Ministers do U-turn on sex tourism Bill

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The Government appeared to be in further disarray over its legislative programme last night when it announced that yet another measure - this time sex tourism - would be included in a Bill only days after ministers said it would be left for back-bench MPs to adopt.

Labour immediately seized upon the announcement as the latest example of a Tory U-turn.

Under the proposals child molesters who commit offences abroad, particularly in the Far East, could be prosecuted in this country.

The move will be included in legislation to introduce a register of paedophiles.

The Government decided to extend extra-territorial jurisdiction to child- sex offences in July after a six-month review of the law.

New powers would also cover offences committed in Britain, including conspiring to commit or inciting child-sex abuse abroad.

Last week Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said that the sex tourism measures should be included in a Private Member's Bill, rather than the Crime Bill, which is expected to make slow progress through Parliament because of its wide scope and controversial provisions.

But a Home Office spok- esman confirmed yesterday that provisions for the new powers will now be included in a new Bill - left out of the Queen's Speech but reinstated to the Government's legislative agenda after the Labour leader Tony Blair promised co-operation. The Bill will create a national register of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders.

The announcement is the latest in a series of changes of heart by the Government.

The Prime Minister, having initially argued that legislation on stalking was difficult and should be introduced via a Private Member's Bill, agreed mid speech to make it part of official government legislation after a promise by Labour to help speed it through.

He did the same after securing a similar opposition agreement on the proposal for the register of sex offenders.

There have also been swift changes in the Government's stance on combat knives, which the Home Office first dismissed as an unsolvable problem before announcing a review.