12 Jun 2000 : Column 706

8 pm

Sir Paul Beresford: Before the Minister goes on, will he reply to a final question? One of the
drives behind the new clauses was their proactive aspect. They are designed to protect a child
from damage while allowing for the arrest and conviction of the offender. Is that the sort of
approach that the Minister is willing to take in further amendments and legislation?

Mr. Boateng: I wholeheartedly endorse the proactive approach; it is the best way of
proceeding. We must ensure that action is taken against violent and sexual predators. That is
why we will shall come forward with proposals, and we shall announce our conclusions in due
course. The Select Committee on Home Affairs has already endorsed our proposals for
offenders and others with severe personality disorders that make such people a danger.
Violent, predatory paedophiles will be among that group, and it is right that we are proactive in
responding to the problems that they present. I have no doubt about that.

The underlying philosophy of the amendments is shared by the whole House. We have to
ensure that we work in a way that is holistic and that our strategy recognises the complexity of
the process. An action in one place, unless it is thought through and is part of a holistic
strategy, can have the reverse effect from that which we intended.

I sense that the House wishes to arrive at a rapid conclusion on this matter, but it is a serious
issue and I do not want anyone to be in any doubt about the extent to which we take it
seriously. Although we cannot accept new clauses 5 and 6 for the reasons that I have given, it
is important to ensure--I now come to new clause 7--that we do all that we can to curb the
misuse of the internet by child pornographers and paedophiles. We have a great deal of
sympathy for the intent behind new clause 7, but it contains gaps in the way in which it
responds to the complexity of the issues involved. That is why we intend to proceed with
the work that we are doing with, among others, the internet relay chat sub-group,
which has been set up to examine the issue in detail, to identify the problems and to
recommend solutions. That sub-group will present its report to the internet crime
forum by the end of August and we need to wait for its conclusions and its
recommendations before moving to legislation. However, we accept the thrust behind the
new clause.