Policing and Crime Bill

Part of Olympics – in the House of Commons at 8:40 pm on 19th January 2009.

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Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire 8:40 pm, 19th January 2009

I wish to speak first on part 1 of the Bill, but only briefly because I am sure that my hon. Friend Mr. Carswell will do it justice when he is called to speak.

The Government have missed a huge opportunity to be bold and to go the full way to having elected police commissioners. Instead, they have proposed the direct election of some members of police authorities, which is a cop-out. I am unsure precisely how that will work in practice, but people will elect members to various police authorities, and that will generate no interest or excitement. I cannot see in my mind people pouring out of their homes to go to the polling booths to vote for members of a locally elected police authority, because it will not be accountable. The police commissioner would have been accountable and such accountability would have been an exciting development. It would have been great if people could have gone to the polls to vote not only for their MPs and local councillors, but for the police commissioner as well. Let us imagine that after such a vote crime had gone up in their area, they were unhappy with what had been happening on their streets and there was no visible policing; if, when the next election came around, they could point the finger at somebody and say, "That's your fault", they would go back into the polling booths to vote again in droves. Imagine the other advantages such as the prudence that would be applied to police budgets, and also in relation to how the budgets would be spent and the priorities adopted by the police commissioner—which I am sure would have mirrored those requested by the local residents.

That is what people want. Every area has different policing needs; every community knows what it wants in terms of policing. There was a chance to offer people the opportunity to vote for somebody who was visibly accountable and responsible for keeping their streets safe. It is a great shame that the Government have missed out on that huge opportunity—they have ducked out of it.

Turning to part 2 of the Bill, I wish to speak particularly about clauses 16 and 17. Clause 16 addresses orders under the Street Offences Act 1959 to do with

"loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution".

In effect, a court will order that prostitutes attend three meetings. This is a prime example of making bad law. Let me read out a passage:

"The purpose of an order under subsection (2A) is to assist the offender...to—

(a) address the causes of the conduct constituting the offence, and

(b) find ways to cease engaging in such conduct in the future."

A named person is to carry that process out with the offender. I never thought I would stand up in this Chamber and find myself agreeing with Dr. Harris—in fact, it is bizarre that I am doing so, and I will need to sit down for a minute or so after my speech to get over it. We have had prostitution since biblical times. One would think that after 2,000 years we would know how to accommodate such a profession within a civilised society. It is not possible to outlaw prostitution. It will not be possible by having three meetings with a prostitute to get them to change their mind about being involved in that career. It is not a matter of career choice; boys and girls do not say when asked in school what they want to do when they grow up, "I would like to be a prostitute." It is probably the only job where death is an unintended consequence.

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