§ Order for consideration of Lords amendments read.11.53 am
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I beg to move, That further consideration of the Lords amendments be now adjourned.
I do so because this Bill, more than most private Members' Bills, embodies matters of great seriousness. It is a far more deep and detailed measure than most of the private Members' Bills with which we deal.
I raise this point of order because of the time that has been available. When the Bill was last in this House, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department properly said that he would arrange for a debate on importing into the Bill the concept of "persistently", such that it would not be an offence if something happened casually. Only if somebody were persistently pursuing a course of action contrary to the Bill would that be an offence. That debate was duly held in the other place and in Committee there, and it was decided that the Bill would be better with the concept of "persistently". That was the issue of principle debated and decided in the other place.
As a result, the rest of the Bill became somewhat incoherent. I do not mean any abuse by that, but the rest of the Bill did not run properly and therefore other amendments were needed. The other place tabled amendments on Third Reading. Its intention was to put the Bill in order, but at the same time another concept was introduced into the Bill, and that was "persistently" or by causing "annoyance" or "nuisance".
These new concepts in the Bill have not been debated in this place. This is a part of the law under which, if the wrong person is picked up, charged and given publicity, it will have the severest effects on his personal relationships, social life, job and reputation. Therefore, we should take the Bill seriously.
The other place debated the amendment last night and introduced the two new elements into the Bill. It concluded its debate at 33 minutes past 8 last night. This is a deep and important issue. It is a matter that touches closely on the civil liberties of many of our citizens. The Bill gives additional powers to the police. I am not saying that that is wrong, but, before the House agrees to this measure, it should have proper notice.
Many right hon. and hon. Members are concerned about this issue. Quite rightly, they are concerned to get the Bill on the statute book, but they are concerned also that the Bill does not put their constituents at risk. We may have the right amendments now, but, with the best will in the world, the other place deciding at 8.33 last night what to put in the Bill leaves no time for right hon. and hon. Members, first, to appraise themselves of what is happening, secondly to discuss it with their constituents, thirdly to take advice about what is happening and fourthly, to prepare any argument that they might wish to bring before the House.
I plead with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, in the constitutional interests of the House and in the interest of how we discuss legislation, whatever the rules of order may say, we should not proceed with the Bill until hon. Members are fully appraised of what is happening.
This is the last day for private Members' Bills. However, the Government have participated on this Bill.
657 I am sure that, as they have taken an interest, time could be made available for a debate to be held later on the subject so that the sensitive issues can be properly discussed. I plead with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and put that point to you.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's submission, but I cannot accept the motion. We must get on with the business.
persistently or, subject to section5(5A) below, in such manner or in such circumstances as to be likely to cause annoyance to the woman (or any of the women) solicited, or nuisance to other persons in the neighbourhood.Amendments to the Lords amendment: (a), in line 1, leave out from 'persistently' to end of line 4.
(f), in line 4, after 'or', insert 'serious'.
Lords amendments Nos. 3 and 5.
§ Miss Fookes
As we are debating several amendments together, it may be for the convenience of the House if I read out the new form of the clause, assuming that all these Lords amendments are incorporated into it. It will read as follows:A man commits an offence if he solicits a woman (or different women) for the purpose of prostitution —(a) from a motor vehicle while it is in a street or public place;Or(b) in a street or public place while in the immediate vicinity of a motor vehicle that he has just got out of or off, persistently or, subject to section 5(5A) below, in such manner or in such circumstances as to be likely to cause annoyance to the woman (or any of the women) solicited, or nuisance to other persons in the neighbourhood.Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) has just said, all these points about nuisance and annoyance were debated extensively in Committee here. My hon. Friend was not a member of that Committee, nor, so far as I know, did he seek to be a member of it. It is not correct, therefore, for him to say that this has in some way been sprung on the House of Commons in an injudicious or hasty fashion.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Marlow
I did not say that anything had been done hastily or injudiciously. Nor did I say anything which I thought would put the Bill in jeopardy. I do not mean to be critical or aggressive towards anybody today. My hon. Friend will realise that not every hon. Member is on every Committee. Hon. Members may have other activities to attend, or they may be on other Committees. It is not possible for all hon. Members to be on all Committees. Nor should it be possible for that to be the case.
I do not think my hon. Friend is saying that, because an hon. Member is not on a Committee—given that we all have constituency interests and are concerned for the welfare and civil rights of all our citizens—he should not take an interest in a matter. If, therefore, my hon. Friend was making an inference in what she said, I hope that she will withdraw it.