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10 Dec 2003 : Column 496W—continued

Criminal Justice System (Public Confidence)

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of recent trends in public confidence in the criminal justice system in the Nottinghamshire Criminal Justice Board area; and if he will make a statement. [140597]

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Paul Goggins: Responses to the British Crime Survey (BCS) on confidence in Nottinghamshire indicate that confidence in bringing offenders to justice has fallen from 36 per cent. in 2001/2002 to 28 per cent. in 2002–03.

Improving confidence in the Criminal Justice System is a key priority for both the National Criminal Justice Board and Local Criminal Justice Boards. Nottinghamshire and other Local Criminal Justice Boards have prepared action plans to address local confidence issues. These plans include actions to provide better services to victims and witness, to address the priorities of local communities and to improve communications with the public.

Identity Cards

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what period of time he proposes that identity cards should remain valid. [140510]

Beverley Hughes: We expect the validity period of the card to be 10 years.

However, in order to ensure that the cards, which incorporate technology features such as a microchip function, are reliable, it may be necessary to replace the cards after five years.

The costs estimates which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out in Command Paper 6020 were based on the assumption that this automatic replacement card would be provided free of charge.

The scheme would also include an allowance for having a lifetime card validity period for those who have been in retirement for some time.

Foreign nationals coming to the United Kingdom for more than three months would be issued with a card valid for up to five years depending on the conditions of their clearance. For foreign nationals granted permanent residence the validity period for their cards would be on the same basis as that for British citizens.

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the cost of introducing identity cards in the UK; and what assessment he has made of the likely benefits. [141327]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 8 December 2003]: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced on 11 November that the Government have decided to begin the process of introducing a national identity cards scheme following the consultation paper published in July 2002.

The Government are determined to ensure that the development of a national identity cards scheme is managed to the highest standards, and that the major business change and IT challenges which we face are dealt with effectively. A Programme Board has been established, chaired by the Home Office, to co-ordinate and drive forward the different elements of the identity cards scheme. Progress at every stage will be monitored and reviewed as further decisions are taken during the implementation. Before decisions are taken on implementation, there will be an intensive phase of feasibility assessment and prototyping so that decision making is soundly based and risks in the programme are kept to a minimum. Once the Office of Government

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Commerce (OGC) has confirmed that the programme is ready to proceed, by means of an OGC Gateway Zero review, we will publish draft legislation to enable the scheme to be introduced.

Set up costs for the first three years have been estimated at £186 million. Costs thereafter will be covered by charges. It would not be appropriate to publish more detailed information while we prepare options for procurement and implementation of the identity cards scheme. However, we are continuing to work with potential suppliers and partners to ensure estimates are accurate, realistic and deliverable.

An identity card scheme will provide a number of benefits including to help deter and prevent illegal immigration and illegal working and to combat identity fraud enhancing our capability to counter terrorism and serious and organised crime. Identity cards will make it easier to prove entitlement to public services and faster to prove one's own identity for public or private transactions, enabling individuals to assert their identity and that they belong here as well as protecting an individual's own identity from identity fraud.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the public services for which devolved administrations have responsibility and which he envisages will be included in the compulsory card scheme. [141174]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 2 December 2003]: The powers and responsibilities of each devolved Administration are governed by the Acts of Parliament which established them and by any relevant Transfer of Functions Orders and post devolution Acts.

It is intended that the draft Identity Cards Bill will include enabling powers so that in the future access to specified public services could be linked to the production of a valid identity card. In the case of services for which the devolved Administrations are responsible, decisions on whether the identity card should be required for access to these services would be a matter for them.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason a single Minister has responsibility for immigration, asylum and terrorism and their implications for Government policy and strategy. [142903]

Beverley Hughes: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has overall responsibility for immigration, asylum and counter-terrorism issues as part of his ministerial portfolio. On these issues, I provide in-depth support and scrutiny.

All ministerial appointments are the responsibility of the Prime Minister.

Pornographic Websites

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what legal restrictions are in place to ensure that children under the age of 18 do not have access to pornographic internet sites. [140652]

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Paul Goggins: The same legal restrictions apply to the publication of pornographic material on-line as they do off-line.

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 makes it an offence to publish any article which is considered to be obscene; that is, an article which, in the view of the court, tends to "deprave and corrupt" a person likely to see, hear or read it. The Act has been successfully applied to material published via the internet although enforcement is more difficult because the publisher or website operator is frequently based abroad and beyond UK jurisdiction. In addition, the taking, making, distribution, possession or publication of indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children are all serious criminal offences.

Given the nature of the internet, we believe that it is not possible to prevent children under the age of 18 having access to pornographic internet websites by legislative means. However, there are ways of reducing the risk of children accessing such material by practical measures and raising awareness.

For example, a wide range of filtering software packages have been developed to enable schools and parents to restrict the types of websites to which their children have access. The Task Force on Child Protection on the internet, a multi-agency group which was established in March 2001, has set up a sub-group on rating and filtering, to consider how to evaluate and provide advice in the long term on filtering and other safety software products. The sub-group has made an initial report to the Task Force and will report again in due course.

At the beginning of the year, the Task Force published a single document covering separate models of good practice aimed at providers of chat services, instant messaging and web services, including providers of adult content. We consider that these models are a significant step forward in making the internet a safer place for children. As far as we know they are unique. They are voluntary but were presented to the industry with a strong recommendation that they be used. We are confident that they will be supported, by the major service providers represented on the Task Force and by the Internet Service Providers Association. The effectiveness of the models will be evaluated.

The Task Force has also run two successful public awareness campaigns highlighting both the huge benefits that the internet has to offer and the potential risks particularly to children of giving out personal information online.

The Government are determined to deal with paedophile activity vigorously, and in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 we have introduced, among other child protection measures, new offences relating to a person showing a child sexual material. Section 12 makes it an offence to cause a child, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, to look at an image of a person engaging in sexual activity. It carries a maximum penalty on indictment of 10 years imprisonment.

Terrorism (Organised Crime)

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the relationship

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between drug crime, organised and international crime and terrorism; and what the implications are for Government policy and strategy. [142203]

Caroline Flint: We recognise that there are links between some of those involved in drugs and organised crime and terrorist groups. We have therefore introduced a range of powers to deal with this in the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and we continue to work closely with our international partners.

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