Discussions with banks and industry bodies have led to the recently announced Joint Fraud Taskforce. This is the first time that banks, police and Government have joined together to ensure that the public are aware of, and protected from, fraud. The taskforce’s mission is to counter the wicked work of fraudsters.
While I absolutely understand the difficulties in effectively policing the internet, financial scams—judging by my own parliamentary account—seem to be completely out of control, and the most vulnerable people are being targeted. Will my right hon. Friend therefore have another look at this issue to see whether there is some way we can bring these criminals to account?
Because we have taken a fresh look at this, as my hon. Friend recommends, we have launched the joint taskforce; we are continuing to support the Cyber Streetwise campaign, which makes people more aware of, and therefore more guarded about, fraud; and we invested £90 million on cyber-security in the previous Parliament and will invest £1.9 billion over the next five years. We take this seriously, not least, Mr Speaker, because, as you know, in the cyber-age I am a cyber-Minister—up to the minute, up to the mark and up to the job.
Since the cyber-Minister is up to the mark, may I ask him about the activities of a website called Bestvalid, which was discovered recently selling the stolen bank details of 100,000 British citizens? Can he explain, as an up-to-the-minute cyber-Minister, how it was possible for this website to carry on for six months before being closed down, and how much of the £1.9 billion that he is targeting on cybercrime will be used proactively to close down sites of this kind?
The right hon. Gentleman knows, because his Select Committee has drawn attention to this in the past, that it is critically important that the Government work with all other agencies, including banks and private sector organisations, and the taskforce will be missioned to do that. It may be worth saying that this is summed up by the fact that the National Police Chiefs Council has publicly signed up to
“commit our full support to the objectives and actions of the…Taskforce”
“work in partnership to…protect the public from becoming victims of fraud and fraud scams, maximising opportunities to stop fraudsters from operating”,
in exactly the way he recommends.
The cyber-Minister will know that people are more likely to be mugged online than in the street, with serious consequences for victims. After five years of the Government saying, “We cut police but we have cut crime”, will he confirm that, when 6 million cybercrimes are included in the statistics, the truth will be told that far from falling, crime is changing, and that our country now faces crime doubling just as this Government continue to cut the number of police officers?
The hon. Gentleman will be disappointed that I am going to say that he is right to draw attention to the scale of this problem. I remind him that we were the Government who made the decision to publish these statistics and to designate cybercrime in the way that we have, because until we appreciate the scale of the problem, we will not develop the solutions necessary to deal with it. As he will know, we are using some of the extra resource to set up the national cyber centre to co-ordinate work in this area.