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UK Parliament Watch

2015: Oct-Dec

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Criminalising sex aids...

Poppers set to be banned in the UK

Link Here22nd December 2015
Poppers remain popular amongst gay men, a staple of lifestyle shops such as Clone Zone , Bent and Prowler that go by the name aromas , along with being a regular sight for sale in gay bars, clubs and saunas.

Sometimes used simply for a mild (and brief) high, they are typically used as part of a sexual encounter. Let's be clear why many guys use them; they make it easier for bottoms to be fucked.

Not for much longer. The Psychoactive Substances Bill has already completed its run through the House of Lords and is now at the Report Stage in the House of Commons. It takes broad interpretation to 'psychoactive substances defining them in clause 1 as something that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it. This necessitates a series of exemptions contained in Schedule 1. This currently includes alcohol, caffeine and tobacco products (along with medicines etc).

Gay Star News is reporting that attempts to have poppers added to this list continue to fail with the Government adamant that they will fall within the ban.

Clause 5 of the Bill prohibits supply offering to supply, and possession with intent to supply offence. Import will be an offence under clause 8. Possession is not per se an offence under the legislation, but sharing with partners would fall within the scope of the Bill. The penalty for any of these offences could be up to a year imprisonment and/or a fine.



Update: Online Safety Bill clears committee stage in the House of Lords...

The Government stated that it will be consulting on its own proposals to require age verification for porn sites early in the new year

Link Here 15th December 2015
Full story: Online Safety Bill...Elspeth Howe proposes onerous website age verification
Elspeth Howe's Online Safety Bill has passed its committee stage in the House of Lords.

The Bill to impose the ISP filtering on all UK ISPS, to require robust age verification for adult websites and to extended this to overseas sites, was widely praised by peers. However the government noted that it would be introducing its own bill to cover these areas next year and would not therefore be supporting Howe's bill.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Joanna Shields) summarised the government's position:

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and I state one more time that there is no ambiguity about the Government's commitment to launch the consultation shortly after the new year, and to provide for a robust age verification system to ensure that no one under the age of 18 can access pornographic material in the UK. It is a process that has been going on. We have been seeking advice from experts since the manifesto commitment was announced and we are consulting early in the new year. We are 100% committed to that.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, for his contributions and for his extraordinary work in leading the development of solutions that will in fact achieve our goal. Many elements of the Bill are incredibly well thought-out and well intentioned, and they will be taken on board in the resulting legislative approach that we take in the new year. This is about timing. This clause requires that the Secretary of State must identify a licensing authority for non UK-based pornographic services, and the noble Baroness's amendment to the clause specifies that the Secretary of State needs a second independent body to conduct appeals. It is a very good suggestion, but it is a bit premature until we finish the consultation.

Regarding the Ofcom/ATVOD role, there is some confusion about the function of ATVOD continuing, but following an Ofcom review, it was publicly announced in October that from January next year Ofcom will take sole responsibility for regulating video on-demand programme services. As a result, it will not continue its co-regulatory arrangement with ATVOD. Let us be clear on this: it is continuing with the function and the obligation of ATVOD, but that is being brought into the Ofcom portfolio.

Earlier in the debate, The Earl of Erroll made an interesting contribution by that privacy implications mean that the age verification approach used by the gambling industry is not applicable to porn sites.

Lord Framlingham:

I am sorry to keep picking the noble Earl's brain, but for the purposes of today's debate, is there any intrinsic difference between the gambling industry and the pornography industry?

The Earl of Erroll:

Yes, there is, interestingly enough. It is to do with the law. Because of anti-money laundering, the gambling industry has to do client checks; it has to behave almost as if it were a bank. As a result, companies have to be able to prove the identity of the person. For various social reasons, it is felt that it is unfair for people to have to declare their identity publicly if they are looking at adult content which it is perfectly legal to watch, or buying alcohol and so on. For instance, if a Muslim buys alcohol and the mosque gets to know about it because their identity had to be declared and retained publicly, they might suffer greatly. Equally, if a Cabinet Minister happens to view some pornography or adult material, that is perfectly legal but, if certain newspapers were to find out, the Minister's career would be destroyed overnight. This is the challenge and the difference. We have to remember that this stuff is legal for the over-18s, but there are social pressures and public opinion, which we may or may not agree with, so I think that we have to protect people's privacy.

Lord Framlingham:

I am sorry to ask again. The example that has been given mentions embarrassment, but it is not technically illegal.

The Earl of Erroll:

The example I have given is one that is career-destroying. The knock-on effect of that could involve all sorts of family repercussions to do with children in school because Daddy or Mummy has just had their career destroyed. We sometimes forget the effect on a family as the result of something that, while it may be regarded by some as socially unacceptable, is perfectly legal. We need to think about that at the parliamentary level.

The bill now moves on to the House of Lords report stage which has not yet been scheduled.



Offsite Article: GCHQ could grab UK shopping data...

Link Here12th December 2015
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Proposed snooper's charter will enable GCHQ to snoop on all available data

See article from



Is porn anywhere near as harmful as religion?...

Bishop leads House of Lords debate on the harms of porn

Link Here6th November 2015

Pornography, That this House takes note of the impact of pornography on society.
Moved by Peter Forster, The Lord Bishop of Chester, 5th November 2015.


Here are a few samples from the debate, selected for being about the adult use of adult porn.

Peter Forster spoke of his experience of his clergy being jailed for  downloading child porn and then went on to ask about government measures to protect children before moving on to whinge about adult use of porn. He said:

I can understand this attempt to protect the free choices that adults may make and I acknowledge the dangers of trying in some way to ban pornography. In the internet age this is unlikely to be successful, even if attempted, and such attempted curbs can easily be counterproductive in other ways. It is sometimes said that if something is banned in the Old Testament it was going on quite widely, so there are real issues about how we respond. Today, I want to draw to our attention an issue we are not very happy describing and talking about. Doing nothing does not seem right either, given the evidence that pornography clearly harms adults as well as children, men and women, but especially women. My question to the Government, and to us all, is whether it is right to strike a post of neutrality in the face of the obvious damage and dangers of the adult use of pornography.


"I am sure no other civilisation, not even the Roman, has showed such a vast proportion of ignominious and degraded nudity, and ugly, squalid, dirty sex".

This is not the Bishop of Chester saying this but DH Lawrence, who wrote these prophetic words in 1929. What would he make of contemporary society? His vision was, I think, too idealistic, not least in how he saw human sexuality, but he did identify the problem that underlies the floodtide of unhealthy, objectifying, sexual pornography that we now confront. At its heart it is a spiritual problem, the problem of identifying and upholding a healthy view of human life in the context of the contemporary world's attempt to reduce us to an undignified bundle of unfulfilled appetites.

I look forward to this debate and to the range of views that I am sure will be expressed on this difficult and, as I have said, perplexing subject.

Lord Giddens (Lab) was not quite convinced about the harms of adult use of porn:

Pornography has always been driven largely by male desire, and this remains the case today. However, just as sexuality is changing rapidly, so is interest in pornography on the part of women. Some studies in the US indicate that as many as 40% of women now watch internet pornography on a regular basis. Many of both sexes participate in the making of pornographic materials, at least in the broad sense of that term, as the use of visual images via smartphones and mobile devices has become so common. Since much of this is historically unprecedented and is moving so rapidly, we cannot say with any confidence where it will lead. The regulatory issues are huge; they are, I think, far more complex than the right reverend Prelate indicated, as are those of drawing the boundaries between what is acceptable sexual experimentation and innovation, and what is not. There is a wholly new world out there which no generation of human beings has ever experienced before in the same way.

With some reservations, I support what the Government are doing, with the Minister at the forefront. I congratulate her on having been at the forefront of the digital revolution, this ocean of change, which is breaking through our society in an unprecedented way. The Government wish, above all, to protect the most vulnerable children, a necessary objective. It is crucial, as in the #We Protect strategy, to work directly with the major digital providers here. I know the speeches on this that the Minister has given in different parts of the world. I admire the dedication of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, on this issue and her persistence with her Bill. Yet, speaking as a social scientist, I have to say that we must be systematic about these issues, not just draw things out of the air and draw extreme conclusions from them. Looking at some of the assertions that are commonly made, I was shocked to see how thin the evidence base actually is. When you look in detail at the research studies across the world, you see how superficial the materials are that support them. What in-depth evidence we have, there is not much and it is all moving so fast, points to a lot of complexity. I do not doubt that the phenomenon described by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, exists, but we have no clue about how general it is because the data are simply not there.

As a social scientist, I want work on these issues to be systematic, but we do not know how far regular exposure to pornography on the part of minors affects their sexual behaviour, how far it damages relationships, leads to addictive behaviour and so forth or, crucially, on what scale. We just do not know. Some have argued the contrary to what the right reverend Prelate has said, including full-time researchers in the field. They have said that pornography can substitute for impulses which otherwise might be expressed in more harmful ways.

My main point is that a great deal more research is needed, especially if intrusive policy is being considered, as indeed it is. Again, speaking as a practising social scientist, I hope that the Government will provide some funding for such work, as otherwise well-intended policies could simply rebound.

Childhood itself is changing in the digital age, perhaps radically. As Philippe Ariès famously argued, childhood barely existed historically. In the past, even young children dressed like adults, worked on the farm at a very early age and were constantly in direct contact with adult sexuality. They had no option, because they almost always slept in the same room, and quite often in the same bed, as adults. The notion of the "innocent child", which we have come to see as universal, was in fact an 18th-century invention. In the digital age, some have argued--and I think there is some force to this--that childhood is again disappearing, because it is simply not possible to separate the younger generation from the adult world. Children are becoming what are called "kidults", and kidults are quite a mixture of the child and the adult. My main point is that the subtleties and the unknowns in all this simply must be borne in mind by policy makers.

I am strongly in favour of empowering parents as far as possible, and providing the technology for them to supervise what their children watch. They must work in direct conjunction with schools. The role of the state should be confined very largely to areas of directly illegal activity. However, I stress strongly that there is a very fine line to tread. If children are shielded too much, and for too long, they may not be able to cope when plunged into the maelstrom that is sexuality today. We must confront the uncomfortable truth that, as the first truly digital generation, children today might know more about the temptations, and even the threats, of the online world than their parents do.

Lord McColl of Dulwich:

Is the noble Lord seriously suggesting that no harm is being done, despite the fact that the majority of 11 year-old children are watching on the internet the most appalling, violent pornography, mainly directed at women?

Lord Giddens:

Not at all, because, as I said, I support the #We Protect strategy. I said strongly that I backed that strategy and that we must protect children. The difficulty is knowing where the boundaries are, how far things that are said very commonly really are the case, because we do not have enough research on those issues. We must have that research, and we must not plunge into policies that are based on inadequate information and research. We must realise that this is a world undergoing gigantic change such that we have never experienced before, at least in my view. We have to protect children, but we have to do so against the background of a world that is just swirling away from our control at the same time.

Lord Parekh (Lab):

All this is a matter of concern. What do we do about it? This is where I am more inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Giddens. In a consequentialist argument, what evidence can one show that, for example, addiction to pornography can lead to extramarital relations or lots of other things that have been mentioned? The evidence is difficult to show and to demonstrate. It is the question of positive correlation between undesirable consequences and the practice of pornography. The second, far more important, difficulty has to do with the fact that we live in a liberal society where we cherish individual liberty and personal autonomy. In that kind of society people prefer to regulate their sex lives themselves. If some of them say that they enjoy sadomasochistic violence, who are we to say that sexuality should not be mixed up with violence, that it is not to be allowed? If they say they prefer a relationship in which some kind of consensual mutual degradation is a part of their enjoyment, who are we to say they cannot? The question is thus twofold. What is the evidence that it has certain kinds of consequences and, more importantly, in a liberal society are we in a position to tell people how they should live their lives, especially an area of life as intimate as this?

That does not mean that we cannot lay down certain broad limits. We could say, for example, that sadomasochistic violence should be based on consensual acts or the harm should not be irreparable or whatever. Likewise, we might be able to say, as one of the government documents points out, that you cannot have sexual intercourse with a corpse or an animal. One can impose those sorts of limits on this, but beyond that, it is difficult to go and therefore some form of pornography is bound to remain a part of our life.

Perhaps the best I don't believe in censorship... BUT ... was from Lord Cormack (Con):

I am not one of those who believes in severe censorship and prohibition. I am not a libertarian Tory, but I am sufficient of one to recognise that as much freedom of choice that is possible should be encouraged, BUT --and there is a very big but here--those who purvey sadistic images, sex without love for commercial gain, caring not whom they damage in the process should be regarded as pariahs. We need to devise a proper structure and scheme to ensure that the penalties that those people face are enormous and potentially deterrent. To pollute the minds of the young is as damaging and despicable as to pollute the oceans. If some company by design or inadvertently does the latter, we expect them to bear a very heavy responsibility and price.

We have to devise a scheme, and I look to my noble friend the Minister to give some encouragement, to translate the Prime Minister's pledges into action, by making it a very severe offence--the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, touched on this in his speech--to purvey pornography. It is not just a question of locks and checks and balances and voluntary agreements. It is a case of dealing with those who are guilty of a very real offence. I hope we can progress from this debate not only to define the offence in more detail but to come up with punishments that really punish.

Baroness Murphy (CB) points that there several examples of the availability of porn correlating with reductions in sexual offences:

I am going to ignore for the moment the pornography which is so prevalent in society that hardly anybody worries about it any more. I am talking about the stuff available in hotel rooms that can be subscribed to, the top-shelf magazines, and the sex videos on sale in R18 shops, only for adults. Much of it is pretty silly stuff. It is highly enjoyable for those who like watching ordinary heterosexual pornography. It is used by a huge proportion of the population. Some 40% of women now read erotic literature, which is more or less pornographic. Look at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey . Heavens--that is a horrible piece of literature! For those who have not looked at it, it isbasically a bit of sado-masochism and really rather nasty, but it is popular and has been read and, I think, enjoyed. Let us understand how widespread the issue is.

I think noble Lords are more concerned with the possible effects of watching explicit sexual violence and the degradation of women on screen, and the effect that might have on children and wider society. Pornography is broadly available, but I remind your Lordships that it is still illegal to manufacture and put this stuff on the internet. We already have quite draconian legislation to stop certain sorts of material becoming available. Noble Lords might say, "We are not very good at implementing it". That might be the debate we should be having. We should be asking the Minister why controls on children's access to pornography are not more effective. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, mentioned bestiality. Well, making a video of bestiality is illegal. We should think about what we are going to do to implement existing legislation.

The paucity of research needs to be brought home to us. One of the problems is that no evidence of harm is not the same as evidence of no harm--that is so with all such research. Some would say that we should not hang around waiting for evidence to emerge. However, I suggest that we have no evidence that, for example, there is a rise in violent or sexually aggressive crime. In fact, violent crimes have dropped dramatically over the last 15 years in this country. In the United States, where internet porn is even more readily available, there has been a dramatic decrease in aggressive and violent crime over the last 25 years; indeed, recorded sexually aggressive crime against children has actually gone down.

Noble Lords who have looked at the evidence from Japan will know that the Japanese watch much more violent, difficult and horrible porn than people do here, and they have one of the lowest rape rates. Other misogynist societies--I include Japan as marginally misogynist--have much lower rates of rape. These issues are very complicated and require a lot more looking at from the social point of view and many multifactorial points of view. We cannot say that it is simply pornography that is creating some of these ills in society.

One of the great problems over the last 30 years is that the systematic evidence has been laboratory-based. It has focused on the theoretical impact--on people reporting the impact of pornography. Forgive me for using this language, but pornography is there to aid masturbation. Much of the literature is about the impact of watching pornography without masturbating. People may say, "By looking at some of this research, we are creating completely spurious behaviours which people never engage in". In the same way, much of what children are exposed to--particularly very young children--they experience before they have any understanding of the broader context. Noble Lords may say that that is a cause for huge anxiety, and it probably is, but I do not think we should leap to conclusions about the impact of the research.

Neil Malamuth, an American whose research over 30 years has probably added more to the good literature than anyone, has recently done several meta-analyses of available data, not all of it very good. He suggests that there are good correlations--that does not mean causality--between the use of very violent and sexual-aggressive porn and a small number of violent young men who are already predisposed to violence and will use that porn. However, there is very poor evidence of wider usage.

Let us think for moment about how we use our fantasies. Have your Lordships ever fantasied about murdering somebody? Some may fantasise about murdering their party Whip, from time to time. The reality is that noble Lords go away, have a fantasy about killing somebody and the very fantasy itself is helpful and allows them to come back and vote, having missed the opera, football or whatever it is they were going to watch. Fantasies do not translate into behaviours, and that is the core problem. Sexual fantasies are no different; they do not translate into behaviours.

An overwhelming number of viewers do not report problems with pornography. As for relationship problems that people experience when their marriages are failing, is it surprising that people who are not getting sex at home go away and use pornography? No, it is not. These things probably reflect difficulties, not the other way round. We do not know if it is the proverbial chicken or the egg, so we do not know whether this accessibility to porn is a difficulty.

My time is up. Noble Lords get my gist: let us be cautious about this. By all means let us protect children--I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that--but let us not be too virulent about an issue that we hardly know anything about.

And general agreement from Lord Scriven:

We have to be clear that porn is here to stay; it will not go away. It is the same debate as we face in discussing drugs.

If it is a moral issue and here to stay, then, as the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, and the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, we will need to prove the harm before setting out our exact response. If consenting adults decide to watch or make porn, and if there is no harm, what should be the role of legislators and government? Clearly, as we have talked about, there is harm when it involves a corpse or bestiality or issues to do with children, but if consenting adults decide to use porn to live out fantasies or even to spice up their own sex life, what role is there for legislators? I would say that it is very limited indeed.

As Clarissa Smith, Professor of Sexual Cultures at the University of Sunderland, has said, pornography is about fantasy, and in no other area is the use of the imagination regulated. That is what we are talking about in this debate--putting in place the safeguards we have described while dealing with something that, for most people, is fantasy. As has been suggested, the evidence is not one-sided or conclusive. I would suggest that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, said, for most people who watch pornography, it is a matter of fantasy. Once the watching is done, they do not go out into the real world to try to live out their fantasy. A small proportion will because of personality issues--they  are predisposed to violence--not because of the pornography itself. That is what we have to think about in this debate.

If we are to clamp down or take similar action we will need to prove harm beyond doubt, not simply use vague and self-selecting online surveys, as some noble Lords have done today. That is not evidence. Surveys are very different from evidence. Is harm being caused? I will cite two studies that might offer a different view from that offered earlier in the debate.

In 2010, the European Commission conducted a survey across a number of European countries which concluded that there is no evidence of a causal link between watching pornography and sexual violence or crime apart from in a small sample of males who were already disposed to violence. That exactly mirrors what the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, said. In 2011, Milton Diamond conducted an interesting study of the Czech Republic, where pornography had been forbidden but then was allowed. The sexual habits, behaviours and interactions of adults were observed over a period of time. The report concluded that there was no change at all in the levels of sexual violence or relationship violence between individuals apart from in a small number of people who were predisposed to violence. So when we are talking about the impact of pornography on society, we have to talk about personality disorder rather than pornography itself. It would seem that some people are predisposed to do harm to others. We need to look at that a lot more rather than make blanket statements. Most people who watch porn use it as a fantasy but do not live it out. They live successful, useful and what would be seen as normal lives with their families.

Others see pornography as emancipating. About a month ago, there was a very interesting programme on Radio 4 called "Can Porn Be Ethical?" in which feminist pornographers said that they used pornography as a positive way of showing relationships. They talked about how it emancipates them and gives them power in an area where they were not seen as powerful. Not all porn is the same, as has already been said. Some feminists use pornography as a way of showing an alternative. As a feminist, Petra Joy, said, it is a "political thing" allowing her to change the model of sexuality and show it in a more realistic way. She said that she is able to develop the relationship as well as the sexual part of pornography and gives her some control as a woman.

I finish with a quote from Myles Jackman, a lawyer who specialises in this area. He said:

"Pornography is the canary in the coalmine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die".

I want noble Lords to think about that. Without proving harm and showing that it is pornography itself that is causing it, we are in an area of legislating unnecessarily. I accept, as everybody who has spoken in your Lordships' House today has said, that there are certain laws about protecting minors and certain issues about technology that we must address. As humans, we also have to be clear that it is the human relationship with the technology that will solve the problem.

There is no justification to say that, outside this House, the fires of hell will be burning because society is degrading into a pornographic cauldron of disrepute. That is not the case. I believe that more research is needed and that we must understand that most humans who interact with pornography do so in fantasy and do not live it out. As there is such a paucity of evidence, I ask the Minister whether we could do here what we do or have started to do on drugs: to have an evidence-based solution rather than a kneejerk reaction to online surveys or one based on assumptions about what is happening in society.

On the whole the debate seemed to favour keeping out of consensual adult bedrooms appreciating that there is much enjoyment and very little evidence of harm.

Something one can hardly say about religion. All the evidence of harm you need is the extraordinarily long list of all the people killed in the world this year in incidents linked to religion.



Bishop to lead a parliamentary debate on the harms of porn...

Perhaps he should debate whether porn causes as many harms in the world as religion

Link Here 31st October 2015
The Bishop of Chester will lead a debate on the impact of pornography on society in the House of Lords on 5th November. Peter Forster, who has whinged about modern attitudes towards sexuality, will open the debate after his subject was drawn out in a ballot.

Back in July, the bishop spoke during the second reading debate of Baroness Howe's Online Safety Bill when he welcomed the Bill and called for further measures to help adults addicted to online pornography. He spouted:

There is an illuminating parallel between addiction to pornography and addiction to gambling. However, whereas the economic and social costs of gambling are relatively well understood, the equivalent damage caused by adult addiction to pornography is much less appreciated in our society.

There are many more examples of expert testimony that could indicate that adult addiction to porn has pernicious effects, not only on individuals and their close relationships but on wider society.

This has to be set in the context of the huge cost to the Exchequer, which means to all of us, of relationship breakdown. The latest estimate from the Relationships Foundation is no less than £47 billion a year. Even if that figure can be disputed and it is, say, only half that, it is still a huge amount of money and more than 50 times the amount that will be saved this year by the so-called bedroom tax or spare room subsidy, which has attracted so much attention but is only a fraction of the cost of the effect of pornography in our society.

Perhaps the bishop should take a moment or two to compare pornography with much trouble in the world is caused by pornography compared with the amount of trouble in the world caused by religion.



Update: Hackers will surely exploit back doors...

In the wake of seeing the TalkTalk consequences of not keeping people's data safe and encrypted, the government seems to partially backtrack on new legislation to restrict encryption

Link Here29th October 2015
Full story: Encryption in the UK...Cameron demands a back door to encrypted data

The recent TalkTalk hacking seems to have taught David Cameron a lesson on how important it is to keep data safe and encrypted.

The topic came yup this week in the House of Lords when Joanna Shields, minister for internet safety and security, confirmed that the government will not pass laws to ban encryption. and that the government has no intention of introducing legislation to weaken encryption or to require back doors.

The debate was brought by Liberal Democrat Paul Strasburger, who claimed Cameron does not seem to get the need for strong encryption standards online, with no back door access. Strasburger said:

[Cameron] three times said that he intends to ban any communication 'we cannot read', which can only mean weakening encryption. Will the Minister [Shields] bring the Prime Minister up to speed with the realities of the digital world?

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones asked if she could absolutely confirm that there is no intention in forthcoming legislation either to weaken encryption or provide back doors.

Shields denied Cameron intended to introduce laws to weaken encryption and said:

The Prime Minister did not advocate banning encryption; he expressed concern that many companies are building end-to-end encrypted applications and services and not retaining the keys.

She then seemingly contradicted herself by adding that companies that provide end-to-end encrypted applications, such as Whatsapp, which is apparently used by the terror group calling itself Islamic State, must be subject to decryption and that information handed over to law enforcement in extremis .



Updated: Banning ads will put sex workers at risk....

Miserable House of Lords private members bill seeks to make it an offence to advertise the services of sex workers

Link Here25th October 2015

An organisation of sex workers is opposing a private members bill which aims to ban the advertising of sexual services, on the grounds that it would push sex workers out of premises and into greater danger and and/or into the hands of exploitative employers.

The Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill [HL] introduced by Tory Ian McColl is due to have a second reading in the House of Lords. It aims to make it an offence to publish, or distribute, an advertisement of a brothel or the services of a prostitute .

The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) is urging peers to oppose the bill. Laura Watson, from the ECP, commented:

Preventing sex workers from advertising would undermine their ability to work independently and safely. Advertising is a safety strategy, allowing sex workers to screen potential clients and negotiate services. Banning advertising will force sex workers out of premises and many will end up on the street where it is 10 times more dangerous to work. It could push sex workers into the hands of exploitative bosses leaving them at higher risk of violence, coercion, isolation and criminalisation .

Cybil, from Luton, who has advertised on the web for two years commented:

I built my own website which meant I could be my own boss and leave the parlour where I worked and where they took a large slice of my income. Now I can work with complete anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home. I keep every penny I earn, all without the interference of an agency or other ubiquitous middle man.

Sex workers are already prevented by the law from working safely together. Brothel-keeping law makes it illegal for more than one sex worker to work from premises. Relentless police crackdowns on sex workers on the street, often in the name of targeting clients, break up safety networks and force women into isolated areas where they are at greater risk of attack.

The ECP points to the moralistic foundation of the bill as the only visible support is coming from the Christian charity CARE which has a track record of homophobia and opposes abortion. CARE campaigned ferociously against gay marriage and against the repeal of Section 28 , which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Update: Endangering sex workers

25th October 2015. See Hansard transcription from

The Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill [HL] passed its 2nd reading and is now to be considered by a committee of the whole house.

Religious moralists and the mega rich queued up in the House of Lords to support Ian McColl in his quest to deprive sex workers of their income via an advertising ban.

There were two politicians who had bothered to think though some of the consequences of the proposed law, namely Quentin Davies and the government minister, Michael Bates. Bates noted:

There is a practical point to make on the application and enforceability of a prohibition on advertising. Noble Lords may be aware that most advertisements for prostitution are not explicit, they are couched in euphemisms, which are difficult to disentangle from non-sexual services; for example, reputable massage services or saunas. It would also be difficult to apply the legislation to advertisement on the internet, which can be hosted overseas, as we are experiencing in other areas of legislation.

The Government's first priority in this area is public safety. For example, the Home Office has worked with the UK Network of Sex Work Projects to support the establishment of the National Ugly Mugs scheme, to which the noble and learned Baroness referred. This is an innovative mechanism whereby people involved in prostitution can make reports and receive alerts about incidents that have been reported to the scheme. Alert information is also fed to police forces, regional intelligence units and police analysts. We are pleased that the evaluation of the scheme shows that it has been successful in increasing access to justice and protection for those involved in prostitution.

Our focus on safety applies also to legislation: when considering legislative changes, we must consider carefully whether we are confident that they support the safety of the people involved in prostitution. For example, I am aware of communications that noble Lords may have received, they have been referred to, from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects setting out its concerns, particularly about criminalising and further marginalising an already vulnerable group, thereby exposing them to potentially greater risk or harm. I would be happy to discuss with my noble friend Lord McColl and other interested Peers the evidence of the extent to which such changes to the legal, and by extension ethical, position of buying sexual services would reduce harm to those involved.

While the issues around prostitution are complex and contentious, as we have heard today, we expect every report of violence to be treated seriously. In this context, it is important to reflect on the increased reporting rates for these terrible crimes, showing that, increasingly, victims have the confidence to report and can access the support they deserve. That is to be welcomed.

I recognise that at the heart of this Bill are the noble Lord's genuinely held concerns for the welfare of those involved in prostitution. He has made those clear in his considered presentation of his proposed Bill today. I thank him and other noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions not only to this debate but to much of the Government's work to tackle exploitation in all its forms, whether it be modern slavery, child sexual abuse or violence against women and girls. I am proud of the progress that we are making on a cross-party basis and we will continue to consider effective approaches.

In their present form, my noble friend's proposals would have a number of legal and practical implications, which I am happy to discuss with him, that were perhaps not intended. However, we recognise his sincerity and desire to protect from harm those who are involved in prostitution and to offer people captured and trapped in that world a way out to a better and more healthy life for them and for society as a whole.

McColl noted the comment that creating further grounds for police prosecution for placing advertising leaves sex workers even more liable to prosecution leaving them even less able to call on the police when threatened with being victim of violence. He Replied:

I should like to address briefly one point that he raised. He suggested that my Bill will further criminalise women who are placing adverts. The Bill was drafted with the intention, courtesy of Clause 1, to address those who facilitate and publish the advertising, such as newspapers and website operators. I shall certainly look into the question further and if I receive legal advice that Clause 1 could be interpreted to apply to an individual placing an advert rather than only to the entity publishing it, I shall certainly look into bringing an amendment in Committee.

And before he could explain further as to why his nasty proposal would somehow not endanger sex workers, he conveniently ran out of time. He said:

I find myself in a rather difficult position because there is much I would like to respond to but we are out of time. I should like to put on record that I completely reject the suggestion that the Bill is unenforceable or that it will make life more dangerous for people in prostitution. I feel very frustrated that time does not allow me to explain why.

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