HL Deb 04 March 1969 vol 300 cc36-68

4.17 p.m.

Debate on Second Reading resumed.


My Lords, I am sorry to drag your Lordships away from these fascinating Constitutional topics to the rather more sordid business with which the Street Offences Bill is concerned. The Bill, as it seems to me, has two main objects—it has other objects, but I propose to deal with only two of them, and that quite briefly. Its first object is to remove discrimination between prostitutes and their clients. The objective, of course, is entirely confined within the limits of prostitution. The second main purpose of the Bill is to provide the police with increased powers to prevent people from annoying other people by making immoral suggestions to them in a public place, and particularly to prevent people from doing this while driving a motor car.

To achieve the first of these purposes, the Bill proposes to amend Section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959. It is, I am sure, immensely important always to bear in mind what the 1959 Act was intended to do. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has reminded your Lordships, the object of that Act was to abate a public nuisance caused by the presence in great numbers of prostitutes on the streets and in the public places of many of our cities. To that end, the Act was very carefully drafted, as a result of long debates in your Lordships' House and in another place. The Act has succeeded in its object; of that there can be no doubt. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has given your Lordships many figures. I can only add to them that in the London area in 1958 there were 11,000 arrests for prostitution, whereas in the year 1967 there were only 600. The nuisance has been abated; the prostitutes have taken their business elsewhere. Whether it was right to abate the nuisance in that way, or whether it would have been better to have left things as they were, or whether some other manner of abating the nuisance could have been discovered, or whether, indeed, there was a nuisance at all, are all quite different matters.

The limited purpose of the 1959 Street Offences Act has been achieved. Now this Bill wants to improve that Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, thinks it would improve it, by penalising the prostitute's customer equally with the prostitute. But I must ask the question: to penalise the customer precisely for what? The prostitute is penalised not for being a prostitute but for being a nuisance. Is the prostitute's customer, or are the prostitutes' customers, a nuisance? Were they ever a nuisance? If they were, it would be right to penalise them for the nuisance, just as the prostitutes themselves are penalised. But if they are not a nuisance, then why, I wonder, is it that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, wants to penalise them equally with the prostitute although there is no suggestion so far made that the prostitute herself should be penalised for being a prostitute.

Is there perhaps a hidden motive here in the mind of the noble Lord and in the minds of many other noble Lords—possibly, even probably, in my own—a hidden motive to give further and legal expression to the social disapproval of prostitution? Is it that, while fornication is more or less tolerated now in our permissive society, prostitution— that is, the committing of acts of sexual intercourse or of lewdness for payment—is increasingly disapprobated? But if that is so, would it not be more straightforward to make prostitution itself a criminal offence?

Certainly it is time that we reconsider the whole of our legislation on sexual offences. I am very glad to have the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that this overall review is not being overlooked but that it will in fact take place. In the light of that review it will perhaps be possible to decide again what is the area of sexual offences by law to permit and what by law to prohibit. It might be decided that it was right to prohibit prostitution. Whether that would be a wise thing or a foolish thing to do, I should not at this moment like to say. Indeed, I think a decision could rightly be taken only after very long and careful debate and anxious consideration of all the possible and probable consequences and implications of such an action.

This Bill, in seeking to remove discrimination between the prostitute and her client, would in effect repeal the 1959 Act and bring the prostitute back on to the streets. I do not think there can be any real doubt about that—and for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. But I am sure that that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, himself wants. I am satisfied that if he were really to be convinced that the effect of his Bill would be to bring prostitutes back on the streets he would himself withdraw the Bill.

One ought not entirely to overlook one feature of the 1959 Act; namely, that that Act is a protection for a respectable woman who might be loitering for perfectly innocent reasons or might stop a man to ask him the way. Yet there is an element of sex discrimination in the 1959 Act which certainly ought to be removed, and it is this. The 1959 Act protects women against the risk of an unjust prosecution; men are not so protected. Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 enables a man of hitherto exemplary character to be prosecuted if the police observe him in a situation which arouses their suspicion that he is importuning for immoral purposes. This can and does happen, and with grievous consequences. I understand that the reason why there is this discrimination between the treatment of female prostitutes and the treatment of male prostitutes, so that ordinary men are in this way left unprotected, is that the law knows only female prostitutes under the term "common prostitute" and for that reason the 1959 Act cannot be held to apply to a male but is confined entirely to females. I should not have thought that it was beyond the ability of the Law Commission, or indeed of almost anybody else, to bring in a very simple Bill which would amend the Common Law definition of the term "common prostitute". But I am told that this term goes back well into the early stages of the Common Law and that the repercussions of its redefinition might be extremely complicated and complex. But, not being a lawyer, I am not able to speak with any certainty about that.

I move now to the other purpose of the Bill: to deal with the man who tiresomely solicits a woman or the woman who tiresomely solicits a man, but not for the purposes of gain, and in particular the nuisance of the kerb-crawler. I am now convinced, as I was not a year ago, that in certain parts of England the kerb-crawler is undoubtedly a nuisance. So far as I can discover from my inquiries, it is not a nuisance, I am glad to say, which we suffer from in the South-West. It appears to be a nuisance which is apt to confine itself to the Metropolitan Area and the large cities of the West Midlands and the North-West. Why this should be so, I do not wish to speculate. But I am quite sure that the nuisance exists and that it is a cause of annoyance and of alarm to women.

I am not clear how this Bill would affect that nuisance; that is to say, I am not clear what further powers the police actually need, or whether this Bill would provide them. I am inclined indeed to think that this particular problem is not soluble, chiefly because ordinary people are not willing to become involved in court proceedings. It is so much easier to go home and to forget about the annoyance and the alarm. If reliance is to be placed on the evidence, not of the person solicited but of other persons who use or reside in the street, then I ask myself: who are these other persons, in what way are they annoyed, and what is the nuisance that has been caused to them?

So, my Lords, I sum up like this. I agree with the second purpose of this Bill, and I should like some way of abating this nuisance to be found, but I do not think that this Bill has found it. With the second purpose of penalising the prostitute's customer equally with the prostitute, I do not agree. I do not agree so long as the ostensible reason for any penalisation of either is the causing of a public nuisance. I might think differently if, after a review of the whole law of sexual offences, prostitution itself were made a criminal offence. Finally, I think the term "common prostitute" should be redefined as quickly as possible to include male as well as female prostitutes.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, on the occasion when the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, introduced his earlier Bill about this time last year, I made my maiden Speech and I rather timorously urged the House to give that Bill a Second Reading although I thought there were considerable objections to the wording. At that time, as to-day, most noble Lords speaking upon the matter gave general approval to the objects which the noble Lord had in mind in the Bill and then went on to make specific criticisms of the detail of the matter. I did the same, but on that occasion I thought that if the Bill had faults they were faults which were curable, and I sought to urge the House to give it a Second Reading in order that those matters of detail might be considered in Committee. Unfortunately our persuasions were of no avail and the Bill was rejected.

In the interim period of these last twelve months the noble Lord, Lord Charley, and the people who have been working with him have had the opportunity of reconsidering their Bill, and they have made substantial improvements. Many of the misgivings which were expressed on the previous occasion by me and by others have in fact been met. Your Lordships may remember that the chief misgivings twelve months ago were about two particular problems. The first was the use of the words "for immoral purposes", which were generally felt to be far too uncertain and wide and indefinite, and were words, indeed, which in the case of Crook v. Edmondson one of the judges said were words which, so far as he knew, had never been judicially defined.

That was one of the main objections on the last occasion, and the other was the objection expressed by my noble friend Lord Arran and others that this was exposing innocent people to the possibility of being arrested without any justification, and we did not want to see that risk extended in any way. I think this new Bill has gone a long way to meet those two objections. I do not want to expatiate upon that, because the way in which this Bill is an improvement on the last has already been dealt with in considerable detail and most comprehensively by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley.

What I wish to do for a few minutes is to attempt to make some answer to some of the criticisms that have been made by noble Lords in this debate, and I should like to begin with what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said towards the end of his speech when, as I understood it, he urged that the Bill should be rejected, although he said at the beginning that the Government would be neutral on the matter. As I understood it, he said that this Bill should not go forward but that the consideration of the matters involved in this Bill—these street nuisances and street offences—should await the general review and reform of the law affecting sexual offences.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, at no time did I advise the House to reject the Bill, or say anything which was explicit in that respect. I said that we were neutral, and my last words were than the decision was entirely a matter for the House. All I have done is to point out where we think the Bill is in some respects defective and in some respects would not achieve its objects.


My Lords, the last thing I want to do is to misinterpret anything the noble Lord said, but I understood that towards the end of his speech he suggested that it would be better if the matter of street offences and street nuisances could await the general review of the law on sexual offences. That was the only point I was trying to make.

May I now suggest why I think that is not a proper view? This matter of importuning and soliciting in the street is, I suggest, not really concerned with sexual offences; it is primarily a question of public order and seemliness in the streets and in public places, and I do not personally see why it is necessary that the reform of the 1959 Act—if indeed the reform of the Act is called for and is justified—should await the general review of the whole law affecting sexual offences.

May I now turn for a moment to the criticisms that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent? His charges against the Bill were fairly wide. With regard to subsection (1A) his claim, as I understood it, was that the clause as it is drawn would be unenforceable; but when he came to subsection (1B) his criticism was that it was drawl too widely and would catch too many people within its scope. With regard to the first criticism, as I understood the point he made it was that because we have inserted in subsection (1A) the words that a person commits an offence if he persistently accosts any person or persons with a view t offering or obtaining sexual services for payment or reward it would not in practice be possible to bring successful convictions against the prostitute who accosts the man or against the man who accosts the prostitute, because in most cases, as I understood him to argue, it would not be possible to prove an ingredient in the offence, namely, that the approach was made with a view to offering or obtaining sexual services for payment or reward". I wonder whether that is really true? What is the ordinary case of the person who commits this nuisance of importuning in order to offer or obtain sexual services? The ordinary case is, first of all, that a prostitute goes from one man to another and makes some invitation to each: and, if I understand the meaning of the word "persistently" rightly, there would be no difficulty if one had police evidence that a woman had gone up to a series of men. That would be proving the element in the offence that there had been persistent accosting; and if that was proved to the satisfaction of the court, why should the court not infer from all the circumstances of the case that those approaches were made for the purpose of offering sexual services for payment or reward?

The courts do not live wholly out of this world; they know what goes on, and to-day, under the present law, if the courts were not to draw inferences, if they were to regard everything as having to be strictly and absolutely proved, one would probably never be able to get a conviction of a prostitute under the law as it stands. If, under the present law, a woman is charged with this offence under Section 1 of the 1959 Act the prosecution have to prove several ingredients: first, that she loitered or solicited somebody in a public place and that she did it—I forget the exact words—for the purposes of prostitution. First of all, you call evidence that she is a common prostitute, and then you call evidence that she was found loitering in the street or soliciting somebody. If the courts were to say, "There is a third element in this and the prosecution must satisfy us that this was done for the purpose of prostitution," and were to insist upon proof of it, in almost all cases proof would not be forthcoming. What the courts do is to infer from all the circumstances that that is what she was doing.

I see no difficulty myself, in the ordinary case of a woman approaching a series of men, in the courts inferring from that that she is doing it for the purpose of offering sexual services for reward. Equally, when a man goes from one woman to another in the street, making his approaches to her, and is seen by a policeman, I do not see where the difficulty is in the court's inferring that he is doing it in order to obtain sexual services for payment or reward.

With regard to the noble Lord's criticism of subsection (1B), he posed the case of the young man out with his girl friend on a beach, a public place, who is pestering her; and the noble Lord says that this clause as it is drawn here would catch a case of that kind and it is far too dangerous to have a law which would embrace a case of that sort. It is always very easy to demolish a section of a law by trying to invent extravagant examples. In the case the noble Lord posed, is it conceivable that anybody is going to prosecute? First of all, you must have the young lady complaining of the pestering. Under the proviso, she would have to be willing to go into court and say that she had been pestered and importuned by her boy friend. Is it conceivable, even if she was prepared to do so, that the police would institute a prosecution? It is not really a serious criticism of this Bill to say that you can think up fantastic situations under which it might theoretically be applicable.


My Lords, if I may remind the noble Lord, of course this is what the Bill says.


My Lords, I agree it is what the Bill says. The difficulty in drafting legislation is always to try to be so precise in your language that you include the cases you want to include, and exclude the ones you do not want to include. In this imperfect world it is very difficult to draw legislation in such a way that it catches all the cases you want to catch, and leaves go all the ones you want to let go. I dare say the noble Lord would agree that that is the case. It is a Committee point, is it not? If these words are too wide, then let them be restricted at the Committee stage. It is not a criticism that goes to the substance of the Bill.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, referring particularly to subsection (1A), said that in his view—and I accept this—because of the differences between subsection (1A) and Section 1 of the 1959 Act, because we have left out the word "loiter", because we have introduced the words "persistently to accost" and have introduced the element of persistence, the law which keeps the prostitutes off the streets would be weakened. I am prepared to accept that that may be so. I am prepared to accept that it might be that we could have some return to some numbers of prostitutes on the streets. But if the law as it stands to-day is unjust to the prostitute, if it is in fact a great injustice to select a particular class of people and say, "You will be committing an offence against the criminal law if you do what it is perfectly lawful for anyone else to do, because you are a common prostitute. You are not permitted to loiter in the street, to window shop, without a risk of being arrested for having committed this criminal offence", if the law is as ugly as that—and I suggest it is very ugly indeed—is it any argument for maintaining the law in its present state, unreformed, to say that if you do reform it it might mean some of these women coming back on to the streets? That is a price that I am perfectly prepared to pay.

The consideration of this Bill, and the decision as to whether it is going to be given a Second Reading by this House, will be determined by the importance which noble Lords attach to the faults in the existing law: how far they regard it as an ugly law, how far they regard reference to a common prostitute in a Statute as being a defacement of a Statute, how far they regard as evil a special law applicable to one section of the community. I regard it as a very great evil, and I urge upon this House that it is important for our own dignity, it is important for the dignity of the law of this land, that this ugly Act of Parliament, which was passed in semi-panic in 1959, should now be amended so as to do a belated act of reparation to these people, the prostitutes of this country, who have been singled out in this way in a fashion for which I cannot think of any precedent in our criminal law.

I believe that when the 1959 Act was going through its stages in this House the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke most valiantly against it. I think it is clear that he retains the view that that is a most unsatisfactory Act of Parliament. I urge that it would be quite wrong for us to reject this Bill on Second Reading, and not to give this House an opportunity of amending the law, unjust as it is, simply because there may be some faults in the drafting or in the detail.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, explained to me that he was detained at a Select Committee, and that is why I appear to be taking his place. I was glad to hear the words of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who I think slightly turned the tide of thought in the discussion upon Lord Chorley's Bill. Up to then most noble Lords had said that they agreed with the purposes of the Bill; they gave him a cheer, so to speak, as he set out on his Sir Galahad-like charge to rescue the damsels, but when it came to the point they were not willing to support him. I am willing to support him. I do so with diffidence after the weighty speech of my right reverend Brother the Bishop of Exeter, but I think it not altogether a bad thing that occasionally your Lordships should realise that the Bishops do not all speak with one voice nor, indeed, with one language. Whether or not this Bill obtains its Second Reading, I believe that the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will not have been in vain, and that in the end the evils which he is trying to remedy will be remedied either in this way or in another. That there are great evils to be remedied I have no personal doubt.

First of all, I should like to agree wholeheartedly with all that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said about the inappropriateness of the phrase "common prostitute" in a Statute of this country. We know very well what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, really thinks about this, because he revealed his mind so very plainly when the present Act was going through its stages in legislation. He said: It is a really bad Bill, and I shall do the utmost I can to oppose it at every stage. So we do not have to apologise in any way to Her Majesty's Government for looking at this present Bill with a fairly critical eye. The more one thinks about it, the more unsuitable is this antiquated phrase "common prostitute". I wonder what your Lordships would think if it were proposed now to introduce legislation bringing the "common fornicator" into some particular position of exposure to the law. Everybody would agree that such a thing was entirely impossible. How about bringing in some legislation specially applicable to the "common thief", apart from the particular act for which he is to be arrested or charged? The whole idea of taking a class of person and saying, "This particular person is subject to the law, but other people are not" is to my mind very repellent.

I think the Bill does something to redress the gross inequality that has existed for centuries between men and women in all these matters. This dual standard is so deeply engrained in the whole history of mankind that it is almost impossible to realise how frequently it is at work. If one goes right back into the ancient law of the Israelite people one finds all the time that the charges against women in these matters are brought because they are regarded as the goods and chattels of men, either their fathers or their husbands, or their affianced sweethearts; and this goes on even to-day.

I am sure that it has been a great revelation to many of us to learn, as we have heard repeatedly in this debate, that Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 cannot be used in connection with any offences committed by men. I think that is the plainest proof that this inequality between the sexes still remains. If men are to be dealt with they have to be dealt with under the Public Order Act, in which they have to be charged with conduct likely to bring about a breach of the peace.

Coming to the question of kerb-crawling, I think there has been almost unanimity of feeling in the House that this is a bad thing. At least we can go as far as that. How bad it is seems to be still a matter of opinion, and whether anything can be done about it is also a matter of opinion. I think it was the right reverend Prelate who said that he thought it was something that could not be dealt with in the present situation in the country. Personally, I think it is just another case where the car has proved a very great adjunct to crime, and where so far the police and society in general have not yet adjusted themselves to the new situation brought about by the existence of the car in very great numbers.

I believe that there is sufficient evidence already before the House as to the existence of this nuisance. The right reverend Prelate said that it did not exist in the South-West. I do not understand why that should be, particularly as it is hilly country. Otherwise I should have said perhaps he dwelt in the "cities of the plain", and so the womenfolk in his diocese were not exposed to this particular danger. I have a letter here—which I know others have received—from those who deal with questions of moral welfare in the city of Liverpool. It says: No one is safe from the persistent attentions of the kerb-crawler. The campaign has been undertaken to collect evidence, and this has shown beyond all doubt that legislation is required urgently to give to the police a law under which they can act to clear up this unhappy situation. I do not believe we can exaggerate the unhappiness that is caused by this particular custom. I have tried to imagine some of the different types of women and girls who might find themselves subjected to this treatment. There is, of course, the woman who is pleased to be invited into the car. She may be on the pavement, too, for that very purpose. Well, I do not think much can be done, or need be done, to help her so far as the law is concerned. There is the woman who is shocked at being asked; the woman who is frightened at being asked, and there is the woman—do not let us forget it—who may be too frightened to refuse, and may fear that if she refuses she will be subjected to real danger. There are places where this could easily happen even in London, in Regent's Park and Hyde Park. Who can tell in how many cases physical force is actually used to pull these women and girls into the car? There are all these ranges of different reactions. The more lonely the situation, of course, the less certain is arraignment of the offender, but if society makes it clear that this is something which it means to eradicate, the general opposition to it will certainly prevent many particular cases in which it is indulged in.

When we come to the exact provisions of the Bill, I think it necessary to comment on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. He has had one answer, the answer from the noble Lord, Lord Foot, to the effect that the case he thought up is outlandish and one could not imagine it happening. My answer is that the clause could be amended to remove from its operation the kind of situation which the noble Lord had in mind. It is dangerous to risk a form of words, and I know that there is no likelihood of its being incorporated in any provision, but the kind of words which could be inserted are that something "must not be done in a public place other than a place to which the two persons concerned had voluntarily and by mutual consent resorted". That would avoid the case of the man and the girl who are spending the afternoon on the beach when the man gets rather too fresh.

I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading. I am not entirely happy with some of its provisions, particularly if there is to be any loss of control over loitering, which is a difficult matter. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, said that we should accept the loitering in order to obtain the other advantages provided by the Bill. I would rather find a way in which loitering could still in some way be an offence. We then come back to the difficulty which we faced in dealing with the 1959 Act, that unless there is some limitation of its operation the Bill will go too wide. We were led into the unhappy appellation of the common prostitute as the only person concerned.


My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate will allow me, if a person is loitering he does not commit an offence unless he is loitering for the purpose of committing an offence. Then one goes on to define the offence. That is the problem one faces.


LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER: I am sure that the matter is most complicated and I do not think I can add anything useful on the point.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter drew a sharp distinction between prostitution, which he rightly said was not a crime, and the nuisance of parading for the purpose of prostitution, which, of course, is a crime. But there is something a little exaggerated in that distinction, since it would not be a nuisance if what they were loitering for was not unpleasant in the eyes of a considerable section of the community. If somebody was just selling violets, nobody would say that it was a nuisance. I mention this point lest it should be thought that, in drawing this distinction, it was sought to undermine the reasons behind the Bill.


My Lords, I asked whether it was not the case that this Bill and the Act of 1959 conceal a hidden motive in a desire to express more vigorously the social disapprobation of this sort of conduct.


But surely, my Lords, that applies to the Act as well as to the proposed Bill.

5.5 p.m


My Lords, those of us who support the Bill and the principle embodied in it are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for so persistently pressing on with the first Bill and then with this modified second Bill. I earnestly hope that the whole House, although it may be critical of certain provisions, will give the Bill a Second Reading so that the many points which have been raised to-day can be discussed in detail in Committee. I apologise that I was not in the Chamber to listen to the earlier part of the debate, but I had an engagement which was fixed some time ago.

My reason for supporting the Bill is that it is an advance towards the fuller recognition of the principle of equality between man and woman. I recognise the great physiological and psychological differences between man and woman. I do not think they are identical at all, but are very different. There should be equality between the two, otherwise segregation of the two sexes will lead ultimately to conflicts because of a basic lack of contact. The right reverend Prelate referred to the early days of the development of mankind, when woman was regarded as a chattel. I would remind him that remnants of this attitude still remain to-day. I believe that in one version of the marriage service which is conducted in the right reverend Prelate's own Church the woman has to be given away by someone to the husband, as if she were a piece of cheese or a pound of potatoes. Indeed, one has some implications in the Decalogue itself.


My Lords, with great respect, the Prayer Book does not actually say "given away"; it says only "gives".


I cannot see any material difference, because one is "given" to the other and there is nobody to give the man away. It suggests a one-sided arrangement. In the Decalogue one finds an interesting piece of anthropological evidence. Even in those days when the two tablets were supposed to have been delivered to Moses on Sinai by the Almighty himself there was an assumption that there should be a permanent inferiority on the part of one sex. One remembers the Commandment which says: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife … nor his ox, nor his ass", as if they are all in the same category. The inference in those days, and even to-day among many people, is that they are to be treated in the same category. There is no indication that the wife should not covet her neighbour's husband. I hasten to say that one must not go too far in that direction, but the inference one draws is that it is all one-sided, that the wife is a chattel, along with the ox and the ass and the man-servant and the maid-servant and other objects which the man owns and can punish and do with as he pleases. There are still remnants of that attitude to-day, and that is why I referred, not too seriously, to the process of giving away the bride from one person to another. As I pointed out, it does not take place the other way round; one does not find anybody giving away the man. He would be insulted if it were suggested that he should be given away. This Bill is a step in the right direction.

I am glad that some effort is now being made to recognise that to retain the category historically called "the common prostitute" is most unfair. One does not hear of the common pimp. In the days when one talked glibly about a man sowing his wild oats it was as though it was to be expected, but never as regards a woman. One never heard of a category of "common wild oat sowers". It was assumed that it was right for a man to sow his wild oats and it was a heinous and outrageous thing if a woman attempted to do the same thing. That bias has gone on through history. One understands how it arose and how it was protected and integrated through the years. One rejoices that in recent years, after great struggles, it has come to be realised that the only true relationship between the two very different sexes is one of mutual dignity and humanity. I earnestly hope that we shall do something once and for all to remove from our language of classification the derogatory term "common prostitute." Of course, the institution of prostitution is very ancient. I do not pretend that legislation can abolish it; in fact, I do not believe it ever could, even if it tried. But it is one thing to say that; it is quite another to allow to persist at the same time as prostitution so many of these gross inequalities, an attempt to deal with which is taking place in this Bill.

Reference is made in the Bill to the process of kerb crawling. I recognise that this is a very difficult thing to determine. I can see how easily it can lead to blackmail. Allegations can be made, and no doubt sometimes have been made, by some girl or woman with malign intent, or quite innocently, that she has been grossly offended and importuned, and this may lead to blackmail. On the other hand, we must take risks, and in Committee we can surely look at this matter again more closely to see what words can be adopted to avoid so far as we can blackmail and similar dangers.

As to the offence itself, there is no doubt it occurs. I speak from experience, not as one who has himself been kerb crawling but from the experience of my family. As your Lordships know, I live in the district of Waltham Forest. I live at Whipps Cross, and there is a stretch of about a mile from my house to Leytonstone station. One side of that Whipps Cross Road is forest land and on the other side there are houses and a large hospital. Two or three times in the past 38 years during which I have been living at that house either my daughter or friends or my wife have come home to say that they were accosted by kerb crawlers, sometimes very offensively and sometimes dangerously. I have known young ladies, girls, come rushing home almost in tears, because men have brought their car slowly to the kerb, have wound down the window and have said some words, insulting or otherwise; and, of course, the natural nervous reaction for the girl is most distressing.

My wife has herself had a kerb crawler come along and stop her, elderly lady as she is now, although this occurred a few years ago. Apparently, he did not quite see what she was like. But she was not really distressed, and she tried her best to explain to the man that he should have better things to do. These illustrations can be repeated many times over. This particular road lends itself to this practice, especially at night, for there is the darkness of the forest on the one side and the houses on the other. I hope most earnestly that this example will bring the attention of all Members of this House to this aspect, and I trust that, either by preserving the existing words in the Bill or by using modified words, we shall enable this nuisance to be brought to an end.

I do not propose to say much more, except that I welcome the Bill most heartily. I am glad there has been so much support. I appreciate the difficulties and dangers, but I hope that the House will give the Bill a unanimous Second Reading, so that we may then endorse the intention behind it. Many of the objections which were raised when we last discussed a Bill of this character have now been overcome and the objectors have, to some extent, been met. In those circumstances it is surely not worth dividing the House, and we can get down to the details in Committee. I hope that something will have emerged out of our debate which will help to establish more surely than heretofore the equality of men and women regarding sex and which will do something to abolish some of the dangers and nuisances that are in our midst. I also hope that we shall be able to do something to provide a clearer and fresher atmosphere in which the people of this country, particularly the young people, can live and love.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, as the introducer of the Amendment to the previous Bill, which in fact wrecked it, I feel I should say a few words to-day. May I begin by saying at once that I find the new Bill a vast improvement upon the old one? Gone, in particular, is the clause to which I took particular exception and which gave powers to arrest without a warrant any person suspected of loitering for immoral purposes. This, as I pointed out, meant that no man waiting for his girl, and no girl waiting for her boy friend, could feel safe and this would have led to an intolerable state of affairs. So much for the dangerous aspect of the original Bill which has now been removed.

As I pointed out last year, the original Bill contained some excellent provisions. The new Bill also does this. Perhaps I may mention them again and add them all up together. First, I naturally and wholeheartedly—as does the whole House—approve of this attempt to get rid of what is known as the kerb crawler. Next, I applaud the proposal that, in the matter of importuning, men and women should be treated pari passu—a principle accepted by a majority of your Lordships' House when we debated the sexual Offences Act. Thirdly, I am particularly pleased that in the matter of soliciting both buyer and seller should be regarded as equally culpable. I have always held this to be right. After all, it is the demand which creates the supply, not the supply which creates the demand. Finally, I am delighted with the last part of subsection (1B), which provides that no conviction shall be obtained without evidence from the person importuned, or to whom a nuisance has been caused.

Only two solemn questions remain. The first is whether, despite the redrafting, the Bill entirely safeguards the rights of the individual to go about his or her lawful business without fear of interrogation or arrest. I am not altogether happy about this, and it may be that other Members of the House feel the same. The second question is whether the Bill is necessary at all. Could we not, in fact, be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut? Are the problems involved such as call for special legislation? I am in some doubt. Most of all, I am shaken by the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter, who said that it would mean the reintroduction of prostitutes on to the streets of London—something which I am very firmly against. At any rate, it seems to me that some redrafting is essential in the light of what has been said and in the light of the dangers which have been pointed to. We simply cannot take risks with the freedom of the individual to walk around the streets without fear of questioning, even of arrest, by the police.

Personally, I would rather see the whole Bill, excellent as it is, destroyed, unless we can be happy in our minds that no such danger exists. Also, I would ,gladly see the Bill go down if it meant that our streets would be filled again with professional ladies. After thinking this over I believe, on balance, that the House should give the Bill a Second Reading, in the hope that during the Committee stage any of the many provisos which are held to be necessary will be introduced. If the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, presses us to a Division this afternoon I shall vote for him, though, I freely confess, with some doubt in my heart.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I know that during the last year my noble friend Lord Chorley has felt that I was rather lukewarm about the cause of women as expressed in this Bill. Indeed, I think he wondered why I did not make a contribution last year. But I felt that last year's Bill was so faulty in many respects that it was really unfitted to go on the Statute Book. Now we have another Bill before us to-day, and I want to say to my noble friend that to-day my respect for him, for his integrity and for his perseverance is in conflict with my common sense. But I shall be inconsistent, in that I am going to follow him into the Lobby if there is a Division, it the hope that on the Committee stage there will be some amendments to this Bill.

I recall that my noble friend said last year: … if one nuisance, that of women, could be remedied by the Street Offences Act, 1959, so can the other nuisance be remedied by another Statute in 1968 …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT,8/2/68, col. 1281.] Can we equate the protection of our booted young women of to-day from the attentions of men, with or without a car, with the protection from a prostitute of a young man who is "up for the Cup"? As the sexual urge of the man is more insistent, and, consequently, he is more vulnerable and calculated to succumb to the advances of a prostitute, he needs protection, and we gave him protection in 1959. But we cannot possibly plead for sex equality in this context, because, without appearing rather priggish, the fact is that women have a higher moral standard than men and their way of life is dissimilar. One cannot equate the various aspects of the sexual life of men and women, any more than one can equate the obstetrical experiences of the male and the female. They are entirely dissimilar. In fact, in the male, of course, they do not exist at all.

Let me give an illustration of this. It is recommended that boys should be allowed to marry at 18 without parental consent. At 17 a boy can obtain a driving licence, so I think we can assume that, the male being the pursuer, he will respond to his biological urge and ask strange young women to have a ride in his car. Or, at 16 he can get a licence to ride a motor-bike, and can ask strange young women to ride on the pillion. And. my goodness me! I remember getting on a pillion when I was 17, a long time ago, though I agree it was not with a strange young man. But this is the law. This is youth expressing itself. It is for cases of this kind that I am concerned as to how subsection (1B) of Clause 1 will be interpreted. It has not been mentioned before, but the age of criminal responsibility is 10, and I understand that any boy over that age could be guilty of an offence under this Bill. A boy could be filled with romantic dreams, but the attraction of the sexes is inborn. Indeed, without it the human race could not exist. Can legislation of this kind control the young roving male, in the springtime of life, who, to quote subsection (4B) of Clause 2—and I am relating life to the Bill—obstructs, pesters or follows, whether in a vehicle or not?

Of course, the lecherous kerb crawler is a different kettle of fish. The experienced kerb crawler, the older man, is of course looking for a companion of his own kind—birds of this kind of feather always flock together—and in that case, of course, he would be equally culpable. But should the activities of the unsophisticated boy—15, 16, 17 or 18 years old—and the libertine be subject to the same punishment? They are put together in this Bill. I ask your Lordships whether the Bill does not put such a tight rein on the natural desires of innocent youth that it will be unenforceable—and, as a Parliamentarian. I know full well that if a measure which is unenforceable is put on the Statute Book it then becomes discredited.

Many men have referred to the helpless little woman, or have at least implied that the woman is helpless in these matters. While we have statistics of violent assaults by men on women, we have no statistics of the number of women who have been annoyed in one way or another by a pest. And when I say, "one way or another", one does not think only of a pest who rides along in a car and makes eyes at a woman on the pavement. Every woman knows that there are all kinds of ways whereby a man who is intent upon annoying a woman can do this without the public being aware of it. Why do we not have such statistics? It is because the average woman knows how to handle the situation. Some of these attractive young things handle such a situation every day of their lives, and they prefer to do it rather than be surrounded by publicity.

I am certain that no enactment could fully protect an attractive woman from undesirable attentions. Surely, it has been going on since time immemorial in every country in the world. In Italy, it is so common that the Government had to tell the youth of Italy last year that they should not say nice things to women in the streets, because that was not the custom in their own countries. I must confess that that warning by the Italian Government has made no difference at all to the tourist industry between our country and Italy, particularly with regard to pretty young women. I see that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has gone, but he said that he was a little afraid that this Bill is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I am inclined to think that those who framed this Bill were a little out of touch with the modern woman. In order to bring an action of any kind, the woman must give evidence, and I think very few women would be prepared to give evidence in cases of this kind.

It could be argued that the kerb crawler is looking for a near prostitute. He is therefore encouraging the business of prostitution, and, consequently, should be doubly guilty of an offence. Clause 1 provides that, … no one shall be convicted … without evidence having been heard from a person thus importuned or a person to whom such a nuisance has been caused. What potential prostitute would give evidence against the nasty kerb crawler? I divide my kerb crawlers into two. First, there is the boy with his new car, who is flipping along looking at a gorgeous mini-skirted creature on the pavement; and then there is the man who has done it for years and knows every trick of the game. He is looking for the near-prostitute. Those women are not going to give evidence against him. There is a freemasonry in these circles. Besides, the woman will be reluctant to focus the attention of the law on her own activities. She also has something to hide.

So I regard this Bill as one which will punish the occasional, nasty prowler, if he can be caught—and, generally, the experienced ones are not caught. The ones who will be caught are these rather simple boys with their new cars. I do not regard this as a Bill which can possibly protect girls from undesirable advances from men; they will always go on. It is the woman, the girl herself, who knows how to handle the situation. On the other hand, I see in the Bill a danger to the young, inexperienced men who momentarily respond to the attraction of a pretty face, without counting the cost in terms of an offence under the Street Offences Act.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I have sat through this debate with what fortitude I could command, taking up and putting down points which have been made by others which I should have liked to initiate myself. I think my noble friend, Lord Chorley, must be gratified at the amplitude of the debate as it has taken its course; and rather than proceed with the kind of speech which I intended to make perhaps it will be not inconvenient if I try to draw together some of the threads of the arguments which hitherto have been deployed. There is no doubt at all—and your Lordships will be in no doubt about this—that there is a need, if it could be met, to deal with a public nuisance which is generally described as a street offence. Listening to the noble Baroness who has just sat down, we should probably equally agree that if we cannot make people good by Act of Parliament, that is no reason why we should not seek to make it rather more difficult for them to be bad. There seems to be a reasonable hope that the street offences which now clutter up and contaminate our thoroughfares can in some measure be dealt with and it ought to be the intelligent business of government so to seek to redress those evils and to abate those abuses.

The second point to which I believe general assent has already been given is the inadequacy and, indeed, injustice of the 1959 Act. I entirely concur with the noble Lord, Lord Foot, in his strictures about the common prostitute. It is unjust to select this particular kind of person for special treatment and therefore to take her outside the general ambit of the law. It is also quite incorrect to talk about the common prostitute, because most common prostitutes are uncommon prostitutes. To assume that the situation is as Guy de Maupassant and others have delineated it is a complete misdirection of attention and is completely false. It is a gross injustice to put upon a group of people who have to be arbitrarily defined a penalty or a possible penalty which does not afflict others; and it would seem to me a not incongruous flippancy to say that the only safety from the law that the common prostitute enjoys is when she keeps her life at the pace of a continuous canter. It is impossible to justify the present law, the 1959 law, as it stands, and therefore it ought to be altered.

I think that there is overwhelming evidence in this House this afternoon that the inclusion of others besides those delineated hitherto as the "common prostitute" is both necessary on grounds of expediency and still more as we consider the development of the whole issue of soliciting, importuning and accosting—partly because, owing to the immense publicity that it has received in the Press, on the cinema and the television screen and in plays in the theatre, there is a greatly-added interest in homosexual practices; and, as your Lordships probably will know, there is a great deal more soliciting by men and there is a great deal of variety in the kind of soliciting and importuning. This is a sordid subject and I do not intend to go into any detail; but whereas in past days the pattern was, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said, "Hallo, dearie, would you like to come home with me?", there is now a revival of that particular invitation but there is added to it a vastly improved liturgy of the prostitute whereby all kinds of other and contributory and even more perverse habits are invited. This is a fact, and although it has not been mentioned hitherto, it deserves prominence in your Lordships' debate on this matter. Therefore, in principle what is good or bad for those who are women and prostitutes to boot is equally good or bad for those who solicit and importune as male prostitutes or as those requiring satisfaction for even more perverse and egregious practices.

I would take issue with the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Exeter, in his assumption that there is therefore something wrong in a Bill which equates the customer with the prostitute. This would be true only if the customer accosted the prostitute; whereas many a customer, in fact, accosts and importunes innocent bystanders of both sexes. I do not subscribe to the view, adumbrated by the noble Baroness, that our young people of the female persuasion are almost entirely free of fear, are splendid young creatures; mostly handsome, if not beautiful. This is true of some but, unfortunately, not true of many others; and certainly not an argument which goes down very well if any of your Lordships have daughters of impressionable and adolescent age—as I have; and a daughter who is in Exeter University and who could, I think, give to my right reverend Prelate from Exeter some information which has hitherto eluded him.

This Bill also provides what seems to be a very good and entirely justifiable step forward in regard to the evil of kerb-crawling. I wonder whether your Lordships will permit me to say, not arrogantly, that there is a liability to talk a lot of nonsense about kerb-crawlers. I have taken the trouble to find out the nearest to first-hand evidence from the hostel in which we care for girls in need of care and protection, and from a most experienced warden of the hostel who is neither sentimental nor stupid. She assures me that it is impossible to allow the girls of that hostel to travel a quarter of a mile in North London from the hostel itself to one of the local thoroughfares without the absolute certainty of their being accosted at least once and probably more times by the kerb-crawling motorist—who is not just a young gallant with a great deal of sexual impulse and a generally good attitude to life. These men are very often unscrupulous, and the curse of their attitude is that it leaves on many young and impressionable girls impressions and consequences which a great deal of time is needed to eradicate. I happen to know that to be true and to have some experience in looking after those who have been first of all "kerb-crawled" and finally seduced. I take a very serious view of kerb-crawling and I believe that this particular measure, though it needs a good deal of treatment in Committee, is in substance right.

I should like to deal with some of those arguments which have been produced as contrary to the success of the Bill and requiring that we should throw it out; because I do not think those arguments are as sound as they may seem to be. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, what he said of the four categories of those who could not be immediately stigmatised as requiring payment would as cogently apply to anybody who accosted, or was accosted by, a common prostitute, unless in fact it were known to any onlooker that that person were a common prostitute. And though it is true that most common prostitutes are not particularly gracious to look at, that is by no means as true as it was in days not so very long ago.

Secondly, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that it would be quite easy to deal in Committee with his problem of the bathing issue. I agree with him that as the Bill stands it raises a problem which is not met even by the most cogent argument of the noble Lord, Lord Foot. To introduce the word "accost" in Clause 1(1B) instead of the word "importune" would, I think, meet his case, because you could not say it was a case of accosting in a situation where two people had been sitting on a lido for half an hour or even for three or four hours.

The argument that it would be a return to the streets land the noble Earl, Lord Arran, put his finger on a very real problem here) I think is not proven, even with the ecclesiastical authority of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter. I think that there is little evidence to support it and I would set before your Lordships, if I may, a bit of evidence which would seem to me to confound it. Your Lordships have heard a little to-day about the prostitute's bully or pimp. It is the fact that within recent years a great deal of prostitution has been organised in the city and area of London by those who have been prostitutes' managers. With the passing of this Bill it would be impossible for a manager to operate. Therefore it is highly likely that what might be a return to the streets from the Underground and from other public places to which prostitutes now resort would not in fact be such an exodus from underground places into public thoroughfares. In any case I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that if the issue of the common prostitute is morally objectionable—and it is completely morally objectionable—then we have, for the time being, in order to put it right, to be prepared to face even a temporary increase of prostitution upon the streets.

For these reasons, my Lords, I support the principle of the Bill. I believe that it ought to receive a Second Reading. I think it needs magistral amendment in Committee. Many points, which have been so persuasively raised by your Lordships, would guarantee that if this Bill went through unamended it would, in many cases, probably do more harm than good. But I do not believe that any of those arguments invalidate the general intention of the Bill; and therefore I cordially hope that your Lordships will offer to it a Second Reading.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am tempted to say a word or two, partly because I took part in the debate in 1959 on the Amendment which has been referred to, in particular, by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, but also because of something which has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I do not think that any speaker has made clear that in the debate in 1959, all of which I re-read last weekend, one of the points was that the term, "common prostitute" had to be left in the clause, because if it was not it would read It shall be an offence for any person to loiter … I think all of us agreed it was a pity that the expression had to be left in, but that is why it was left in. I felt I should make that point, and one or two others.

With due respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has said, I feel, with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter, that Clause 1(1A) will enable the prostitute to return to our streets. It was the shocking condition of our streets in 1959 which brought about the legislation, and the unattractive but workable, and working, section to which so many have objected. I feel that Clause 1(1B) cannot be administered because of the proviso, a proviso which was expressly advised against by the Wolfenden Committee at paragraph 255 of their Report.

If the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, did not advise the rejection of the Bill, he certainly refrained from giving it even faint praise; at least that was my impression. He considered that the matter should be left in the hands of the Government to proceed with as ,soon as may be, and it is clear from what has been said—your Lordships will appreciate this from what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said—that the big problem is kerb crawling. This is a very difficult matter to tackle, and I believe that this Bill applies to kerb crawling in such an oblique way that it will not he as effective as many of us would like.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, described how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to administer the provisions of the Bill as they stand. After speaking as I have done, I should like to say as firmly as I can that there is no suggestion in my mind that in opposing this Bill I should want to treat women as chattels, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, suggested was the thought of opponents of the Bill. Indeed, I want to see the male prostitute become liable to any rigours of the law which may apply to the female prostitute. As the Bill does not apply to Scotland, and as my three attractive daughters, whose worries were the cause of my intervention in 1959, are now married and live outwith England, I do not propose to vote either way; but, if I did, I would oppose the Bill. I thought I would just make those points as they impressed me in the course of the debate, and as my thoughts went back to 1959.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start by thanking all those of your Lordships who have taken part in this discussion, and who have contributed to what has, for me, been an exceedingly interesting debate, which I am quite sure it has been to everybody else present. Naturally, I should also like to thank all those who have supported me, not only for their support for the Bill, but also for the nice things that some of them, at any rate, said about me. The only parts of the speech of my noble friend Lady Summerskill which I really enjoyed were her nice personal remarks. After that I was reminded of fearing the Greeks when they bring presents. Her "present" was quite a valuable one, because she has informed your Lordships that she intends to go into the Division Lobby with me; and a vote is a vote, even if accompanied by a certain amount of acidity.

It is difficult to reply to a debate like this. One finds oneself making notes of the speeches of one's opponents. I should have liked to thank, one by one, all those who have supported me. But if I make an exception in not doing so, it is in respect of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, because, of course, he defeated me last time. Although his conversion was not quite as stunning as that of St. Paul on the way to Damascus, at any rate it represented a very considerable movement on the part of the noble Earl and, naturally, it has given me a good deal of gratification. Obviously, the noble Earl was very much worried by the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter, and in a moment I should like to say a word or two in reply to that.

But in the order of my notes (if I once lose that order I shall never get back to it) I should start with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. I thought that his speech was completely answered by the noble Lord, Lord Foot. It was a case of the practical lawyer, who knows what happens in courts, talking to the man who shows that he really does not understand at all what happens in courts. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is a magistrate, but, if so, he cannot have been doing his job much as a magistrate on the Bench, because the law does not work in the way he suggested. But the noble Lord, Lord Foot, knows how it works.

If the law worked in the way the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, imagines, we should have chaos in this country. Take, my Lords, what he said about having to prove that, in effect, money passed. It is not so. The courts judge from their conduct what people are undertaking to do, what promises they make. Literally hundreds of cases have been decided by courts on the evidence of what people did in the sort of circumstances that happen in our streets. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, pointed out that in 99 cases out of 100 there cannot be any question at all about there being a bargain. It may not be written out in full and in detail, but there is a bargain between the parties. It is understood that money is to pass and, if the court, having heard the evidence, is satisfied that it was so, then it has the evidence on which to found a conviction. The remainder of the noble Lord's speech was on just the same unrealistic lines and was, I thought, very effectively answered by the noble Lord, Lord Foot.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Stonham. Almost all that he said was in effect Committee stage comment, and if and when I get my Committee stage I am sure that we shall be able to deal with most of it. The important thing my noble friend made clear was that there was no prospect within any reasonable foreseeable time of getting this part of the law altered through the Criminal Law Revision Committee. That stands out a mile. If we really want to get the present position redressed—and most noble Lords this afternoon showed that they do—then we have to do it in advance of the Criminal Law Revision Committee.

That brings me to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter. I should like to say to him that I do not want to make men and women equal for the purpose of this part of the law so that men can he penalised, because I have some sort of puritan side to me which wants to see a lot of men who behave in this way brought before the courts and fined. That is not the point at all. As my noble friend Lord Sorensen said, we want to see justice. We do not want to see the continuation of a position which goes right back to Mosaic times. I could say a great deal about this, but I will not take it further. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will realise the position. The real damage he did was that to some extent he persuaded the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, that if this Bill were passed we should return to the position of 1958. We should not. As a matter of law, the law would he completely different under this Bill from what it was in 1958. There may be some recrudescence of prostitution in the streets but there is no reason at all to suppose that we should go back to the 1958 position, because we should have a new system of law, and to suggest that we are just going back to the old law is not only wrong but nonsense.

My Bill is to a large extent founded on the Report of the Committee which sat in 1928—an eminent Committee, which was just as good a Committee as the Wolfenden Committee, presided over by Lord Macmillan, who was not only a great lawyer but also a great statesman and a man of the world.


My Lords, I did not say that we would go back to the position we were in in 1958. I said that subsection (1A) would produce a situation which would result in prostitutes returning to our streets.


My Lords, that is the noble Lord's opinion. It cannot be founded on the position in 1958, because we do not go back to the law as it then was, but to a law which met with the approval of a good committee, presided over by a great lawyer and statesman, Lord Macmillan, and I should like your Lordships to realise that. It seems to me that that is a complete answer to this attempt on the part of the right reverend Prelate to make our flesh creep. He went on to say—and I was glad to hear this—that he was converted to the view that kerb crawling is a real public mis-chief and nuisance. Then he said that he did not think that this Bill would succeed in stopping it and he seemed to be doubtful, as was my noble friend Lady Summerskill, whether it was possible to stop it at all. This is the sort of non possumus attitude which really makes me wild. Are we to do nothing?

If my noble friend Lady Summerskill had been speaking to the Victorian Parliaments which introduced all the Statutes for the protection of women, she would have said, "Men are men" in the same sort of way. We should have none of these Statutes on the Book under which people are convicted day after day in our courts for sexual assaults of greater or less severity. This Bill is in line with that. Surely we should try this. Surely we should do something about kerb crawling and not just say that it requires evidence which is too difficult to get and that we really cannot deal with it. That is not the way statesmen ought to face up to these problems.

So far as my recollection goes, there is no one who has spoken this afternoon who has not taken the view that we are confronted with a really deplorable situation. Everybody has said that my motives are good and it is a pity that they cannot be put into force. They cannot be, if noble Lords take up this sort of attitude. They can be, if noble Lords give my Bill a Second Reading, take it into Committee and make it a good viable Bill. I said at the beginning that I did not claim that this was a perfect Bill but that it was a much better Bill than the Bill of a year ago. I am asking, for your Lordships' assistance to

Resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

put the Bill into Committee, so that we can improve it. Unless your Lordships give it a Second Reading, then that will be the end of it, and no doubt the kerb crawlers will stand each other another drink in the public houses and go out in their cars and get on with the job. For goodness sake, let us have a go at bringing this to an end. I will not take it any further. I ask your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading.

5.56 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 61; Not-contents, 48.

Addison, V. Garnsworthy, L. Phillips, Bs.
Ailwyn, L. Granville of Eye, L. Plummer, Bs.
Airedale, L. Hacking, L. Poltimore, L.
Amulree, L. Hankey, L. Royle, L.
Arran. E. [Teller.] Hawke, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Atholl, D. Headfort, M. St. Davids, V.
Barrington, V. Hertford, M. Segal, L.
Beswick, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Serota, Bs.
Bourne, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Soper, L.
Bowles, L. Inchyra, L. Sorensen, L. [Teller.]
Bristol, L. Bp. Kennet, L. Stocks, Bs.
Brockway, L. Kilbracken, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Brown, L. Kirkwood, L. Swansea, L.
Carron, L. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Chalfont, L. Leicester, L. Bp. Teviot, L.
Chorley, L. Lindgren, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Clwyd, L. Listowel, E. Willis, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Wise, L.
Faringdon, L. Molson, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Foot, L. Moyle, L.
Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Nunburnholme, L.
Aberdare, L. Exeter, L. Bp. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Albemarle, E. Falmouth, V. Newton, L.
Allerton, L. Fortescue, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Alport, L. Grenfell, L. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Arwyn, L. Gridley, L. Rusholme, L.
Auckland, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. [Teller.] St. Aldwyn, E.
Blyton, L. St. Helens, L.
Burden, L. Hall, V. Sandys, L.
Champion, L. Helsby, L. Shackleton, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Conesford, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. Shannon, E.
Daventry, V. Iddesleigh, E. Somers, L.
Denham, L. Ilford, L. Stow Hill, L.
Derwent, L. Jellicoe, E. Strabolgi, L.
Dilhorne, V. Jessel, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Maelor, L. Strathcarron, L.
Dundee, E. Merrivale, L. Vivian, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs.