Ministers are privately discussing changes to prostitution laws to make it possible to prosecute men who pay for sex, it was claimed yesterday.

Senior female members of the Government, including Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, are sympathetic to the proposal to try to stem the growing tide of women trafficked to the UK to work as prostitutes.

The Home Office said it had no plans to alter the law to make buying sex, rather than selling it, an offence, as Sweden did eight years ago.

But the Guardian named the Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman as having shown an interest in the change.

It quoted an unnamed minister as saying: "There is increasing awareness among senior ministers, particularly women, that demand for prostitution is an area which needs to be tackled seriously and hasn't been."