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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): 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.
Judy Mallaber: 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 websitesa 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?
Paul Goggins: 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.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
(Con): 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?
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Paul Goggins: 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.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The Government are firmly committed to preventing illegal migrant working and the misuse of our asylum system by those seeking financial advantage, rather than protection. We have significantly reduced the number of unfounded asylum claims since 2002 and increased removals of refused applicants. We have also strengthened legislation relating to employment by reforming section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 and by supporting my hon. Friend's initiative on gangmaster licensing. We are introducing new measures for a civil penalty regime and a tougher criminal offence for employers in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill.
Jim Sheridan: My hon. Friend is aware that, when asylum seekers are caught working illegally in this country, they are dealt with accordingly. What sentences are in place to deal with unscrupulous employers who lure asylum seeker workers into the country on the false pretence of improving their quality of life?
Mr. McNulty: My hon. Friend raises a fair point. If we are being honest, section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 has not dealt with the issue from the employer point of view as successfully as was anticipated. Where it has been successful, that has often been in areas other than under section 8, which is why we considering strengthening the legislation. Last year, when I launched a migrant workers strategy and a statement with the TUC and CBI, both sides were in agreement that it was in nobody's interest to facilitate the arrival or employment of migrants illegallyasylum seekers or otherwiseand that we all need to work to secure a transparent managed migration system, and bear down as heavily as we can on those who employ people illegally, as well as on people who are in the country illegally.
Philip Davies (Shipley)
(Con): The Minister concentrates his fire on employers, but does he agree that, if asylum seekers were detained while their applications were being processed rather than dispersed around the country, and if more failed asylum seekers were kicked out of the country, there would be fewer asylum seekers working?
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Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that, whether working or not, it is vital that vulnerable asylum seekers receive high-quality advice to prevent exploitation and will he therefore agree to examine the plight of the Leicester refugee and asylum advice project, which faces closure despite providing an invaluable specialist service to vulnerable and often desperate clients?
Mr. McNulty: I do not know the details of the specific case in Leicester to which my hon. Friend refers, but I agree with his general point. We are working closely with the Legal Services Commission as we implement our new asylum model to try to ensure that there is input from legal advisers at the pre-decision level. The greater the integrity of the initial decision on an asylum application, the better will that ripple through the system. I agree with the broad point, but cannot comment on the specifics.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Minister agree that genuine asylum seekers coming here from their country of origin in fear of their lives would not jeopardise their status by deliberately breaking the rules set for them and does he therefore agree that those who are found to be working in this country should have their asylum status cancelled and treated accordingly?
We will ensure that, by 2008, every part of the country will have a dedicated, visible, accessible and responsive neighbourhood policing team. There will be a neighbourhood policing team in every area, covering, typically, one or two council wards, in which every resident will know the name of their local police officer, see them on the street and have their phone number and e-mail address.
I apologise to the House for my slightly hoarse voice, the result of cheering on the Welsh team in a fantastic match at the weekend. Even though the Scottish team was one man down, it was a brilliant match. On the subject of being one man down, does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that one of the greatest disadvantages to community policing is when police are pulled away from their duties in the community and that
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neighbourhood policing models will ensure that those police are embedded much more firmly in the communities that they serve?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is correct, except perhaps in the rugby team that he supports. It is critical to deal with so-called abstractions from neighbourhood police teams, whether for operations, as he describes, or for some training functions, and one reason why we are reorganising the strategic level of policing is to strengthen neighbourhood policing.
Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): Will the Home Secretary accept that these schemes in the borough of Bexley are so far working well, although we would like them in Blackfen and Lamorbey as well? Will he take on board the fact that there is a serious problem with the existing teams when the officers are taken away for other duties? When the scheme was introduced, we were assured that that would not happen, but certainly in the Metropolitan police area it is happening.
Mr. Clarke: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support for the policy and glad to pay tribute to the Metropolitan police, who have led the development of the policy throughout the country, with its ambition of securing neighbourhood policing in every part of London by spring next year. I am sure that the House will understand that, over the past months, there have been serious public order issues in London that have led to what the hon. Gentleman described, but the Metropolitan police are trying to address those issues.
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