Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 92:
After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--
PLACING OF ADVERTISEMENT RELATING TO PROSTITUTION
(1) A person commits an offence if--
(a) he places on, or in the immediate vicinity of, a public telephone an advertisement
relating to prostitution, and
(b) he does so with the intention that the advertisement should come to the attention of
any other person or persons.
(2) For the purposes of this section, an advertisement is an advertisement relating to
prostitution if it--
(a) is for the services of a prostitute, whether male or female; or
(b) indicates that premises are premises at which such services are offered.
(3) In any proceedings for an offence under this section, any advertisement which a
reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution shall be
presumed to be such an advertisement unless it is shown not to be.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the
standard scale, or both.
(5) In this section--
"public telephone" means--
(a) any telephone which is located in a public place and made available for use by the
public, or a section of the public, and
(b) where such a telephone is located in or on, or attached to, a kiosk, booth, acoustic
hood, shelter or other structure, that structure; and
"public place" means any place to which the public have or are permitted to have
access, whether on payment or otherwise, other than--
(a) any place to which children under the age of 16 years are not permitted to have
access, whether by law or otherwise, and
(b) any premises which are wholly or mainly used for residential purposes.
(6) In section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) (arrest without
warrant for arrestable offences), in subsection (2) (offences which are arrestable
offences), after paragraph (c) insert--
"(ca) an offence under section (Placing of advertisement relating to prostitution) of
the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001;
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 92
would make the placing of prostitutes cards in telephone boxes--a practice commonly known
as "carding"--a criminal offence. This is a matter which has long been of
concern to residents, local authorities and telephone companies.
The Government issued a consultation paper on the issue as long
ago as May 1999. It stated:
Prostitute cards in telephone boxes are undesirable and a nuisance to local
communities. The cards can be offensive, create a bad impression with foreign visitors and
can be an inappropriate influence on young people.
I do wish that we would stop using the word
"inappropriate" when really the word is "wrong". This is a wrong
influence on young people.
They hide important public service information and can cause serious litter
problems. Those who place cards in boxes can be threatening towards the public and local
authority cleaning teams. Furthermore, prostitutes' cards represent a cost to phone
operators in terms of negative image and lost revenue and require local authorities to
incur costs through cleaning operations.
The Government state that the problem is at its worst in central
London and in the Brighton and Hove area. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will
be able to inform Members of the Committee of the extent of the problem in Brighton.
I understand from British Telecom that it spends more than £250,000 per annum dealing
with this problem which affects more than 1,000 boxes in central London. Cards must be
removed from those boxes six days a week and more than 13 million are collected each year.
In Brighton and Hove, 250 telephone boxes are affected by more than 1 million cards a
The number of cards has grown and the images and the description of the services
offered have become even more explicit. The images used on the cards are sordid and people
do not want to be confronted by such cards when they simply want to make a telephone call.
In central London in particular the cards give foreign visitors a bad impression of this
country. The cards are also an environmental nuisance, creating litter when they become
detached from the telephone boxes and the so-called carders can become violent towards
those who are trying to remove the cards.
As the Government have recognised, the existing state of the law is not adequate to
deal with the problem. In their May 1999 consultation paper, they proposed creating a new
criminal offence. In December last year, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, gave further
information to your Lordships' House about the conclusions of the Government's
consultation and promised to legislate when parliamentary time allowed. The amendments
have been drawn to reflect exactly the position taken by the Government in the light of
the responses to their consultation document, a position outlined by the noble Lord, Lord
Bassam, in December last year. I am delighted to see that the Minister has added his name
Amendment No. 93 would allow the Secretary of State, with the approval of your
Lordships' House and another place, to extend the scope of the offence to structures other
than telephone boxes. I understand that that is necessary because it may be that the new
offence created by Amendment No. 92 will displace the activities of the carders to bus
shelters, lamp-posts or other structures in public places.
Finally, I invite the Minister to comment on the progress that is being made with Oftel
and the telephone companies to ensure that the numbers advertised on the cards are being
disconnected, a matter to which he referred in his statement in December last year. I beg
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I rise briefly to support the amendment and express
satisfaction that it is a cross-party initiative. As the noble Baroness said, the way in
which cards are littering telephone boxes is a major public nuisance and an affront to
many people. It takes place mainly in London, and in Brighton and Hove, but increasingly
in other towns and cities.
Many people find them offensive and many foreign visitors find them mystifying. Indeed,
they come to the view that perhaps the telephone boxes are some form of advertising medium
for prostitutes. I also read that children, particularly in primary school, collect the
cards and exchange them rather like they do Pokemon cards. So it is a huge problem and
this is undoubtedly a way in which it can be addressed.
I have two questions which I hope my noble friend will be able to answer. First, the
amendment refers to prostitution services. Will it also cover what one might call
"related services", or euphemisms for prostitution such as "massage
parlours"? Will it still be legal if such cards appear in telephone boxes or other
Secondly, what has been the response to the question posed on page 13 of the
consultation paper produced in May 1999; namely, whether effective legislation against
advertising in telephone boxes would result in an increase in street prostitution? That
would be a most undesirable consequence of the implementation of this amendment. I am sure
my noble friend agrees that it would also be dangerous for the women who take part in
prostitution. Do the Government have any alternative ideas to deal with prostitution on
the streets if this amendment leads to an increase? For example, have they thought of any
other legal ways in which prostitutes can safely advertise their services without causing
Lord Dholakia: We on this side of the Committee support the amendment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, is quite right. The amendment is absolutely vital. This
is very much an ugly feature of life in this country, particularly when decent people
simply want to make telephone calls and, when they enter telephone booths, see the cards
that are placed there. Children and women in particular find the cards fairly offensive.
This matter has all-party support and I hope that it will become part of the legislation
of this country.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am delighted that we have reached this set of
amendments. Prostitutes' cards in telephone boxes is a matter which has given rise to
concern on all sides of the House. When I was leader of Brighton and Hove council somewhat
ironically I found myself entirely at one with the changing leaderships of the City of
Westminster council, whatever form they took. We jointly campaigned to put into
legislative effect powers such as these to outlaw and combat effectively the distasteful
business of carding. Strangely, our two boroughs were at one in that joint concern. We, as
local authorities, shared what we regarded as good practice in using planning legislation
and other ruses to try to tackle the problem. It may be that we were ineffective in that,
but at least we tried to tackle it. We now have a proposal which effectively is a joint
"handout" amendment, and I am pleased that we have reached the point of
This is a particular problem in Westminster and Brighton and Hove. I am grateful to the
noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for reminding the Committee of the cost to the telephone
companies and the environment and the impact on children, young people and visitors of
these distasteful cards and their volume. I did not spend my days in Brighton counting
these cards. However, if one needs to use a telephone box in the city centre one can
hardly avoid seeing the cards. The fact is that they put people off using the telephones.
My noble friend Lord Faulkner asked whether cards which offered prostitutes' services
by way of massage parlours and so on would be caught by this measure. According to the
term that is to be adopted, prostitution really means any sexual services for reward. The
amendment will cover any card in respect of which a reasonable person reasonably regards
the activity as a form of prostitution or sexual service. Therefore, it should cover
massage parlours in the terms in which my noble friend Lord Faulkner indicates.
My noble friend also asked a question relating to page 13 of the report of May 1999;
namely, whether we believe that this might encourage more street prostitution. Obviously,
one cannot predict these matters; they are not a precise science. There is no evidence to
suggest that that will be the case. I believe it is likely that those who
seek to avail punters of prostitutes' services will advertise in other perhaps more
acceptable ways. I do not want to speculate on what they might be. But we as Government
are not in the business of encouraging prostitution. Far from it. What we have tried to do
is to support those services that exist in many of our urban areas to try and help people
in the sex industry get out of the world of prostitution and lead a more constructive and
We have set up prostitution projects to see what works in tackling
prostitution. Through these projects we are looking to help prostitutes formulate exit
strategies away from that business. Many of these concerns and considerations have been
raised this week with the sad and tragic news of the death of Monica Coghlan, who was
clearly caught up in that business. That has highlighted again the distasteful side of it.
We need to do more; and the Government are strongly committed in that direction. I hope
that has answered the points of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.
The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raised an important point relating to Oftel. There
have been many discussions. The Councils have had discussions with OFTEL. I can remember a
long time ago scripting letters to OFTEL asking it to take responsibility in this field.
The amendment is just one part of tackling the larger problem. There are other measures
that can complement legislation.
My understanding is that OFTEL has had discussions with the telecommunications industry
about a call-barring scheme. Some progress has been made in that area. I am told that it
is not a simple business. It needs to be developed. I hope that it can be. There will be
further consultation with the industry following legislation in this area because schemes
such as call-barring may play an important part in it. But it is not easy. It touches on
the human rights of the individual who really should have access to telecommunications
systems. So it is not a simple issue, but we need to make more progress.
I believe that these measures are right. The all-party support that exists for them is
a measure of the strength of opinion in these matters. They will help prevent a nuisance
in many of our city centres. I doubt whether the nuisance will long be confined to
Westminster and Brighton and Hove. I am told by my colleagues in another place that their
town and city centres are increasingly being afflicted by the arrival of cards peddling
this business and trade. After all, it is the oldest trade known to man.
I am grateful to the Opposition for tabling the amendment. I am happy to put my name to
it. I am confident that the words are right. I am delighted that we have had all-party
support for these amendments.
Baroness Buscombe: I should like to pick up on a couple of points made by the
noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. I agree with the Minister with respect to the
terminology used in the amendments. On these Benches, it is our hope that other kinds of
activities which are not blatantly prostitution, as it were, on the face of these cards
will be caught under subsection (3). That states:
"In any proceedings for an offence under this section, any advertisement which
a reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution".
We all have a good idea of the kinds of activities--be it saunas, massage or
whatever--that would pertain to that and therefore be caught. At the risk of putting a
dampener on the proceedings, I hear what the noble Lord says with regard to this proposal
perhaps meaning a possibility of deflecting the problem from the phone box and on to the
street, but, personally, I doubt that very much. What I fear--this is a matter that we
shall all have to think about and indeed are already in terms of prostitution and
pornography--is the use of the Internet for
reaching out to potential clients. That is a problem, particularly with regard to young
people. I need not expand on that point.
I do not think that we have closed off the problem. We have possibly moved it to some
extent. But I think that we have been right. We should not be put off or be defeatist on
this issue. We should not think that it is better to let the problem continue because we
might produce another problem somewhere else. This is the right step to take. I raised the
issue at Second Reading. I feel quite passionately about it. I am glad that the Government
have added their support to our amendment. I thank the Minister for his response.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 93:
After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--
"Application of section (Placing of advertisement
relating to prostitution) by order to public structures
(1) The Secretary of State may, by order, provide for section (Placing of advertisement
relating to prostitution) to apply in relation to any public structure of a description
specified in the order as it applies in relation to a public telephone.
(2) In this section--
"public structure" means any structure that--
(a) is provided as an amenity for the use of the public or a section of the public, and
(b) is located in a public place; and
"public place" and "public telephone" have the same meaning as in
section (Placing of advertisment relating to prostitution).
(3) At any time when an order under this section has effect, the reference in section
24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) to an offence under section
(Placing an advertisement relating to prostitution) of this Act shall be construed as
including an offence under that section by virtue of the order.
(4) The power to make an order under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(5) No order may be made under this section unless a draft of the order has been laid
before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."
On Question, amendment agreed to.