Legalising prostitution would save the NHS £330 million every year, and halve the spread of sexual diseases according to one medical expert.

Chris Spencer Jones, chair of the BMA public health committee, told the BMA’s annual conference on public health and medicine that around 70% of all STIs (sexually transmitted infections) occurred among prostitutes and their clients.

“If prostitution was legalised and regulated, you wouldn’t get an exactly 70% drop in STIs, but I would be confident in saying that you would get a 50% drop,” he said

“What I am told is that this is a widespread picture, so I would be happy to say that you would get the same results anywhere else in the country.

“Nationally, sexual health services cost around £700 million a year. While regulating prostitution would probably cost £20 – 25 million a year to staff, we’re still looking at a saving of £330 million every year if the industry was regulated.”

In Birmingham the HIV rate has risen 50% between 1994 and 2004, while in London the rate has more than doubled.

Mr Spencer Jones said: “Not all of this is caused by prostitution because if you have people entering the country infected with HIV, the rates are going to go up anyway.

He added that the most prostitutes insisted that their clients wore condoms, but vulnerable workers could be pressured into having unprotected sex by their clients.

He said: “If you wear a condom, your risk of catching an STI is dramatically reduced. I’m told by our team working in the sex industry in Birmingham that prostitutes are very keen for their clients to wear condoms.

“Most workers at the top end of the market would not agree to have sex without a condom. Drug users at the lower end of prostitution don’t want to have unprotected sex either, but if the clients says that they won’t pay unless they do, then they will agree because they are desperate for their next fix.”

Regulation of the industry would make prostitutes safer, and prevent attacks like those which left at least five prostitutes in Suffolk and Norfolk dead last year.

If prostitutes had to be licensed and submitted to regular testing, the spread of STIs would be dramatically reduced.

Mr Spencer Jones also added: “If you look at somewhere like Holland, even they find it hard to regulate all of the sex workers, but what happens is that brothels seek a license, and they submit to regulations.

“We want to do that here, and include testing for diseases and the practising of safe sex. I think that’s fairly uncontroversial.

“Young girls who are vulnerable are lured into the industry and made to be dependant on drugs, and it would happen less if the industry was regulated. It’s about reducing the human cost, about harm reduction.”