Bill to ban sex tourism on the cards

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The Independent Online
The Government is preparing legislation to outlaw sex tourism, in spite of its exclusion from the Queen's Speech setting out 13 Bills.

A Bill to outlaw sex tourism is one of the key Bills prepared by the the Home Office for a backbench MP to take up after the ballot next Thursday for the right to introduce private members' legislation.

The Home Office is also hoping that a backbench MP in the ballot will help to fulfil another pledge by the Home Secretary in his conference speech to legislate to shut clubs where there is evidence of drugs.

Although David Maclean, the Home Office minister, said in February 1995 that extra-territorial legislation would not be possible, a review had shown that it could be carried out.

The Home Secretary told the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth that the Government "will ensure" that men who prey on children abroad would not escape prosecution when they returned home.

"They will be prosecuted and punished here in Britain. They must not get away with their crimes," he said.

However, in spite of his pledge to act, the Home Office was not able to include the Bill in the Queen's Speech programme.

Instead, it will be offered to an MP whose name is drawn in the ballot. The backbench route is fraught with difficulties, but it is likely to become law next spring, if it is taken up, with Labour and Liberal Democrat backing.

Wherever possible, the Government will extradite those accused of sex crimes so they can face trial in the country where they committed the crime. But in cases where that was not possible, the Government intends to ensure that the UK courts can prosecute child molesters for offences committed abroad.

For a prosecution to be brought, the act would have to be offence both in this country and in the other country.

There may also be action against clubs where drug-taking is rife. Michael Howard has told Tory supporters: "They [clubs] know there's a ready market among vulnerable youngsters. Sometimes the clubs are in on the act - the bouncers, the managers, even the owners. The police often know which clubs these are but they can't close them because they don't have the powers they need."

When a licence was revoked because of drugs, the club would be shut, Mr Howard said. The legislation will give local authorities the power to revoke or not renew a licence even if the licensee had not been convicted of operating in breach of his conditions. They will need only evidence provided by a chief police officer that there was a serious drug problem in the club. The club would immediate shut, pending the outcome of an appeal.

The "hand-out" Bills from the Home Office are part of a range of legislation to be offered by other Whitehall departments to the MPs who come high in the ballot. Ministers have decided not to use the backbench route for new controls on mini-cabs. They felt it would be too controversial to get through.