The Liberal Democrats in Harrogate: Party to consult prostitutes over legalising their trade

Click to follow
Indy Politics
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT activists should meet male and female prostitutes to discuss whether the oldest profession should be legalised, the party conference decided yesterday.

A working group appointed by the federal policy committee is to consult with prostitutes and umbrella organisations to consider whether prostitution needs special laws or whether it should be treated as any other business subject to planning and health and safety rules.

The working party, which will report back to next year's conference, will also consider whether brothels should legalised and regulated.

The conference also approved an immediate call to the Government to make the carrying of condoms inadmissible as evidence of prostitution, to cease fining prostitutes, and to concentrate police efforts on arresting pimps and other criminals who preyed on prostitutes and their clients.

While carried by an overwhelming majority, the motion provoked strong reactions. Juliana Hughes of Carmarthen said prostitution should be condemned. 'It is a vile, dirty and ugly practice which we should aim to eradicate like all human diseases which plague our society. Would you like your son or daughter to practice this awful trade of degradation?'

Dr Margaret Joachim criticised the motion for failing to mention the economic and social circumstances that forced people into the exploitation of prostitution. There was no long-term aim to get rid of it, she said. 'It is quite disgraceful that anybody should have to live by selling their body. But you won't get rid of prostitution by having it as a criminal offence or by legalising it.'

Mike Simpson, another opponent, said the decision was about making prostitution easier and would earn the party the title 'Loony Liberals'.

The working party will examine whether legalised brothels would be likely to lessen health risks and public nuisance, how to prevent brothel owners from abusing prostitutes' civil and legal rights, and how to ensure that residential areas did not become red-light districts.

Opposing an amendment, later defeated, that called for immediate legalisation, Dr Ann Morrison said legalised brothels in other countries had become sex shops where the state played the pimp for profit.

Lindi St Clair, leader of the Corrective Party and campaigner for legalised prostitution, withdrew an earlier request to attend the conference and speak during the debate. She claimed she had heard that senior party figures might feel embarrassed by her presence, and believed the media would be too interested in her rather than the issue.