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Child Pornography

Volume 447: debated on Monday 19 June 2006

4. What further steps he plans to take to stop pornographic images of children being downloaded from the internet. (77873)

We continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies, the new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, industry and international colleagues, to tackle the downloading of such images. I have recently set the UK internet industry a target to ensure that by the end of 2007, all internet service providers offering broadband internet connectivity to the UK public prevent their customers from accessing those websites.

As my hon. Friend knows, BT is blocking about 35,000 attempts every day to download child pornography from websites. Can he explain whether the announcement that he has just made about the target will be a compulsory regulation for the ISPs, which is necessary in order to cut the market and end child abuse around the world?

We are determined to tackle that abuse, and our abhorrence is shared across the House. We expect 90 per cent. of internet service providers to have blocked access to sites abroad by the end of 2006. The target is that by the end of 2007 that will be 100 per cent. We believe that working with the industry offers us the best way forward, but we will keep that under review if it looks likely that the targets will not be met.

Given that the registration of sex offenders who pose a continued threat to children is as low as 30 per cent. on registers in operation in some states in the United States, whereas the equivalent figure in the UK is well over 90 per cent. on the sex offenders register, does the Minister agree with the Minister for Children and Families, the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes) who stated in 2002 that

“making information about sex offenders widely available would hinder child protection”—[Official Report, 15 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 180W.]

precisely because it would drive some of the most serious sex offenders underground? If that is the case, why do the Government seem to be revisiting an idea that was so summarily rejected by the Minister’s predecessors?

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has announced, we are considering all those matters, and we will reach our conclusions in due course. The Government’s aim is to tackle access to child pornography on the internet, sexual abuse and sex offenders, and we will come up with the best policies to do so.

I thank my hon. Friend for his positive response to my ten-minute Bill. Is he aware that children’s charities and credit card companies are working together to see whether credit cards can be used to block access to child pornography? And will he tell us when schedule 3 to the Data Protection Act 1998 will be amended to allow us to end that despicable crime?

I thank my hon. Friend for pressurising the Government to take further action. The order that she has mentioned was laid on 13 June.