HC Deb 14 February 2003 vol 400 cc126-7W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to tackle sex tourism by British people, with particular reference to those who are known paedophiles; and if he will make a statement. [98103]

Hilary Benn

The Government are committed to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children, including where United Kingdom citizens go abroad to abuse children. We have already put in place a number of measures to deal with this problem:

The Sex Offenders Act 1997 enables courts in the United Kingdom to deal with UK citizens who commit sex offences against children abroad. This provision is being re-enacted in the Sexual Offences Bill;Since June 2001, 'registered' sex offenders are required to notify the police if they intend to travel abroad for eight days or more. The police can, and do, pass this information to other jurisdictions where they believe the offender may commit offences overseas;We are proposing, as part of the Sexual Offences Bill, a new order that would require those who have committed sex offences overseas to register if they come to the UK (which will mean they will have to notify the police if they intend to travel abroad);The Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 makes it an offence for a person to conspire to commit an offence outside the UK, including sexual offences against children.

As my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and Lord Falconer have recently made clear, we are looking further at the issue of sex tourism, including the number of days a sex offender 'registered' in the United Kingdom can travel overseas before he is required to notify the police. We are determined to ensure that effective arrangements are put in place to tackle this issue and we will address this in the Sexual Offences Bill.

However, legislation is not the only way of dealing with this problem. Sex tourism is one part of a wider set of issues in which poor people—particularly young women and children—are vulnerable to the interests of the sex industry, national and international trafficking and associated illegal activities. It is an international problem which requires internationally coordinated action. We are working with Governments, law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to tackle this problem head on wherever it occurs.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development support projects in many parts of the world aimed at combating those who commit offences against children. Much of the focus of such projects is on reducing the vulnerability of young people being recruited into this industry. Across Government, we are supporting the efforts of regional and international agencies to combat trafficking, strengthen law enforcement and improve the mechanisms for prosecution of those who commit sex offences abroad.

The Government are actively involved in a number of projects to combat sexual exploitation, particularly in South East Asia.

Through the International Labour Organisation we are funding a major programme in South East Asia to raise awareness, help women and children escape from sexual exploitation, and reintegrate them into their own or new communities.We are working with World Vision in Cambodia to run an information programme on the dangers of sexual exploitation aimed at children at risk, local authorities and the tourism industry.We are funding projects to help train the Cambodian police to detect and disrupt paedophile activity and to raise awareness of the issue among street children.We have worked to improve child protection and support in Thailand by bringing over expert trainers from the Northumberland police and The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).We have provided child protection equipment and training to the Thai Public Welfare Department.We have funded the translation and adaptation of End Child Prostitution Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT's) "Guide to Protecting Children Online" for use in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan.We have arranged for the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) to bring computer hardware and software to combat child abuse online and train officers from the Royal Thai police; andthere is also close and regular collaboration between officials in Bangkok and their Thai counterparts on the movements and activities of known United Kingdom paedophiles.