I beg to move, that this House agrees with Lords amendment 6.
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Amendments 6 to 15 respond to the concerns raised during the debates in this House about the potential scope of clause 13. Broadly, the amendments mean that it will be an offence to pay for sex with someone who has been subject to exploitative conduct of a kind likely to induce or encourage them to provide the sexual services. A person engages in exploitative conduct if he practices any form of deception or uses force, threats-whether or not relating to violence-or any other form of coercion. This recognises that not all forms of coercion involve the use of physical abuse. Amendment 46 responds to concerns raised in this House and in the other place about the need for safeguards in the provisions creating the new rehabilitative orders for those convicted of loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. The amendment places an upper limit of 72 hours on the period for which someone can be held in police detention after being arrested in pursuance of a warrant following breach of such an order.
Amendments 47 and 48 require a court to be satisfied that before issuing a closure notice the police took reasonable steps to identify any person with an interest in the premises and that they were given a copy of the notice, before a closure order is made.
Amendments 16 to 20, 22 to 23, 60 and 63 change the name of the new category of sex establishment introduced by clause 27 from "sex encounter venue" to "sexual entertainment venue" in response to concerns that the term "sex encounter venue" could inadvertently stigmatise those who work in lap-dancing clubs.
Amendments 21, 24, 61 and 62 are minor and technical amendments that ensure that once premises have been granted a sex establishment licence in order to operate as sexual entertainment venues, they will be deemed to be a sexual entertainment venue for the duration of their licence, irrespective of how frequently relevant entertainment is provided.
Amendments 49 to 51 place a duty on local authorities that have not adopted the lap-dancing provisions within one year of commencement to consult local people to ensure they are given the opportunity to express their views as to whether the provisions should be adopted or not.
I hope that the House will agree the amendments.
Amendments 6 to 15 are important, and we had a fruitful debate on that subject in Committee. They seek to achieve a better definition of coercion. It will be an offence if an individual engages in exploitative conduct, the definition of which is if someone uses
"force, threats (whether or not relating to violence) or any other form of coercion, or...practises any form of deception".
That is an improvement on what was in the Bill when it was previously before the House. We accept the Government's main thrust, which is that it is important that we recognise that psychological pressure can be used to coerce someone into prostitution, and that it can have a considerable effect on people who are vulnerable. This is a better form of words than before.
An example of a case affected by the new wording would involve a threat by a pimp or other coercer used to entice someone into prostitution. The person might threaten to report the prostitute or sex worker to the immigration authorities if they were here illegally, or a prostitute or sex worker might be being controlled through a third party by controlled access to a supply of drugs to feed a habit, which would obviously affect an individual in a weak position compared with the person making the threats and seeking to exploit them.
We went around the block many times in Committee on that matter, and we believe that the new wording is an improvement. We will keep the situation under review, as I am sure Ministers will, to ensure that the redefined wording has the intended effect.
I wish to speak briefly about the amendments. I welcome what the Government have done. There was concern on Second Reading about the original proposals. As the Minister knows, the Home Affairs Committee looked into human trafficking. One problem, however, is that it is very difficult to find victims prepared to admit that they have been trafficked. My worry on Second Reading, therefore, was about enforcement and putting people in a position that involved them in a strict liability offence.
On considering the matter, I, and the Select Committee, felt that that went beyond the issue of exploitation and into the area of prostitution. Some people choose to be prostitutes as a matter of lifestyle. It is regrettable, but many people are in that position. I, and other Committee members, went to Soho with the Metropolitan police.
Unfortunately, my right hon. Friend was not available; otherwise I am sure that we would have taken him with us.
We engaged some ladies in a conversation about how they got there and what they were doing. They, too, were concerned that this was in some way a reflection on them. While accepting all the points that I know that my right hon. Friend-he is my dear friend, and was my successor as Minister for Europe-will make, the fact remains that we have real concerns about enforcement. The amendments help, but in dealing with enforcement, the Government need to work closely with the Metropolitan police, so that we do not take on an issue wider than was intended in the legislation.
As the Minister said, Lords amendments 6 to 10 improve the definition of how we establish that a sex worker has been coerced into that line of work. They use the words "exploitative conduct", which allow for a wider definition that includes things such as deception and threats-for example, the withdrawal of accommodation-rather than the earlier definition, which relied much more on threats of physical violence and others of a similar nature. The definition to be used, therefore, is an improvement, and one that we welcome.
As the Minister knows, we still have concerns about some of the intention behind it and the use of strict liability. Only one country in the world uses the strict liability definition for prosecuting clients of sex workers-Finland-but in the first two and a half years, no prosecutions were brought under that law. From January to June this year-the latest six months of the three years for which the scheme has been running in Finland-there have been two successful prosecutions. Such measures do not have a very good track record, therefore, and magistrates and judges in this country have expressed considerable doubt about achieving prosecutions using that concept. We welcome the improved definition, but we still have considerable reservations about the intention to prosecute on strict liability and its effectiveness.
Lords Amendments 16 to 20, 22, 23, 60 and 63, to which the Minister referred, change the legal definition of a lap-dancing club from "sex encounter venue" to "sexual entertainment venue". That is a step forward. Many young women working in such venues expressed concern that the original definition was prejudicial to what they regarded as a straightforward entertainment process. It was said in the other place that the legal definition and description being applied to lap-dancing clubs was much harsher than that applied to the same process in a film. However, those arguments might have been overdone: for example, watching a scene in the American series "The Sopranos" with lap dancers in the background would be rather different-in style, intensity and content-from being in lap-dancing premises before a naked, or semi-naked, lap dancer, especially as someone can pay for a dance in a private room in which only one person, plus the lap dancer, might be present. That difference marks out the latter from the same process in a film. None the less, "sexual entertainment venue" is an improvement, although perhaps it does not go far enough. As Liberal Democrats said in the other place, we would have preferred a definition such as "adult entertainment venue" rather than "sexual entertainment venue", but the latter is a welcome improvement none the less.
Amendments 47 and 48 introduce a third condition for courts to be satisfied on before accepting a police proposal to close a brothel. Again, there were considerable discussions in Committee in January and February, later on Third Reading and in the other place about the danger of over-emphasising police powers to close brothels, because many sex workers-many of us on the Committee met with many sex workers who visited the House of Commons to lobby and talk to us-were concerned that the over-zealous use of powers to close brothels would present a much greater danger to the safety of sex workers, because it is much safer and more secure to work in a small brothel, involving two or three people working off the streets, than to work on the streets. The amendments are a welcome step forward; they recognise some of the concerns raised over the past year during the Bill's passage through the Commons and the other place.
Finally, under amendments 49 to 51, local authorities that do not adopt the new provisions on regulating lap-dancing clubs must consult local people. That, too, is a welcome step forward, but will the Minister suggest how that consultation will take place? In Chesterfield, for example, we have nine community forums covering the town. Would a consultation through a community forum be enough to meet the requirements in the amendments? Having chaired one of those forums years ago, before I became a Member of Parliament, I know well that only a small number of people tend to turn up-the same dedicated group-apart from when there is a controversial issue, whether planning or, in this case, lap dancing. On such occasions, a larger group tends to turn up that is perhaps unrepresentative of the community at large. Exactly what level of consultation would have to take place to meet the requirements in amendments 49 to 51?
I shall discuss amendments 16 to 20, 22, 23, 60 and 63, which deal with lap dancing. Generally, the legislation on this area is welcomed as an important change to lap-dancing licensing. We all know that it is the result of an 18-month campaign led by organisations such as Object and the Fawcett Society, parliamentarians on both sides of the House, equality organisations and residents associations, all of whom were concerned about the unchecked expansion of lap dancing and its impact on women and local communities in general. My interest in the matter was awakened by an application for a lap-dancing club in Stourbridge for a club with 50 private booths to which my constituents could not object despite living two doors away.
The legislation is important because it recognises that lap-dancing clubs are part not of the ordinary leisure industry, but of the sex industry. It is important to recognise that. As such, such establishments have serious implications and risks, not only for the women who perform in them, but for women in wider society, because they promote a sexist culture in which women are treated as sex objects and, I believe, a culture that fuels violence against women.
I am shocked that my hon. Friend says that there is a lap-dancing club in her constituency proposing to build 50 private booths. We just heard from Paul Holmes-the Lib Dems are now the party of lap-dancing supporters-but 50 private booths? What on earth does she think will happen in them? A discussion of Lib Dem policy?
The question has been the subject of quite a lot of debate in Stourbridge. A stamp-collecting club meets quite close to the lap-dancing club. We wondered whether it might be using the booths for swapping stamps.
The feeling among local residents that I have described led them to think, "This is not the sort of establishment that I want to live by," but they found that they could not object. That is how I started on this road. What is good about the reforms is that they will allow local authorities that wish to do so to apply greater controls on clubs and give local people greater powers to prevent lap-dancing clubs from opening. That is the good bit. However, I am still disappointed-and will remain so until I can be convinced otherwise-that the Government have chosen not to apply the legislation universally across England and Wales, nor to apply it to all lap-dancing events, regardless of the frequency with which they occur in particular venues.
A quick look at the debate on Report demonstrates the great strength of feeling on the issue in all parts of the House. I am concerned that the industry will take advantage of the legislation-I have seen that happen in my constituency and in Durham and Brighton. If there is a loophole, the men who control that area of the sex industry will exploit it. As a result of what is proposed, local authorities will not be obliged to adopt the legislation and can continue, if they wish, to licence lap-dancing clubs like cafés, relying only on the will of the council. Even if there is local opposition, like there was and still is in Stourbridge, local people will not necessarily be guaranteed a greater say in the licensing process unless Dudley, my local authority, takes up the legislation. Local authorities that do not adopt the powers will be vulnerable to challenge by the lap-dancing industry. It is an industry with a great deal of finance, and I believe that some local authorities will cave in to pressure from this strong and serious lobby.
Local authorities will also be prevented from applying greater controls to lap-dancing events if they occur 11 times or less in a particular venue each year. That puts the safety of performers at such venues at serious risk and also duplicates and undermines an existing discretionary power in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. I referred to an owner of a venue in Committee who welcomed the new legislation, because he felt that he could get all the bars and pubs in Stourbridge to apply for up to 11 events a year and thereby effectively have a mobile lap-dancing club around the area. If Dudley council is not robust and does not pick up the legislation, that could still happen in my constituency.
Does the hon. Lady agree with my earlier comment that we need to hear from the Minister exactly how the Government envisage the consultation by those local authorities that do not adopt the legislation taking place? If that consultation consists of an advert in the local paper that nobody responds to, it will be toothless. However, if it is to be a proper consultation, those constituents who are concerned, such as those whom the hon. Lady has discussed, should have ample opportunity to put pressure on their local authority. However, the devil will be in the detail, and it will depend what the legislation requires.
I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, the Lib Dems in Stourbridge have supported my position on the issue and have worked with me all the way along, so I do not necessarily have the same issue with Lib Dem concerns as my right hon. Friend Mr. MacShane. It is key that the Government's response now should be robust and allow local authorities to consult properly and effectively. The consultation will be a fallacy and a waste of time if it is just an advert in the local paper. We must ensure that those who are affected-the people who live in the streets where such venues are proposed; those who live next door; those who go to nearby colleges; those who have to walk past on the way to stations such as Stourbridge Junction or Stourbridge Town-are consulted. Young women who stay behind to do extra work or extra-curricular activities will have to walk past such venues. Indeed, they have already complained to me at my youth surgeries about catcalls and harassment. We must ensure that we consult everybody at every level; otherwise we will let them down.
I am glad that the Government have responded to the concerns that Members from all parts of the House have voiced by committing to place a statutory duty on local authorities to consult on the adoption of the new powers and introduce an order-making power to allow the Secretary of State to tighten the exemption, if it is found to be exploited. I am happy with that. However, I would have been happier had the provisions been applied across the board, but hey, I am a nice lady and I want to get the legislation through. I am happy with 80 per cent. of what I want, rather than fighting for 100 per cent. and losing. The two measures that the Government have set out address concerns expressed from all parts of the House, but I wish that they had been a bit bolder. The Government need to ensure that the measures are as robust as possible and that they are implemented to their fullest extent.
"While the Government firmly believe that the exemption for infrequent events is a proportionate measure and should remain...I can reassure noble Lords that should it become clear that it is being exploited in a way that is obviously against the wishes of local people, they will have the power to tighten the exemption or remove it altogether."-[ Hansard, House of Lords, 5 November 2009; Vol. 714, c. 449-50.]
It is important that we underline that point.
I support the change of name from "sex encounter venue", although I was worried at first. I can go along with the change to "sexual entertainment venue", if the Minister truly believes that that will afford the women who work in them a degree of protection and some status or dignity. Many of the current or previous performers whom I spoke to said that they felt that the term "sexual encounter" almost presumed that all the women in such venues would be available for sexual encounters with whoever visited. I therefore understand their objection and agree with the change of name.
Before I conclude, I want to ask the Minister to confirm that clubs that have previously been granted permission to open, including another club in Stourbridge-Stourbridge appears to be becoming the lap-dancing Mecca of the midlands-will be subject to the legislation in the same way as new clubs. Permission in that case was granted more than a year ago. The club has done nothing about it, but it is now in the process of starting up. The owners believe that they will not be subject to the legislation. I want to make it clear that I believe that they will be, and I would like the Minister to confirm that for me.
In conclusion, the campaign to stop lap-dancing clubs being licensed in the same way as cafés has played an important role in drawing public and Government attention to a deeply disturbing trend in British society: that of women and girls being portrayed as dehumanised sex objects. Lap dancing is just one manifestation of that culture. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recognised that a culture of treating women as sex objects fuels violence against women. The UK is a signatory to the UN convention and is in the process of forming a cross-Government strategy on violence against women, so this legislation is an important step towards bringing our policy together in this area. It is crucial, however, that the Government recognise that these reforms to the licensing of lap-dancing clubs represent a good step, but only a first step, towards achieving the much broader goal of ending the sexual objectification-that word is hard to say-of women and, ultimately, violence against women. I urge Ministers to ensure that issues such as lap dancing and the media representation of women are central to the cross-Government strategy to end violence against women once and for all.
Despite my reservations on strict liability, I also welcome these amendments. The phrase "engaged in exploitative conduct" in the amendment will give greater clarity to the interpretation of the law. I would have preferred it if the legislation could have included a definition of trafficking based on international definitions, but I think that we will revisit that some time in the future.
I welcome the amendments that deal with brothels, but I urge the police, local authorities and others to use clear judgment in the exercise of these powers, as they might well be putting women at risk in exercising them. We have heard how women working in brothels are, at least in some instances, more secure than those working on the streets. In fact, the figures show that women working on the streets are 10 times more vulnerable to attack than women working together in a unit.
I pay tribute to those who have enabled these amendments to be shaped, and who have encouraged a wide and open debate on these issues. I became involved in this issue more than 25 years ago, when I was a member of the Greater London council. At the time, I was involved in working with the English Collective of Prostitutes and dealing with issues around King's Cross. I also hosted the first Safety First Coalition meetings after the Ipswich murders. Those meetings were held in this House. As a result of the Government listening to the debates involving those organisations, we have now arrived at some amelioration of this legislation.
I should like to place on record my tribute to the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the GMB sex workers branch and the Zaccheus Christian trust, all of which were members of the Safety First Coalition, and all of which have briefed Members of Parliament extensively and worked hard to secure these amendments.
I am sure that we shall revisit and review this issue in the years to come, but one issue that is reflected in the amendments is the fact that some women enter into sex work by choice. Whatever people may think about that, some women do-others do not do it through choice, however. I hope that the debate can now move on, so that we can focus more clearly on why women enter sex work other than through choice. The issues include how we tackle poverty and drug dependency, as well as mental illness and the vestiges of the implications of child abuse. Let us now look more thoroughly at the development of Government policy in those areas so that we can tackle the issue of forced prostitution. As I have said, I welcome these amendments, and I am grateful to the Government for listening to the stage of the debate that was encouraged by the coalition.
I wish that I could join my hon. Friend John McDonnell in congratulating the English Collective of Prostitutes, but that organisation has consistently opposed all campaigning efforts to slow down trafficking. Indeed, it was quite violently-I would almost say vulgarly-opposed to the propositions that have come back from the Lords, which are of huge significance.
The House is empty because this is the last moment before Prorogation, but this is one of the most profound changes in our law that we have adopted in recent years. We are completely altering the whole approach to the abuse and dehumanisation of women. My hon. Friend Lynda Waltho struggled over the word "objectification" and, like her, I have some difficulty in spluttering out that terminology. That is the whole purpose of the sex industry, however. It removes from women their womanhood and turns them into mechanical objects of sexual pleasure who accept a large number of penises every day to satisfy men's desire. This legislation now focuses on men, and it is extremely radical. The House of Lords had a very moving debate on this measure on
When I raised this matter on "Newsnight", a lady from the English Collective of Prostitutes and Mr. Jeremy Paxman rounded on me and abused me, saying that there were no trafficked women and that there was no problem of any sort. What world are they living in?
Every international body from the International Organisation for Migration to the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights talks of hundreds of thousands of sex slaves being trafficked every year. The idea that Britain does not have its share, given the number of people in prison for trafficking sex slaves, is absurd.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not want to traduce the English Collective of Prostitutes or its engagement in the "Newsnight" debate. I watched that debate, and no one stated that there was no trafficking in this country. It was not only the English Collective of Prostitutes, but other bodies, academic institutions and surveys, that have challenged the original figures that were used in debates in this House, which seemed to have been inflated. The introduction of balance into my right hon. Friend's speech would be extremely helpful.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I profoundly disagree with him. That organisation has done a huge disservice to the cause of trafficked women and coerced sex slaves.
I particularly welcome and endorse the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge. I very much hope that my own council, Rotherham metropolitan borough council, will seek to use this legislation-without endless consultation-to listen to the residents of Rotherham who are sick and tired of the ever-increasing presence of these clubs and institutions in which women are turned into dehumanised sex objects for the pleasure of men, whether those men are leering at them, having a discussion about Lib Dem policy in a private booth or doing whatever else might happen in a private booth.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend Keith Vaz went to Soho and could find only contented prostituted women who were happy to discuss their trade with him. Again, however, this simply defies every statistical and academic survey in every country. Those surveys find that a minimum of between 80 and 90 per cent. of prostituted women are desperate to get out of the business. They are in it because of drug dependency or coercion, or because they have been beaten up or raped. We must remove ourselves from this happy hooker, Belle de Jour nonsense. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that prostituted women are in the business simply because they have chosen the profession just as a doctor, a lawyer or a Member of Parliament might-although when we consider the way in which women Members of Parliament are about to be treated under the Kelly proposals, there will soon be fewer and fewer of them.
Of course, my right hon. Friend is well travelled around the world, so he will have made his own inquiries, but I have to tell him that when I and other members of the Select Committee went down to meet those prostitutes, they were very contented with what they were doing. Many of them were from eastern Europe, and they had come here because they wanted to earn money. Their only disappointment was that my right hon. Friend was not there with us.
We have here a fundamental difference. I am sorry-I am really trying to make a short speech, but I find myself disagreeing with right hon. and hon. Friends on my own side.
I can imagine almost any profession, business or trade in the world that I would be happy for any of my three daughters to go into, or that I would have been happy for my mother, my partners and other women friends to go into. However, I really cannot accept that accepting a number of penises in one's orifices in order to gratify the pleasures of men is a profession that we should dignify as just another trade that a Select Committee of this House goes and gives an approving pat on the head to. I therefore welcome the radical nature of this legislation and I ask right hon. and hon. Members to read the Lords debate, particularly the speech of His Grace, the Archbishop of York and the speeches of Lady peers.
May I say how much I welcome the change of heart of Conservative Members? I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years and Conservative colleagues have joined me in the campaign against trafficking, but until quite recently they have rejected the notion that we have to tackle the demand side. That is what this Bill does.
Let me pay tribute to the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Jacqui Smith, to the Leader of the House, to the Solicitor-General and to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Mr. Campbell, who is replying to this debate and indeed, to the entire Home Office ministerial team. When some of us started out on this road three or four years ago, it was inconceivable that we could have brought about this change in law.
Let us be clear now from this House-there has been no publicity of any sort; "Newsnight" has not had another discussion; The Guardian, which ran a front-page report saying that trafficking was virtually non-existent, has not reported on this-that the House of Lords was right. Men who go into a massage parlour, a brothel or one of these private booths in a lap-dancing establishment and find themselves having sex with a woman who has been trafficked or coerced or obliged to be there under some pressure from the male controllers or male pimps will now find that that is potentially a crime. That man can be arrested and can appear in front of a magistrates court where he will be named and shamed. Yes, it puts all the responsibility on men.
Only one other country, Sweden, has gone fully down this road, while Finland has gone partially down it. We are the third. I think that this is a huge advance for what I consider to be 21st-century politics, in which women will cease to be dehumanised sex objects for huge amounts of profit. If there is no demand, supply will dry up. If we make a start with Britain, let us take this campaign forward into other countries and make it a worldwide campaign.
The Archbishop of York sits in the other place not far from where William Wilberforce, representing the great city of Hull, once sat. It took him 30 years or more to persuade us to get rid of slavery involving principally black Africans at the time. We are now at the start of the process of outlawing the slavery that dehumanises women and of making trafficking and coercion, prostitution and violence against women to please men something that we can, bit by bit, eliminate. I congratulate Ministers, this House and the House of Lords on passing this radical, dramatic, reforming Bill, of which the entire Houses of Parliament should be very proud indeed.
With the leave of the House, I would like to respond briefly to colleagues' comments. First, I share the view of my right hon. Friend Mr. MacShane that this is an important measure, but it has been a learning experience for us all. Even today, we have seen disagreement on some aspects-but, I hope, a broad acceptance of the Bill's importance.
My right hon. Friend Keith Vaz and my hon. Friend John McDonnell focused on clause 13 and our efforts to ensure that we focus on those we set out to help. I believe that the Lords amendments help in that regard.
Paul Holmes asked about consultation. It is, of course, up to local authorities to carry out that consultation; it is not new to them, as they have existing duties to consult in all sorts of ways. We expect the exercise to be meaningful, but if the hon. Gentleman is content, I will look at any guidance that goes out to ensure that the exercise is meaningful.
In response to my hon. Friend Lynda Waltho, who asked whether local authorities will need to consult if they do not adopt the legislation, yes they will. We do not expect them to be shy about doing that; they came forward and told us that they wanted these powers. If they do not adopt them, they will still have to consult on them. She also mentioned the Home Secretary's review of temporary event notices-a commitment that we gave during deliberations in this House, which still stands. As to the owners of existing clubs in her constituency who are somehow under the belief that this legislation will not apply to them, let me just reaffirm that it will.
Lords amendment 6 agreed to.
Lords amendments 7 to 24 agreed to.