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The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, raised the question of the police e-crime unit, which has now had funding approved. It will be hosted by the Metropolitan Police and will co-ordinate activity across the police service to tackle cybercrime. A theme from today’s debate is the need for interaction and co-ordination between agencies, police forces and others, so that they work together, without overlap, in dealing with this problem. The unit will provide support and advice to the National Fraud Reporting Centre on electronic

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fraud reported to the centre and will respond to intelligence packages produced by it. While the unit will not investigate every electronic fraud, it will work to tackle major frauds and bundles of smaller frauds that are assessed as being the work of one person or group. The unit will also work across the police service, in co-operation with the National Policing Improvement Agency, to develop the overall response to electronic crime and to ensure that police officers have adequate knowledge and training to tackle such crimes—another important point made by noble Lords.

The Government also support the SOCA e-crime unit, which is dedicated to tackling organised crime groups that operate online. We will ensure that the work of all the law enforcement groups does not overlap—a point made by the noble Earl—and I understand that the senior officers in each of those agencies communicate regularly to ensure that the work that they do is co-ordinated and not duplicated.

Much has understandably been made of data losses. I was not aware of the one reported today. We appreciate and understand the serious concerns set out in the reports regarding the loss of data by government departments. As part of the response to the losses of data, we commissioned a report to look at how data should be handled in the future. The report was delivered in June this year and contains far-reaching mandatory recommendations, which departments are already investing time and energy in to ensure that personal information is managed properly and used securely for the public’s benefit. As part of our drive for greater openness and transparency, departments have already published details of data security incidents in their 2007-08 resource accounts. Clearly, the call for higher security transparency means that we also see headlines on these unfortunate incidents.

The report recognises that the problem of cybercrime cannot be addressed by the UK alone and that international co-operation is essential to ensure that law enforcement within the UK can obtain assistance, when required, from countries where cybercriminals might be operating.

With the changes to the Computer Misuse Act now enacted, we believe that the UK meets all the requirements necessary for us to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and to give effect to the EU framework decision on attacks on information systems, a point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I am pleased to say that we expect the Convention on Cybercrime to be ratified by the end of the year, or certainly in the early part of 2009.

Many points and comments were made in the debate. If I try to deal with them now, I will fail, because I have not yet learnt the paper-juggling skills required of a Minister at the Dispatch Box and, more important, some of the questions require detailed answers which I would not be able to give orally. As this is the first time that I have responded to a debate, I probably would not do justice to the questions. Given that my knowledge of the retail industry exceeds my knowledge of the IT industry, I make a once-in-a-lifetime offer to any Member who feels that the response that I have given does not cover points raised by undertaking to write to them, even if they have not asked a question.

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I have identified a number of issues that were raised, which require us to make responses in any event; for example, there was a question about the resources to the Metropolitan Police and whether they are additional or taken from somewhere else. I will reply to that in writing.

I can respond on some issues. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, asked about CPS prosecutors in relation to e-crime. I confirm that prosecutors in the CPS are already trained to deal with electronic crime, but I do not think that they are identified as a separate group within that institution. There was concern about cross-departmental groups. We accept the need to co-ordinate interests across departments, and the Cabinet Office has established a forum for that purpose. We hope that it will enhance our position. However, I do not think that I can do justice to individual questions without writing.

The internet and the technology that underpins it are changing rapidly—“changing rapidly” does not do justice to the speed, which has been very much on noble Lords’ minds—and the challenge that the Government must meet is to ensure that there is a safe environment for all. For many people these are exciting changes, which bring tremendous benefit and enjoyment. However, they also bring new challenges, of which keeping up with the speed of technological change is but one. I assure noble Lords that the Government are prepared to meet those challenges as they arise.

The Government will actively consider updating legislation to ensure that the UK has sufficient legal powers to tackle crime committed on the internet. We will work with and through international partners, both bilaterally and through institutions such as the EU and the G8, to build a common approach to preventing such crimes and ensuring that there is an adequate response. The Government will work with all sectors of the UK economy to develop a safer internet and to ensure that the public can have confidence that they are free to trade, communicate and enjoy the services available to them.

The Government will continue to support the law enforcement agencies that provide protection and support to the public and tackle the criminals operating in cyberspace. Above all, with groups across the public, private and third sectors, we will seek to ensure that all of us play our part in ensuring the security and safety of the internet.

2.52 pm

Lord Broers: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response, especially as it was his first one and this field is extremely complex. I am reassured to hear that there will be serious elevation of the Government’s consideration of these issues. We look forward to these issues gaining the strength that has been applied to children’s issues. Every citizen deserves the same attention on this serious matter. I congratulate and thank all noble Lords who spoke in this debate on the Select Committee’s report. The breadth of expertise and experience in this House is impressive.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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