HC Deb 14 July 1887 vol 317 cc794-5
MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the following statements, made by Mr. Willey, of the firm of Howell and James, at the meeting of Regent Street shopkeepers, held on 7th July:— But, if you are going to deal with this question, it is impossible to restrict your attention to one sex only. It was not the women, but the men, who were the cause of most of the evil in Regent Street. It was a shame the way in which innocent women and girls were hunted through the streets by well-dressed scoundrels. A case had occurred, within his own knowledge, in which a virtuous and respectable young girl was tracked from Regent Circus to Charing Cross Station by a man who persistently molested her until she reached Charing Cross, where her brother was waiting for her; there was another case, in which a young employé of his had been tracked down the street to his place of business by 'a perfect gentleman;' whether it is known to the authorities that cases of solicitation and annoyance by men against perfectly respectable women, in all ranks of life, are of every day occurrence, and that they cannot be punished, because solicitation by a man is not an offence against the law; and, whether the Government will bring in and press a Bill to make the law against solicitation equal for men and women?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I am afraid that cases such as those described do occur in very large towns and escape punishment because of the difficulty that has always been felt in framing any law to meet the evil. Even in the case of women, solicitation is not an offence. The law only strikes at the public nuisance of a common prostitute exercising her calling in public thoroughfares to the annoyance of inhabitants or passengers. The Government are most desirous to abate the grave scandal to which attention has been drawn, and are considering whether it would be practicable to institute legislation against solicitation, by either men or women, for immoral purposes in the public streets. The hon. Member is, no doubt, aware of the failure of the attempted legislation of 1885; but that will not in the least discourage the Government in their present attempts.