Education and Employment minister Eric Forth launched an urgent investigation into the magazine Jobsearch yesterday after Labour revealed that it carries adverts promising "big money" in the sex industry.
Shadow employment spokes- man Ian McCartney described the adverts as "absolutely scandalous" and complained in the House of Commons that ministers had refused to withdraw the magazine.
Mr McCartney told the Commons that the Government had signed a contract with Trinity Newspapers, which produces the magazine for distribution in Jobcentres in England and Wales. He said: "The current edition of this magazine invites vulnerable men and women to take up prostitution as a business opportunity."
One of the adverts contained in the 84-page magazine offers men the chance to earn pounds 500 a week for "intimate services" while another promises "big money" in the sex industry.
Earlier, he had flung a photocopied page of Jobsearch across the Commons table at the Education and Employment Minister, Eric Forth.
Replying to Mr McCartney's protestations, Mr Forth had said: "I don't know where it's come from, I don't know its provenance, I don't know the circumstance in which it arose."
Mr McCartney told the House that Labour's David Hanson, MP for Delyn, had asked the Department of Education and Employment to withdraw "this offensive magazine" but it had refused "on the grounds that the department believed that the unemployed should have the widest access to the widest range of job opportunities possible".
It emerged later last night that the chief executive of the Employment Service, Mike Fogden, said in a letter to Mr Hanson that anyone offended by the advertisements should complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. "While I would not expect my business managers and programme providers to provide access to publications of little value to job seekers which are offensive, it is not for the Employment Service to censor publications or deny job seekers access to the widest range of job opportunities," he wrote.
The publication carries six pages of advertisements similar to those mentioned by Mr McCartney, and is distributed free to jobcentres. It is also available for 95p at newsagents.
Last night, Colin Houghton, managing director of Trinity Newspapers, the company that publishes the magazine, defended the advertisements as "harmless adverts for escorts".
He said: "In the business section of the magazine there are adverts for male and female escorts and nowhere is the word prostitute or prostitution mentioned. Jobsearch is a genuine magazine advertising jobs mainly in the IT [information technology] industry. As far as I'm concerned there is no link between being an escort and being a prostitute."Reuse content