Internet (Child Pornography)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 13th February 2006.

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Photo of Judy Mallaber Judy Mallaber Labour, Amber Valley 2:30 pm, 13th February 2006

What further steps he plans to take to restrict the ability of individuals to download pornographic images of children from the internet.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

The UK internet industry and the Internet Watch Foundation continue to lead the world in limiting access to illegal images. In April, this work will be further strengthened by the establishment of the new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Photo of Judy Mallaber Judy Mallaber Labour, Amber Valley

I welcome the work being undertaken by Government and the industry, but a BT survey showed that last week 35,000 attempts were made daily by its internet customers to download child porn websites—a three-fold increase, all blocked by BT's clean feed technology. However, one in five British households still have unrestricted, unfettered access to such illegal images of children being abused. That is outrageous. Will my hon. Friend put the industry on notice that those of its members who refuse to sort out their act had better do so before we introduce regulation to force them to introduce that technology?

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I welcome my hon. Friend's contribution not just this afternoon, but throughout the years that she has been in the House, where she has constantly raised the issue, which is of key concern to so many. I also welcome the work that BT has done with its clean feed operation. Eighteen months ago, no sites were blocked because the technology did not exist. BT has introduced the technology and now 80 per cent. of internet service providers use it. The question is how we achieve the 100 per cent. that my hon. Friend and I want to see. I engage in regular discussions with the industry and I am determined that we will hit that 100 per cent., albeit through the voluntary route.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The industry has a role to play, but so do the Government. When I was engaged in discussions with the Government on behalf of constituents recently about analogous sites that promote suicide, the Government responded that they could not do much about it because many of the sites came from overseas. Does the Minister agree that there is a role for the Government to play, leading the way internationally by bringing in a law banning such sites within the United Kingdom, even if we still receive the smut and filth from overseas?

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman is right that many of the sites are based overseas and it is essential that we work with our international partners to bear down on the problem. May I give him one example? Within the G8, we led the way in pioneering a new international database of child abuse. We have handed the database over to Interpol. It will be possible to put any child abuse image anywhere in the world on the database, which means that we can find the victims and the perpetrators and, working together with our international colleagues, we can bear down on this dreadful problem.