Brothels should be legalised to allow prostitutes to work in safety, according to a Birmingham MP.

Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak) called for changes in the law to allow "mini-brothels" where two or three women could work together.

She said these would avoid the nuisance for neighbours caused by larger establishments. Debate about the laws governing prostitution has been fuelled by comments from Cabinet Minister Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, who suggested it should be a crime to pay for sex.

There is currently no law against paying for the services of a prostitute, although kerb crawling is already an offence.

Birmingham MP Gisela Stuart (Lab) has launched a consultation with residents in her Edgbaston constituency about the introduction of "zones of safety" in which people who use prostitutes would face criminal prosecution.

But making it an offence to pay for sex could drive prostitution "further underground", Dr Jones said.

It was important to learn the lessons of the murders of five women in Ipswich, in 2006, she said. "After the Ipswich murders, there was public recognition that driving prostitutes away from places they can operate more safely was a contributory factor to the vulnerability of these women.

"Ensuring women have more control over their lives and that prostitution is not sent further 'underground' than is already the case, is the best way of countering exploitation of vulnerable people."