Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620-631)|
MP, RT HON
MP AND MR
14 MAY 2008
Q620 Chairman: Can I just pursue
Mr Farrelly's point slightly? The money that the DCSF and other
departments are spending is welcome but CEOP is doing the most
important task. You have been full of praise for CEOP and I have
to say that we were extremely impressed when we went there, so
when we said to Jim Gamble about whether he was satisfied, he
replied "Do we have sufficient funding? No. Are children
being put at risk? That is a very difficult question for me to
answer. I have said we do not have sufficient funding; the reality
is that there was no new money." Given the extent to which
more and more people are going on-line as technology is increasing,
the number of reports is growing, should we not be increasing
CEOP's budget dramatically?
Mr Coaker: If CEOP come to us
with a case for more moneymy understanding at the moment,
and I will correct this if it is wrong, is that there is no bid
into the Home Office for additional money for CEOP, but of course
if there were to be that bid we would have to consider it.
Q621 Chairman: It sounds like a bid
to me: "Do we have sufficient funding to be able to do it?
Mr Coaker: Not formally into the
Home Office. Jim Gamble, as I have said, is fantastic and CEOP
is fantastic and we would always consider any bid that we get
from them with respect to this. There are other issues that I
mentioned with respect to Mr Keen about law enforcement with images
other than child abuse images and enforcement of the law there.
There is also an issue about how weif you look at the annual
report of CEOP they said they actually facilitated a number of
arrests for police forces around the country, so there is also
the work that we do with respect to individual forces to increase
their awareness of this and develop that link between police forces
and CEOP as well. As I say, we will always consider, because we
regard it as a priority, if particular bids come in for moneyas
one came in last year where we made an additional amount of money
available. We will always consider it.
Q622 Chairman: You would be pretty
sympathetic to a bid in this area.
Mr Coaker: I am always sympathetic
to CEOP and always sympathetic to Jim Gamble, of course, but that
does not mean even in this area that you can say to people automatically
if they bid for money they will get it.
Margaret Hodge: The point I was
urging my colleague to make to the Committee is that actually
CEOP works with secondees from various other Government departments.
Kevin Brennan: Including from
Margaret Hodge: And also from
charities; therefore, rich as the Home Office is, it does not
necessarily just fall on them, there are other ways in which if
CEOP needs strengthening they can approach that.
Q623 Alan Keen: Better information
and education on e-safety, and rightly so, is quite prominent
in the Byron Review. I would also like to hear about education
in schools afterwards but can I say first of all that we are hearing,
week in and week out, that the problems in society are all to
do with lack of parental responsibility. If parents knew as little
about hot water in kettles and road traffic dangers as they know
about the internet their kids would be disappearing in their thousands.
How are we going to get through to the parents who have no idea
most of the time what is going onand most of the parents
have no idea all of the time what is going on on the internet,
although a lot of parents obviously do. How are we going to educate
parents so that they can actually warn their children?
Kevin Brennan: That is a very
good point and, as I said earlier on, there is that information
deficit with only 25% of parents saying they are confident that
they can advise their children on safe use of the internet, and
the only way we can achieve that is through a massive information
and education and media literacy campaign. Byron quite clearly
showed that there is a lack of understanding that the internet
is not just a matter of looking up some pages, it is actually
something on which young people in particular interact and share
ideas, swap photographs, swap information, create films and do
all sorts of things. I was personally surprised as a parent when
I was talking to my daughter who posts her Harry Potter tribute
videos on YouTube and I said "Why don't you make some other
sort of videos?" and she said "I have to think of my
subscribers." I said, "What do you mean, your subscribers?"
She said, "I have got people who subscribe to my videos"
and I said, "Let me have a look at that" and one of
her videos had been viewed by over 100,000 people. I said "Can
I have a penny for every one?" but there is a whole world
out there so that we as parents suddenly have the scales fall
from your eyes and you suddenly realise. I looked at the comments
people had made on her videos and one of them said "Your
videos are very good, how old are you?" and she had written
in response, "It is not my policy to reveal my age."
I thought, that is what we are trying to do; as Tanya Byron says
in her report you can build the swimming pool, you can put a fence
around it, you can employ a lifeguard but you have got to teach
people how to swim. Parents have got to understand what kind of
technology we are talking about and that needs a massive education
and information campaign, with the industry helping and with Government
as well, but we have also got to give our children the wisdom
to be able, just as if they were walking down the street and came
across a situation, to know how to cope with a situation when
they arrive at it. It is a big, big challenge but this report
really shows us a way forward.
Q624 Alan Keen: Have you got any
plans, have you got any ideas in your mind as to an information
Kevin Brennan: I would not say
I am a communications expert but we do need
Q625 Chairman: Is there a budget
Margaret Hodge: There is some
from industry. Can I just add one other thing which is that it
is partly about information and it is also about the ease of the
controls, which we have talked a little bit about, so if it is
easier to block or filter or lock-off or whatever you want to
do, that makes your life as a parent a heck of a lot better, so
it is a mixture of trying to use every bit of expertise and PR
funded by government and the industry and us getting the technology
Kevin Brennan: We are also in
the process of developing this one-stop shop. You have to be able
to use a computer to get to it, but the one-stop shop on-line
place is where people can go and be directed to all the appropriate
places including CEOP or the correct charity and so on, because
parents say most of all they are confused and they do not know
where to go. This will be a government thing so if you go to this
government information website that page is there that will direct
you to the right place and, hopefully, provide some clarity from
the fog that parents say they feel about it at the moment.
Mr Coaker: There is a real fog
about parents and the need for information but it is also help
and support with what Margaret Hodge was saying, and this debate
about filtering and whether you have pre-installation of filtering
mechanisms. That in itself then causes a problem because, as the
evidence shows, sometimes they cause so many problems with the
children going back to the parents and saying what is happening,
the parents switch it off or it creates a false sense of security
that there is a filtering mechanism on it, therefore you do not
have to worry. Then the kids themselves find out how to do it
et cetera, et cetera, so there is that debate about that but alongside
that, as you will know, one of the other things the Home Secretary's
taskforce has done is developed with children's charities, the
industry and others a BSI kitemark which can be made available,
and that kitemark can be put onto filtering software so that alongside
the purchase of the computer there will be in due course a kitemarked
piece of software which parents will then be able to use to put
onto the computer in a proportional way. It seems to be the case
that if parents do it themselves that is more likely then to be
used and controlled than if it is put in in a pre-installation
fashion, but I know there are different views on that.
Kevin Brennan: Tanya Byron's recommendation
is that you take it out of the box and you switch the computer
on and it asks you the question straightaway about the levels
of safety you want to set. It does not preset it for you, but
it says what levels of safety there are. I think that is the right
Q626 Alan Keen: If you want to get
through to the fathers at least Madonna, Kylie and Tanya Byron
would have a dramatic effect.
Kevin Brennan: I would not dare
to respond to that, Chairman.
Q627 Philip Davies: A point that
Adrian was on about was video games; everybody has legitimate
concerns and everybody wants to see something done, but just on
a note of caution about this, the video games industry is an increasingly
global industry and the people representing the games developers
in their submission said: "Canada and other countries have
recognised the importance of this industry, offering modern, high
value-added employment and skills, but if in the UK policymakers
and politicians continue to blame the industry for the ills of
society we will lose yet another great British invention."
I just wondered to what extent you across Government were concerned
that if you were to have additional burdens of regulation on the
industry it might encourage that industry, which we might want
to encourage in this country, to base itself in other parts of
the world where there was less regulation.
Margaret Hodge: The video games
industry is hugely important. In fact, when you look at the way
in which we define the creative industries probably over half
of the GDA which comes to the UK from the creative industries
comes through the video games industry. We are fourth; we were
third but Canada then offered a whole load of tax incentives which
I do not think you would approve of.
Q628 Philip Davies: I certainly would;
I would approve of tax incentives, I always approve of tax incentives.
Margaret Hodge: You would approve
of intervening in the market with
Q629 Philip Davies: Lower taxes,
I always approve of lower taxes.
Margaret Hodge: These are actual
interventions in distorting the market which we are considering
whether or not are appropriate for consideration by the WTO.
Kevin Brennan: Negative subsidy.
Q630 Philip Davies: That is different,
subsidies are different.
Margaret Hodge: I would be amazed
if you approve of them but if you do maybe you can explain that
to me outside this room. It is a hugely important industry and
something we lose when we have these sorts of debatesKevin
said it earlier on in his remarksthe power of what is happening
in information, in the whole of information, is hugely important,
fantastically life-enhancing, very important for education and
skillsthere are endless ways in which it is important.
Video games, which do often get a bad name, for all sorts of reasons,
and we had two very long Friday debates in which some of us in
this room participated, on whether or not we should further regulate
the games industry. We do tend to emphasise the bad and we do
not talk about the good and, actually, in my own constituency
when I first became the MP 14 or 15 years ago and I walked into
primary schools and saw the very low levels of literacy and lack
of comfort in dealing with numbers, I now walk in and it just
is honestly transformed. One of the mechanisms that many of them
use is individual PCs on which they play educational video games
which support learning. We never hear enough about that. There
is a very good lab in Bristol which is doing important work, probably
funded in part by the DCSF, to use that technology to support
educational outcomes and raise educational standards. I completely
know, therefore, where the games industry is coming from. FinallyI
could babble on and on about this endlesslyit is because
we do not want to go down the statutory regulatory path that we
are working so hard across government on all these issues to try
and get voluntary agreement in the interests of protecting children
from the harm but enabling them to exploit the massive potential
right across that spectrum.
Kevin Brennan: There are great
games for kids out there and only 5% of the games that are produced
are rated 18; you would not think that if you followed the debate
about it. What is important, as ever in these matters, is to empower
parents to be able to take informed decisions and having a consumer-facing
system empowers parents who are involved in accessing those games
that were not designed for them. I think that is the key to this,
and that is what has been drawn out very powerfully in the report.
Q631 Chairman: Thank you very much
for giving up so much of your time; that is all we have.
Mr Coaker: Thank you very much.