HC Deb 26 October 1998 vol 318 c20
20. Ms Beverley Hughes (Stretford and Urmston)

What action he is taking to prevent child prostitution and to assist those young people already drawn into prostitution. [53528]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alun Michael)

In the past, child prostitution has often been tolerated or ignored. This Government are making it clear that child prostitution must be dealt with as a vicious and sordid part of the abuse of children, which is a continuing national disgrace. New guidance to be issued by the Department of Health and the Home Office will stress the need to use the full weight of the criminal law against those who abuse children and the pimps who profit from that abuse.

Ms Hughes

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Many people think it incredible that so many children and young people have been allowed to live on the streets of so many of our cities and will welcome his assurance that the Government will deal with that situation. Will he assure the House that the full weight of the criminal law will be speedily and fully brought to bear on those who are exploiting children and young people for sex and for money, so that they are not only deterred but convicted?

Mr. Michael

I take my hon. Friend's point very much to heart. We very much want to make it more possible for children, and other vulnerable witnesses, to give their best evidence in court, to secure the prosecutions that she mentioned. For far too long, it has been possible for people to turn their eyes from that type of abuse at home and abroad. Earlier this month, we hosted a conference of European and Asian countries, at which I was able to announce the Government's intention to follow the recommendations of the Stockholm conference by formulating a national plan to combat child abuse. Several of the building blocks of that plan are now in place.