22/04/2014 09:34 BST | Updated 22/04/2014 09:59 BST

Caroline Spelman, Former Tory Minister, Says Paying For Sex Should Be Made Illegal

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A former Tory cabinet minister has said the UK should outlaw the purchase of sex in an urgent call for the reform of Britain's prostitution laws.

Caroline Spelman urged male politicians to enter a public debate on the issue, saying that she supports the Nordic model which makes it a crime to buy, but not sell, sexual services.

The former Environment Secretary told the Guardian: "I think the Nordic law is the right direction, but we need cross-party support for it."

Spelman said that it was crucial more men make their views on the reform of prostitution laws public.

"It's very important men come out and say what they think as well because it's very emotive."

She said that she was shocked by estimates that thousands of prostitutes in the UK had been trafficked, and believed such sexual exploitation would have to be addressed through demand.

But last month, when a cross-party group of MPs called for Britain to adopt the Nordic model, sex workers reacted furiously.

The year-long parliamentary enquiry argued that prostitution should be seen as violence against women and an affront to sexual equality, but sex workers and campaigners have argued that the criminalisation of clients would push sex work underground, further stigmatise women and put lives at risk.

The Home Office currently has no plans to review prostitution laws. Home secretary Theresa May opposed calls or clients rather than prostitutes to be criminalised when it was proposed by Labour in 2008.

In December last year France's lower house of parliament passed a reform of prostitution law which imposes fines on clients, in an emulation of the Nordic model that has caused a split in the country and angered sex workers.