, who are critics of this Measure, take the view that something should be done but that what is proposed in this Bill is wrong.
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras criticises what we propose in the Bill in some detail. I hope she will not mind my saying that I do not think the Amendment contains a single constructive proposal about what should be done at the present time. The same thing may be said about the speeches of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) * the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Having listened carefully to all these criticisms—I do not doubt the sincerity of the critics—I feel that this Bill is the best answer to the problem which we are now seeking to tackle.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) was quite right when he said that in this Bill we do not seek to tackle the sin of prostitution. I feel it is very important that we should keep in mind exactly what is the object which this Bill is intended to achieve. It is not intended to tackle the whole problem of vice and prostitution. It does not seek to make the sin a criminal offence. By Clause 1 it seeks to put an end to what is no less than a scandal in our streets and, in particular, a blot on the fair name of London.
The Wolfenden Committee was unanimous in saying that it was the right of the normal decent citizen to go about the streets without affront to his or her sense of decency, and that that should be the prime consideration and should take precedence over the interests of the prostitute and her customers. I should really like to know to what extent the critics of this Measure agree with or dissent from that proposition. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton did not tell us whether he agreed that the right of the normal citizen to go about the streets without affront should take precedence over the interests of the prostitute and her customers. Nor did the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South or the hon. Member for Rossendale.
Surely, that is the first question we have to consider? I do not believe myself that many people outside this House or many hon. Members in it would dissent from that proposition, which is found in paragraph 249 of the Wolfenden Committee's Report. Nor do I suppose for one moment that many people would assert that people can now go about parts of our great cities, and in particular the West End of London and Stepney, without affront to their sense of decency.
Indeed, I am sure that the situation is such that the Government would be failing in their duty if they did not seek now to do something about it. Having reached that conclusion, and having reached the conclusion that the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee, which were made after consideration for a period of three years, were sound, the Government, in my view, would be failing in their duty if they did not do their best by legislation to correct that evil.
The hon. Member for Rossendale began his speech by objecting most strongly to the fact that the Government Whips are on tonight, but I would remind him that the Government of the day are responsible for the maintenance of law and order, and that they could not divest themselves of this responsibility in relation to this problem. As the Wolfenden Report says, and as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne indicated,
it is not so much the conduct of any particular prostitute that causes the annoyance as the presence of numbers of prostitutes in the same place; and this annoyance is to the inhabitants or passengers at large rather than to any individual.
The Report goes on to say:
That this more general form of annoyance exists, and that it causes no less offence (and may well cause more offence) than individual acts of soliciting is very clear from the evidence we have received.
That is the evil to which this Bill is directed. That evil consists of both loitering and soliciting for the purpose of prostitution in public places, and no Bill that deals solely with soliciting and not with loitering for that purpose as well would effectively deal with the existing situation.
Of course, it is recognised that there are risks in taking this course. We have heard a great deal about those risks today from many hon. Members. These dangers were recognised by the Wolfenden Committee. It has been said today that this Bill will drive prostitution under the carpet. I feel that there may be a good deal under the carpet already. It is also said that this Bill will increase the chances of corruption and will lead to more organised vice. These are possible dangers, possible risks, and these risks have to be weighed against the present evil, which is of considerable magnitude.
As the hon. Member for Stepney said, this is a Bill to clear up the streets, and, as he also said, the only way to clear the prostitutes off the streets is to make it difficult for them to be on the streets. That is what this Bill will achieve. It will make it more difficult for them to carry on their trade. That, in turn, although it is not the primary object of the Measure, may lead to a decrease in prostitution. I think it certainly will lead to less temptation to young people.
While attention has been paid to all these possible risks in the debate today, it might be interesting to the House to know the answer I received when I saw the Chief Superintendent at the West End Central Police Station and asked him his views on the possible effect of the Bill and, in particular, of the sentence of imprisonment. He told me that he had spoken to a number of common prostitutes about it and that a good number of them said that they would give up the occupation and would go away because of the threat of imprisonment. Whether that will be so the future will show. He also said that some of them stated they would go to flats or other premises, but that that would mean a loss or a reduction in trade of at least 50 per cent. That would not be a bad thing, either.
I want now to deal with the criticisms that have been directed at the Bill. One of the main criticisms advanced today is that the Bill applies only to common prostitutes. That was criticised on a number of grounds, which I shall seek to summarise and then to reply to. I am not seeking to put the criticisms in order of importance.
The first criticism was that it is wrong to single out a particular section of female society. The second was that putting in the words "common prostitute" in Clause 1 (1) may involve proof that the woman is a common prostitute in addition to proof of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. The third objection was that men, whether they be customers of the prostitutes or importuners, are not dealt with in precisely the same fashion.
I think I have heard most of the speeches made today, and I hope that I fully appreciate the weight to be attached to all those arguments. The Bill was deliberately framed to apply to common prostitutes because the behaviour of the common prostitutes and of no one else constitutes the scandal that the Bill seeks to cure. Only a person who is a common prostitute can be convicted under the Clause. That is a safeguard for the respectable woman which, in my belief, is worth retaining.
It is true also that where the charge is disputed the prosecution will have to prove that the woman was, in fact, a common prostitute at the time of the alleged offence and not that she was one ten years before. It may well be that if the woman charged has had many recent convictions for soliciting she will not seriously dispute the allegation. The Bill makes no difference to the existing law in this respect. That has to be proved now. As my right hon. Friend has said, out of 12,000—I think he said "persons", but in fact they are prosecutions or cases—prosecutions for soliciting in the C division area in the last two years, not one woman disputed that she was a common prostitute. I believe that shows that the risk of a mistake by the police is very small indeed. I also think that anyone who has taken the trouble to go over the ground would feel that any honest constable would have no real difficulty in identifying a common prostitute. As I say, if that is disputed it will have to be proved.
I should like to say a word about the manner of proof. Evidence will have to be given of her conduct on occasions so recent as to lead to the conclusion that at the time of the offence she was carrying on that trade.
By the wording of the Clause, the hon. Member will see it has to be alleged that she is a common prostitute and evidence of what she was ten years ago could hardly be relevant to whether she was carrying on trade at the particular date alleged.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, the provision for proving that she is a common prostitute is not new, and of course the prosecution has to prove the case where there is a plea of guilty. The evidence is, "She is known to me as a common prostitute". That evidence is always accepted and there is never anything else.
I do not accept the last part of that statement. If she pleads guilty there will not necessarily be any evidence on oath at all, but if it is a case which is disputed and she pleads not guilty, the police officer may say in his evidence in chief that he has known her for so long as a common prostitute. She may challenge it and he will then have to give particulars of what he has seen her doing on previous occasions. The point I want to make as clearly as I can is that the issue the court has to determine is, was she on the date charged a common prostitute? Only evidence relevant to the establishment of that fact would be admissible. I do not think I need go more into that.
I should like to come to the third of the three grounds I summarised, the ground of criticism that men should be dealt with in the same way as women and that they are not. My answer in the first place is that it is not the customers, however much one may deplore their conduct who create the scandal with which this Bill is seeking to deal. Secondly, male importuners can be satisfactorily dealt with under the existing law—[An HON. MEMBER: "They never are."]—if the necessary evidence can be secured. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is very easy to get the necessary evidence of importuning by male persons.
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman now give the information the Home Secretary promised to seek, namely, the number of cases in which this provision has been used for prosecuting male persons importuning females?
I am not in a position to give those figures. My right hon. Friend gave the figures for the total number of prosecutions, but I am not in a position to dissect them. Nor do I think it relevant to the argument I want to put before the House. If I had the information. I should certainly give it.
I do not know, and I do not think that is very material to the argument I am addressing. The first ground put by the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South in her Amendment for the rejection of the Bill was the use of the term "common prostitute". I think I have sufficiently dealt with the reasons why we regard it as essential to retain it—that it is common prostitutes and no one else who by their conduct cause this scandal and that it is necessary for the protection of respectable women.
Suggestions have been made that that phrase should be defined in the Bill. I do not believe that that is in the least necessary or that it would serve any useful purpose. There was a decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1918 upon it which is directly in point. That has never been challenged and the effect of it is set out in the passage to which my right hon. Friend referred. There is a modern tendency to seek to define ordinary English words, but in practice that frequently leads to difficulty.
The next argument with which I want to deal is that it is wrong to cease to require proof of annoyance. There are two answers to this. First, as has been frequently said in the debate, proof of annoyance under the existing law is not at all satisfactory. The evidence usually given is to the effect that the woman was seen to accost a man or men who appeared to be annoyed. It is evidence by a police officer of what appeared to him, from some distance perhaps, to be the reaction of the person accosted.
That is a very different thing from evidence of a police officer as to the actual conduct of a woman he has watched. In one case he has to guess or assess the reaction of the man. In the other case he can watch what the woman actually does and count the number of men to whom she speaks and the number of men with whom she goes off, and he can give all that evidence, if need be, in court to establish the fact that she is a common prostitute, if it is disputed. I am sure that it is a good thing to get rid of that requirement. The Bill would be a dead letter if we required proof of annoyance and the requirement would defeat the whole object of the Bill, because a great many of these people standing about, perhaps not talking to anyone, constitute a scandal which we want to stop without it being necessary to call evidence that they have caused annoyance to an individual.
It has been suggested that the removal of that requirement will in some way increase the power of the police. I cannot follow that argument. In my view, the removal of that burden of proof in the magistrates' court will not enlarge the powers of the police in any respect whatever. The Church of England Moral Welfare Council has gone so far in its pamphlet as to assert that the practical danger of removing proof of annoyance is that it
would give the police a free hand, if they chose, to harry any known prostitute whom they saw in the street at any time,"—
mark these words—
almost regardless of what she was doing in the street.
I regard that as an astonishing assertion. I certainly do not think it is true that our police harry known prostitutes now regardless of what they are doing in the street, and the Bill certainly gives them no increased power to do so. They cannot be lawfully arrested just because they are prostitutes. Under the Bill they can be arrested only if they are common prostitutes and if in a street or public place, as defined in the Bill, they
loiter or solicit…for the purpose of prostitution.
In my view, it is nonsense to suggest that the removal of this ingredient facilitates the harrying of prostitutes.
It is urged that the Bill gives the police excessive powers, but that is not so. They now have power to arrest a common prostitute loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. In future they will have power to do so where there are reasonable grounds for believing that conduct is being carried out.
I now come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and I will deal with it as shortly and as clearly as I can. The reason for subsection (3) is nothing sinister at all. If the hon. Member looks at the authorities he will see—I do not think I am putting it too high— that there is doubt whether under the existing law a police constable is entitled to arrest where he has reasonable grounds for supposing the offence is being committed or whether he is entitled to arrest only where the offence has in fact actually been committed. If, after a charge, the woman is acquitted, he might be held on the latter view to be liable for wrongful arrest. We did not think that it was right to leave this doubt remaining extant any longer. It is not with a view to enlarging the powers of the police but to making the position quite certain and sure enough. If they do not have reasonable grounds, action can be brought. That is the explanation. Mr. S. Silverman: Would the Attorney-General admit that under the existing law the police officer has no power to arrest unless he sees the offence committed, whereas under the law as now proposed no offence need have been committed?
I will willingly discuss this with the hon. Member later, but I do not accept that position.
Perhaps the most valuable part of our debate today is the discussion which has taken place both with regard to imprisonment and with regard to the cautioning system. I hope—I think everyone hopes —that this power of imprisonment will not be frequently used, but I believe that it is essential to have it, and I do not accept the argument of the hon. Member for Rossendale on statistics that the presence of this power will not have a deterrent effect. I think that it will.
The cautioning system, to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred, has two objects: as a safeguard against charging a respectable, innocent woman and as giving an opportunity of redeeming the novice without first recording a conviction against her. If the respectable married woman is seen by a policeman loitering or appearing to loiter or solicit for the purposes of prostitution — that is to say, accosting men and things of that sort— he will caution her. That will have to happen on a second occasion, with another caution, before she is charged. Therefore, the chance of a respectable woman being charged is negligible.
The question is then asked, what about the respectable woman who is cautioned, from which there is no appeal? I do not think that the risks of that happening can be at all great. This procedure of caution is an improvement on an existing procedure. If hon. Members look at paragraph 268 of the Wolfenden Report, they will see that this procedure of cautioning is working already—for one caution, not two—in London at the present time. I have no grounds for supposing that it is not working extremely well. I consider it an important step forward that there should be the second
I commend the Bill to the House because, in our view, the present situation constitutes a public scandal and evil, because it is urgently necessary that it should be tackled and because anything less than this Measure would not be effective in tackling it. Those who have been critical today have not suggested any satisfactory manner in which this problem could be dealt with.
|Division No. 25.]||AYES||19.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry|
|Altken, W. T.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Drayson, G. B.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||du Cann, E. D. L.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Ashton, H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Duncan, Sir James||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Kaberry, D.|
|Barber, Anthony||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Barter, John||Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.)||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Batsford, Brian||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kirk, P. M.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Errington, Sir Eric||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Erroll, F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Finlay, Graeme||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Fisher, Nigel||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Freeth, Denzil||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Blackburn, F.||Gammans, Lady||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)|
|Body, R. F.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lloyd, Mai. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Boyd, T. C.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Glover, D.||Lucas, Sir Jooelyn (Portsmouth, s.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Goodhart, Philip||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Graham, Sir Fergus||MacColl, J. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Green, A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Bryan, P.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gurden, Harold||Macmillan.Rt.Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Waldon)||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Maddan, Martin|
|Carr, Robert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hay, John||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mathew, R.|
|Cole, Norman||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hope, Lord John||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hornby, R. P.||Neave, Airey|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Crowder, Petre (Rulslip-Northwood)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'oh)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Howard, John (Test)||Noble, Michael (Argyll)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hughes Hallett, Vioe-Admiral J.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)||Page, R. G.|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.)||Pannell, N, A. (Kirkdale)|
|Peel, W. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Russell, R. S.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Sharples, R. S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Shepherd, William||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Pott, H. P.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Spenoe, H. R. (Aberdeen, W)||Wall, Patrick|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stevens, Geoffrey||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Webster, David|
|Profumo, J. D.||Storey, S.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Redmayne, M.||Studholme, Sir Henry||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ridsdale, J. E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Rippon, A. G. F.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Teeling, W.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Temple, John M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Legh and Mr. E. Wakefield.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Grimond, J.||Parker, J.|
|Baird, J.||Hale, Leslie||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hannan, W.||Peart, T. F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hayman, F. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Holman, P.||Popplewell, E,|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Holt, A. F.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Houghton, Douglas||Rankin, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Short, E. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham. S.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||King, Dr. H. M.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lawson, G. M.||Stonehouse, John|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Diamond, John||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Thornton, E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Wade, D. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Warbey, W. N.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bliston)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mitchison, G. R.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mulley, F. W.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Fitch, Alan||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Paget and Mr. K. Robinson.|