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Baroness Blatch: I am not sure whether this will come as too much of a shock to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, but I support government Amendments Nos. 318 and 362. It would be wrong for a male prostitute to be immune from offences that apply to female prostitutes. The noble Lord made some powerful points in speaking to these amendments. He also referred to the activity of kerb-crawling. A person who kerb-crawls should not escape prosecution because his targets were male rather than female. That is an entirely sensible change to the law, and it is surprising that it was not included in the Bill originally. I do not know why it was omitted. It has long been government policy to be "gender neutral"—not a phrase I like—on these issues. I thought that that was the thrust of the Bill. Surely it was a mistake not to include it in the Bill initially.

I have not thought deeply enough about the two amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, but his second point was on prison. Although I do not want to say that all prostitution is offensive to some people, prostitution offences run the whole gamut from deeply offensive in terms of public nuisance and the degree to which vast sums are earned to less offensive. I think that it must be for the courts and judges to decide whether imprisonment is the appropriate sentence. I do not believe that it is for us to take the principled position that prostitutes per se should not be subject to imprisonment. That seems very much a matter for the courts. The Bill should establish a framework that provides judges with great latitude to decide the appropriate sentence. However, I have not thought too deeply about the subject because I did not see the amendments at the previous stage.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her support and warm words. I think we are making progress. However, I shall not dwell on it; I shall pick up some of the points that she and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made. As the noble Lord said, if there is a breach of an ASBO, the court can use the ultimate sanction of imprisonment. However, it is worth reflecting on precisely what surrounds the act of prostitution, including noise disturbance, such as the banging of car doors, and more general disruption for parts of our communities. For many, such behaviour is not only offensive but disturbing, discomfiting and distressing. I would find that distressing and I am sure that the noble Lord would also. In such circumstances, we think it absolutely right that the court should have the reserve position of penalising people for the breach of an ASBO.

As for the noble Lord's first point, I think he accepts that his amendment ultimately does not achieve what he seeks to do—to unpick aspects of labelling. However, if the police have on record a consistent

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pattern of behaviour by those who have indulged in a lewd act termed as prostitution, someone in that position ultimately will be described as a common prostitute, and that description will have a value in law.

We therefore have to resist both amendments. However, I understand the wider issues of concern that the noble Lord is seeking to raise in his amendments. I commend our amendments to the Committee and hope that he will not press his own.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 61 [Trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation]:

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 319:

    Page 28, line 6, leave out from "if" to "he" in line 7.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment No. 319 and the two amendments grouped with it is to remove the need to prove "gain" or the "expectation of gain" in order to establish the offence of trafficking. That is not always easy to do, even if it is only an expectation or intention. I think that the police services across the country will be in agreement with that, as I mentioned on Second Reading. That probably provides one of the reasons why there have been relatively few, if any, prosecutions for trafficking since it first became an offence although it is well known that hundreds if not thousands of young women and some children have been trafficked, mostly into London. The type of case of a mother helping her daughter out of prostitution referred to earlier by the Minister is unlikely to occur in the case of trafficking. I realise that gain is widely defined in Clause 60, but I submit that the offence of trafficking would be better defined without it.

There is the further point that gain becomes almost academic if the Government accept the words "force, coercion, deception" and so on as proposed in the next group of amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Astor, I should like on behalf of these Benches to support the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I suspect that this grouping is somewhat larger than he originally envisaged. I should therefore like to say why we have joined in tabling the amendments.

I wish to probe further the phrase,

    "for or in the expectation of gain".

Although it is clear that those who traffic human beings do so because of the material gains from the activity, I suspect that it is very often hard to prove such "gain". It is easy to envisage that difficulty causing a significant obstacle in securing convictions. For example, how does one prove that a person who has forced a child into prostitution has, or indeed will, also materially benefit from doing so? Removing the requirement of gain from the trafficking offence would therefore allow the police or prosecution to concentrate on proving the abuse suffered by the child regardless of whether anything was gained. Most traffickers are connected to criminal networks with

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sophisticated methods of money laundering. Tracing the exact whereabouts of money made from trafficking can be both time consuming and costly.

I am also unsure about the advisability of "intentionally" as used in these clauses. It is often difficult to prove one's intention. The phrase "intentionally or knowingly", well trailed in legislation, might be a better reaction. I would welcome the Minister's views. On a general point, I wholeheartedly support all those groups that have lobbied us extensively on the need for comprehensive legislation to cover all types of trafficking, not just trafficking for sexual purposes. More resources must be allocated to social services, which provide accommodation, care and support to child victims of trafficking; for example, West Sussex social services which takes trafficked children from Gatwick Airport. However, these clauses are not only about the trafficking inwards; they deal also with trafficking in this country and trafficking from this country to other parts of the world.

We hope to see legislation introduced as soon as possible to deal with these outstanding issues, not least Articles 33, 34 and 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It may help if I set out the Government's position at this point. We accept in principle the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in this respect. We do not believe that there is a justification for retaining,

    "for or in the expectation of gain",

in the trafficking offences. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, there is a differential between these and the earlier sorts of offences that we discussed. However, we shall have to consider whether that differential is sufficient to justify such a change. We accept the amendments in principle but cannot agree to them at this stage because we need to amend the precise wording to cover Clause 64, which is not covered by the noble Lord's amendments.

I, too, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, to the Conservative Front Bench. He will be a most welcome addition in our debates. He is very brave to join at Amendment No. 319 in this very interesting and enlivening debate. I hope that the noble Lord will remain on that Front Bench for many years to come.

Lord Skelmersdale: I cannot let that go without comment. I did speak to various amendments on the first day of Committee, which no doubt the noble and learned Lord will remember. Indeed, I rather suspect that my comments were received with approval, unlike those of other noble Lords who participated in the proceedings on that day.

Baroness Blatch: We should all like to be associated with the comments welcoming my noble friend back to the Front Bench, where I believe he belongs. I welcome the remarks just made by the noble and learned Lord. It looks as though these amendments will be accepted.

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The noble and learned Lord will be relieved of what I might have said if he had not made that particular intervention. I am most grateful to him.

Lord Hylton: I am most grateful to the Minister for his response and for his reception of the amendment. I look forward to reviewing government improvements in due course. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who has served on many a Front Bench over many years. I beg to move—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I have given an undertaking that I shall bring forward amendments at a later stage. We cannot agree to the current group of amendments because Clause 64 is not covered by them. Therefore, I undertake to bring forward amendments on Report that will have the same effect, and go slightly wider.

Lord Hylton: In that case, I am even more grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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