HC Deb 18 March 1997 vol 292 cc501-2W
Sir Cranley Onslow

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps here Department is taking to prevent access by children to the adult material content of the Internet. [20195]

Mr. Ian Taylor

[holding answer 17 March 1997]: My Department has worked extensively with the industry, the Home Office and the police to develop an appropriate approach to this important issue. We have encouraged the industry in a self-regulatory approach, backed-up by the application of existing law, and the existing penalties, in the Internet environment. As a result, on 23 September 1996, I was able to launch an industry led initiative— now known as "Internet Watch"—with the backing of the police and the Home Office.

An independent "Internet Watch Foundation"—IWF— was created by the industry to provide a hot-line service where illegal material can be reported and acted upon with the involvement of the service providers and the police as necessary. IWF is also developing, with the help of an advisory board which includes child protection organisations, ratings systems to advise users and suppliers of the normal content of news groups and web pages. This provides both the means to uphold the existing law "on-line", and to provide advisory ratings for other material, which while legal, might be considered unsuitable for children or other vulnerable groups.

Service providers have undertaken to support the availability of ratings material and the facilities in browsing software to screen out material which parents do not wish their children to encounter. This is a major step forward in promoting responsible use of the Internet and in giving parents the tools with which to exercise their own responsibilities for their children "on-line". Copies of the proposal describing the scheme, which has been operating successfully for several months, were placed in the Library of the House at the time the scheme was launched, under the name of "R3 Safety-Net".