- Dennis Parsons compared prostitution with accountancy at a conference
- He questioned why schools are not mentioning prostitution as a career
- Lib Dem leader Tim Farron distanced himself from what Mr Parsons said
A Liberal Democrat councillor has told a party conference that schools could suggest prostitution as a career to pupils.
Dennis Parsons, who is chairman of the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats, made the comment during a special session on sex work.
The retired civil servant said school career officers are currently not allowed to mention prostitution as a potential line of work, but added: ‘Why shouldn’t they?’
Mr Parsons also compared prostitution with accountancy when discussing how to combat the stigma attached to sex work.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron distanced himself from his remarks, but revealed he will not ‘slap down’ Mr Parsons for making the statement as people should be allowed to say ‘shocking things’.
Mr Parsons, a married father-of-five, said: ‘The fact that we are asking “should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?” is part of the problem.
‘You wouldn’t ask the question “should we prevent people becoming accountants?” You’d just take it for granted.
‘We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade.
‘Well, again, you wouldn’t protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants.
‘And even in this room full of liberals we have got a huge cultural problem that we do see sex work as different.
‘We see it as something a little bit tacky, and not quite nice, and not the sort of thing that we would want our sons and daughters to get involved in.
‘We talk about schools – how many schools are going to have careers officers say to people, “have you thought about prostitution?”
‘It’s not going to happen. And that’s a cultural thing. Why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they?’
Mr Parsons claims to be an ‘old-fashioned Liberal’ and spent most of his career in London while also working as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Tokyo.
He also said that he ‘enjoys campaigning’ and is a supporter of Chelsea FC while also having a season ticket at his local club, Cheltenham Town FC.
And after his remarks at the conference in Brighton, Mr Farron said: ‘It is a wonderful thing that we are in a party where those sort of views can be expressed and you can have that sort of exchange.
‘They are certainly not my views. Drawing the equivalence between sex work and accountancy is not one that I share.
‘I think we are in a position where we are a liberal party and it’s not for me to go telling anyone that they can’t have views and share them.
‘That’s how you get to the bottom of these things.
‘Actually, if you believe in education – we’re talking about careers – then what you really want is for people to be able to explore ideas, and that means sometimes saying things that are quite shocking, really.
‘So, no, I’m not going to go slapping people down. The whole point of having a debate is that you test different opinions and you come out with, on the basis of the evidence, the right solution.’
Delegates heard that decriminalising prostitution would raise £1 billion a year for the Treasury in taxes.