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UK shop price inflation slows to 1 per cent in July

Lowest rise in food inflation since 2010.

Overall shop price inflation in the UK slowed to 1 per cent in July from 1.1 per cent in June, according to figures released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Nielsen.

Food inflation fell to 3.1 per cent in July from 3.5 per cent the previous month, marking the lowest rise since 2010. Deflation in non-food items was unchanged at 0.3 per cent in July.

Stephen Robertson, director-general of BRC, said:

A two-year low for food inflation is good news for hard-pressed households still suffering falls in disposable incomes. Lower shop price inflation is helping to narrow the gap between living costs and wage increases.

Extra promotions, particularly linked to party food and this summer's big events, are combining with past falls in commodity prices, which are working their way through to shop prices.

But the relief may not last. Poor harvests, especially of corn and wheat in the US, are creating a build-up of inflationary pressure. Animal feed has risen sharply in recent months and is likely to affect prices for things like meat, poultry and eggs.

Overall, non-food goods were cheaper than a year ago for a sixth month as retailers discounted to generate sales. Great news for customers who have spare money to spend on clothing, electricals and furniture. But many don't have money available or the confidence to spend even with prices down.

Mike Watkins, senior manager of retailer services at Nielsen, said:

Over the last few months, we have seen difficult trading conditions due to the unseasonable weather. In food, promotions remain close to an all-time high and the focus on price cuts and the use of vouchers or coupons continues as consumer demand is unpredictable.

So, shoppers are seeing a double benefit as external cost price pressures have also eased a little which contributed to a further slowing in shop price inflation in July. Once back from their summer holidays, we expect consumers to still be cautious about big ticket or discretionary spend, which is why there is no upward pressure on non-food prices at the moment.

The BRC-Nielsen shop price index is a monthly measure of UK shop price inflation. It measures changes in the price of 500 of the most commonly bought items.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.