§ Mr. Irving
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the reply to the hon. Member for Cheltenham of 8 February, Official Report, column 708, what were the main reservations contained in the comments made to his Department by the National Association of Probation Officers concerning the Sexual Offences Bill 1985; whether he has any plans to meet the association's officers to discuss these matters; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
In its letter of 22 January the National Association of Probation Officers expressed the view that the Bill would not reduce the nuisance caused by kerb crawling unless there was a large and persistent police presence; that it might lead to allegations of harassment from disadvantaged groups, and to police officers acting as agents provocateurs; that the police already had sufficient powers to deal with this nuisance, but had given little priority to it; that the level of maximum fines under the Bill would lead to increasing use of imprisonment for fine default; and that the way forward was to "decriminalise" prostitution. The association also expressed concern at the fact that provisions dealing with kerb crawling are contained in the same Bill as increases in the maximum penalties for serious sexual offences.
The association's views are at variance with those of the Criminal Law Revision Committee, on whose proposals the Bill is based, and I do not agree with them. I conveyed our views in a reply to the association on 12 February, of which a copy has been sent to my hon. Friend. The association did not request a meeting and we have no plans to arrange one.
§ Mr. Irving
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received, and from whom, and what discussions he has had concerning the issue of kerb-crawling since the second reading of the Sexual Offences Bill 1985; whether he has any new proposals on this issue; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
Since the second reading of the Sexual Offences Bill on 25 January we have received representations on the issue of kerb crawling from the Prosecuting Solicitors' Society of England and Wales, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Law Society, the B3 Consultative Committee (Birmingham), Family and Youth Concern, the Wellclose Square Fund and the Joint Moseley and Balsall Heath Committee against Kerb Crawling. All of these organisations welcome the Bill494W although some offer detailed comments. I have discussed the Bill further with its promoter, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and the Home Office has had discussions with the Metropolitan police.
We are satisfied that the Bill, which is based entirely on the recommendations of the Criminal law Revision Committee, is the correct way to proceed and we have no new proposals on this issue.