Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 577-579)


14 MAY 2008

  Chairman: Good afternoon and welcome to this, a further session of the Committee inquiry into harmful content on the Internet and in electronic games. Due to the slightly unusual timing of our hearing today, the Committee is not at full strength and some of my colleagues have to depart but we are hoping for further reinforcements in due course. I welcome three Ministers: from DCMS Margaret Hodge, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families Kevin Brennan, and from the Home Office Vernon Coaker.

  Q577 Mr Evans: It is appropriate particularly as well that Kevin Brennan is before the DCMS Select Committee this afternoon as he will be performing for us tonight at the Royal Albert Hall. We wish you well on that. Have you been rehearsing?

  Kevin Brennan: I think that I am more confident about tonight than I am about today.

  Q578  Mr Evans: The written evidence that the Committee has received is a short memorandum from DCMS and BERR but we are wondering why the Home Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families did not submit their own independent written evidence.

  Margaret Hodge: This is a committee to which we are accountable primarily, this is a departmental committee, but, in preparing that evidence, we of course not only consulted but incorporated the views of all of the relevant departments and indeed, you will know, Chairman, that we wanted to bring four ministers to today's hearing and you decided in your wisdom that that would outdo you in number, so we limit ourselves to three. We are working very, very strongly. I think that I have given evidence with Vernon jointly to a number of Select Committees probably about three or four times. I have not had the pleasure of giving evidence with Kevin before but I am looking forward to doing so today. We are very joined-up, but we thought it would be easier for you to have one bit of evidence from across Government with input from all departments.

  Q579  Mr Evans: I thought it was important to establish that. Dr Byron has proposed a UK Council for Child Internet Safety to be chaired jointly by DCSF and the Home Office. Should the Department for Culture, Media and Sport also have a co-chairing role in that?

  Mr Coaker: In Dr Byron's report, it also says that DCMS should play a crucial role and mentions DCMS specifically as well playing a key role in the new UK Council that she has recommended and we have accepted and indeed we have written out to members—my colleague Kevin Brennan will also say something about this—of the Home Secretary's Taskforce today inviting them to become members of the new UK Council which Dr Byron was saying should be started in April 2009 but in fact we are going to set up in September of this year recognising the importance of it. Also, the report said that the Home Secretary's Taskforce was a model of good practice with respect to child protection on the Internet and what she was very keen to do was to ensure that that model of good practice that brought industry, children's charities, Government and law enforcement, all of those different people, together was taken forward. Hence, the need for the Home Office to be one of the co-chairs but also, as you know, Mr Evans, alongside that part of the report, she talked about the need to better inform parents and better inform people in terms of educating them, not only young people but parents as well, in the crucial importance of this given that she has asked for a self-regulatory framework. In looking at that, she therefore came to the judgment that it would be better, having looked at different options, that you have a co-chair involving ourselves at the Home Office and the DCSF but with DCMS as well as a number of government departments and all of the other various partners that we have had on the Home Secretary's Taskforce playing a crucial role.

  Margaret Hodge: We are currently members of the Home Office Taskforce, so we really are joined at the hip on this one.

  Kevin Brennan: As well as the existing members, we have also written out today to other stakeholders inviting them to join the Council and indeed the devolved administrations as well as government departments.

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