Government to legislate against illicit telephone box advertising

The Government has bowed to pressure from the advertising industry

by announcing plans to make it a crime to place cards about prostitutes

in telephone boxes.



Ministers have agreed to bring in a maximum penalty of six months'

imprisonment and a pounds 5,000 fine by amending the Criminal Justice

and Police Bill during its passage through the House of Lords this

week.



After pressure from the ad industry, ministers dropped their original

plan for individual local authorities to be given the power to clamp

down on the cards. The Advertising Association warned that this would

just transfer the problem from one area to another.



Sara Price, the AA's head of public affairs, said: 'We warmly welcome

the Government's decision. The problem causes widespread offence to

people and is very damaging to BT, other telephone operators and to

advertisers who want to use the space.'



The AA will now urge Oftel, the watchdog for the communications

industry, to introduce 'call barring' of the numbers used by prostitutes

to ensure the Government's action is effective.



It will also urge the Home Secretary Jack Straw to implement his reserve

powers to protect bus stops if they become a target for the so-called

'tarts cards'.



Critics of the Government's plan have warned it would force more

prostitutes back on to the streets. But Charles Clarke, the Home Office

Minister, said: 'The cards can be seen by children. They create a bad

impression for overseas visitors.'



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