HC Deb 24 April 2002 vol 384 cc322-3W
Mr. Rosindell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to ensure children do not have access to indecent publications. [49690]

Mr. Keith Bradley

The Government are particularly concerned that the young and more vulnerable members of society should be protected from potentially harmful material.

The general law underpins this approach. The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is the principal control on broadcast and published works, including material published via the internet, and makes it a criminal offence to publish any article which, in the view of the court, tends to "deprave and corrupt" those who are likely to read, see or hear it. In addition, under the Indecent Displays (Controls) Act 1981 it is an offence to display any indecent material in a public place or where it can be seen from a public place. In addition, where a publication does not fall under these controls, most newsagents abide by a voluntary code of practice, placing pornographic magazines on the top shelves and refusing to sell them to young people under 18.

The internet, while offering many positive opportunities to children, presents a particular challenge in this area and the Government established a Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet in March 2001 with representatives from the internet industry, child welfare organisations, the police, the Government, the main opposition parties and others. The objectives of the task force include: scoping new legislative measures specifically to tackle "grooming" of children by paedophiles online (and offline); developing effective safeguards for children using the Internet and improved mechanisms for reporting online crimes and concerns about activity online; and raising awareness of adults and children of how to surf the net and use chat rooms safely.

The Government also support the development of robust and effective rating and filtering tools which can help parents to control their children's access to material on the net. We recently welcomed the launch of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA)'s free filtering software as a significant step forward in this area.

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