The increase in the numbers of babies and children used in begging in London has been confirmed by the social services departments of several inner London boroughs, peers were told.
Cross-bencher Lord Gladwyn said people were distressed to see them begging on the streets and the London Underground.
He added: 'Last winter the home office stated that such practice would not be tolerated. Since it is obvious that the women holding the babies are highly organised, is there not a case for a more co-ordinated approach to that problem, indeed to begging as a whole,
Home office minister Lord Williams of Mostyn said that in 1998 almost 1,600 offences of begging were recorded. 'Last year, the Metropolitan Police recorded only 27 cases of using a child for the purpose of begging - a distinct criminal offence - but I recognise that
there are likely to be many more', he said.
The minister said there had been a well-organised and co-ordinated exercise dealing with beggars with children on the Tube lines between Mile End and Tower Hill, involving the police, social services departments and the NSPCC.
Conservative Baroness Trumpington said she had been stopped by a young girl carrying a placard saying: 'Money for food. I am from Kosovo'. When she arrived at the lords she was told the Tube was full of such people and they were not from Kosovo.
Lord Williams said it was doubly wicked for beggars to pretend to be from Kosovo and prey on public sympathy.