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Credit Regulation (Child Pornography)

Volume 514: debated on Wednesday 21 July 2010

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to impose penalties on credit and debit card providers for the facilitation of the downloading of child pornography from the internet; and for connected purposes.

My Bill would penalise credit card companies that enable the downloading of child pornography off the internet. The International Business Times says:

“Child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online”.

Let us not forget that behind every image is a child who has been abused, tragically immortalised on the web. Until 2002, users simply submitted their credit and debit card details online to download images of abuse from the web. These days the new route for users is to hide their identity by using pre-paid credit cards to download images. These pre-paid cards are available to adults and children for £100 a time at service stations and high street retailers without the need to provide proof of identity.

These Visa, Mastercard and other cards are then used to download images of child abuse by simply clicking on spam links to enter a growing number of sites. The user simply exchanges the credit card number and its value for a password to enable downloading. If more credit is needed, it is just a matter of buying more £100 cards to pay for more and more abuse. The same cards are used by children to buy knives, alcohol and other items online. All the buyer has to do is put his name and address down as, say, Donald Duck at Buckingham Palace, and away he goes.

The simple fact is that, under current legislation, no proof of identity is required for card values below £100 or €150. So the existing controls, which were designed to target money laundering via the now abolished Financial Services Authority, do not work to protect children or to stop the growth of online child pornography. That is why Parliament should back the provisions in my Bill to make credit and debit card companies liable for penalties when their cards are used to download images of abuse.

The provisions will work. International evidence shows that the authorities can target payment systems to change behaviour. For example, in the USA, credit card companies were banned from being used for internet gambling transactions and face fines if they allow such use. But in addition to fines, my Bill would require proof of identity and address such as passports, birth certificates or utility bills to buy pre-paid credit cards.

We cannot just rely—as some think we can—on the credit card industry policing itself. During Operation Ore, in 2002 the police carried out a mass raid on those using conventional credit cards to download child pornography, and that led to 1,750 convictions and 700 cautions. Since then, the credit card companies, including Visa and Mastercard, have invested heavily to stop the use of conventional cards, but that particular horse had, of course, already bolted. Few abusers would now risk their identities becoming known, so now they use pre-paid cards instead. Once more we find ourselves with growing credit card-driven child abuse on the web. The credit card companies are not taking pre-emptive action. There is lots of money involved and no appetite for voluntary industry action—[Interruption.] I thank hon. Members for their support for taking action rather than sitting back and letting the abuse go on. The more time that goes by, the more children are being abused. The more financial momentum these transactions cause, the more child abuse image users and addicts are created.

So Parliament must act and it is with no hesitation that I offer this Bill for the House to support. I am grateful for the blessing of hon. Members on both sides of the House and growing public interest—this is the BBC’s second most watched online story today and, I am reliably informed, is No. 2 on Teletext. I hope that the Government will listen and adopt the provisions into mainstream legislation. Today, let the House speak with one voice and send a clear message to those who would have our children abused and those who allow it to happen that we will not stand idly by. We will use the powers at our disposal and we will put the protection of children first.

Question put and agreed to.


That Geraint Davies, Catherine McKinnell, Mr Edward Leigh, Jessica Morden, Greg Mulholland, Luciana Berger, Mr Peter Bone, Nia Griffith, Mr Ian Davidson, Rosie Cooper, Lindsay Roy and Mr Adam Holloway present the Bill.

Geraint Davies accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 19 November 2010 and to be printed (Bill 61).