§ Mr. David Shaw
To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to the answer of 18 January,Official Report, column 711, if he will make a statement on his Department's current policy in respect of regulation of the Internet and encryption. 
§ Mr. Ian Taylor
The Internet represents a significant range of commercial opportunities and it is important for the competitiveness of the UK economy that business take full advantage of it. It is crucial that the regulatory framework should not discourage this.535W
Although child pornography and obscenity are covered by the same laws on the Internet as in any other media— recent prosecutions have been encouraging—the Government recognise that there are legitimate concerns about the distribution of unsuitable material over the Internet. The Government consider that a voluntary approach is now most likely to be effective in addressing these issues further. Constructive discussions have been held with service providers to establish how action by them can help control access to undesirable material and this will be pursued over the coming months.
On encryption, I described the consideration being given to the provision of encrypted services on public networks in the reply I gave my hon. Friend on 23 October 1995, Official Report, columns 421–22. Discussions within Government and within Europe are continuing.
§ Mr. French
To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 13 December,Official Report, column 639, what further progress has been made in assessing the feasibility of regulating the content of material disseminated via the Internet; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Taylor
DTI and Home Office officials have had a constructive meeting with Internet service providers to discuss concerns about the availability of pornographic material on the Internet, and ways of controlling access by children and young people to such material. The Government consider that a voluntary approach is most likely to be effective in addressing the problem and will be pursuing this with service providers over the coming months. There are service providers who will assist parents and schools in providing restricted access, but this is a matter for individuals to pursue.