Thank you for contacting me about commercial sexual exploitation.
I know the Government is committed to protecting those selling sex from harm and enabling the police to target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution. It is also very important to ensure those who want to leave prostitution are given every opportunity to find routes out.
I believe Government and Parliament should be fully informed on this issue before considering any changes in policy or legislation in this area. It is therefore very welcome that the Government has recognised the compelling arguments for commissioning research into the nature and prevalence of prostitution in England and Wales. The Home Office has provided £150,000 to fund this research, which is being carried out by the University of Bristol. The final report is expected in the spring next year.
I am aware that there are different approaches to prostitution around the world, including New Zealand and in Scandinavia, as well as recent legislative developments in Northern Ireland. However, I understand the Home Office has not yet seen unequivocal evidence that any one approach is better at tackling harm and exploitation. I welcome the fact that the law around prostitution in England and Wales focuses on tackling harm and exploitation caused to those involved.
Ministers have assured me that they continue to meet and engage with experts, academics, the police and those who sell sex themselves to further their understanding on the issues around prostitution.
Adult service websites and sex trafficking – You may be pleased to know that the Government is working to combat the use of online classified websites to facilitate sex trafficking. This action includes the National Crime Agency (NCA) leading a multi-agency operational plan to investigate, disrupt and prevent sex trafficking facilitated via these websites. New innovative technological capabilities to help identify trafficking online are also being developed. It is good news that the Government is urging the largest adult services websites operating in the UK to take a more proactive role in identifying and preventing trafficking related content from being hosted.
The Home Office continues to monitor the impact in the US of the recent change in legislation there brought in by the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and will assess the lessons learned from that approach, and approaches elsewhere in considering any change to legislation in the UK.