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It is not only Aberdeen and Penzance. With the most ambitious electrification programme we could carry through in the next 10 to 15 years a significant part of the great western main line that is well short of Penzance will still be non-electrified. It is not simply a question of the ultimate destinations. Diversionary routes are also important. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has probably forgotten more about the east coast main line than I will ever know, but some of the routes to that and the west coast main line are non-electrified. The resilience of the network suffers considerably. Passengers know only too well of the inconvenience of weekend trains being cancelled and replaced by buses because it is not possible for electric trains to run on the non-electrified parts of the network. The bimodal trains will make it possible for trains on diversionary routes to use the alternative diesel capacity. I hope that that will bring us a lot closer to the seven day a week totally reliable network, which the nation expects and which the super express train will make it easier to deliver.

I shall deal with a few of the specific points. The noble Earl rightly said that there are a number of big rail orders out at the moment. There are the high-level output specification orders intended to secure 1,300 additional carriages, the super-express trains that I have announced today and the forthcoming Thameslink order. I would be very happy to provide him and other noble Lords who are interested with a spreadsheet detailing the orders that are currently placed or forthcoming and the timeframe in which they will be delivered so that it is easier to understand the procurement process as it will take place over the next five years.

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In due course, we would like to be able to introduce in-cab signalling, as already happens on high-speed trains and which would increase the potential for faster trains and greater capacity on the network, but it will be some years before that is possible. The noble Earl referred to the specification for the super-express trains and said that he thought that it was too bureaucratic. I should stress to the House that the specification was carried through in very close collaboration with the industry. I held press conferences today with the Association of Train Operating Companies and Network Rail to explain to the proposals to the media. They both strongly applauded the decisions that have been taken and stressed how involved they had been in the making of those decisions. It is absolutely right that we work in close partnership with the people who are going to be running the trains and with the network operator, and we have done so.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, mentioned Bombardier. It has forward orders to build in excess of 2,000 rail carriages between 2009 and 2014, and the Stansted order is in addition to that. As the noble Lord observed, there are a number of significant orders coming down the pipeline, of which the most significant by far is the Thameslink order, which is worth in excess of £2 billion. Bombardier is competing for that order.

In summary, this is a good news Statement for the rail industry, rail passengers and British jobs.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Minister has not responded to my question about the materials management process, the shipping of components from Japan to the UK.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I apologise. Seventy per cent of the value of this contract will be spent in the United Kingdom, which will give the noble Earl an indication of how significant the UK contribution will be. It is difficult to go through all the parts of the process of procuring and maintaining because it is very complex. Manufacturing is not one single process and the process of supplying components is very complex. It will include UK suppliers of components and high-value work, not simply low-value assembly work. Part of the reason why we are entering this contract naming this consortium as our preferred bidder is that we want to take advantage of Japanese technology, which is of a very high order, in rail technology.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, was I broadly correct in what I was suggesting?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, that would be an oversimplification. Exactly what will be carried out where will not be clear until we have completed the process of negotiating contracts and the consortium is able to spell out its plans in greater detail.

2.44 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I cannot find any more adjectives than the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, warmly to welcome what has been said today and the personal

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commitment of my noble friend and our mutual friend the Secretary of State to the rail industry and the future of rail. Most noble Lords probably remember only too well the 1950s and 1960s when there was nothing but decline. Above all, this is a statement of confidence in the future of rail, and I welcome that as well as all the detail.

This is clearly about providing services, but it is also about providing jobs. That is warmly welcomed. The Minister mentioned 12,500 jobs. He will know that historically a lot of these jobs have been in the Midlands in places such as Crewe and Derby. The Statement refers to 12,500 jobs being created and safeguarded. Can the Minister tell the House what proportion of those jobs he anticipates will be new jobs? If he cannot answer that now, it would be nice to hear some details later. Can he give any indication of the timescale? He has told us when he expects the new services to be provided, but does he have any information about the timescale of when we might see these new jobs—he said that a proportion of them will be new jobs—becoming available?

Lord Adonis: I am grateful to my noble friend for his remarks. As he rightly said, this is sensible countercyclical investment and underlines our confidence in the future of rail and our commitment to the future of the rail industry as it goes through a period of, as we see it, continued growth. I cannot give my noble friend a precise breakdown of the new and safeguarded jobs because there is not one. A lot of the suppliers in the rail industry are existing suppliers that will take on new orders as a result of this work, but a significant proportion of the jobs will be new. To make the obvious point, Hitachi does not have a manufacturing facility in the UK, so it will be creating new jobs to establish that manufacturing facility. As my noble friend also rightly said, the Midlands, particularly the East Midlands, is a strong centre for rail manufacture and is one of the three possible sites for the new manufacturing facility.

New jobs will be created very soon and will ramp up rapidly in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with production running for several years thereafter. We will see the jobs effect of this announcement soon, and it will be wholly beneficial to the regions concerned.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I endorse the welcome given to the announcement by my noble friend Lord Attlee, but I have a couple of questions about the Great Western route, on which I have been a frequent traveller for 35 years or so in the course of my parliamentary duties. The Minister spoke about electrification. Will there also be improvements to the track? He did not respond to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about whether trains will be 140 miles an hour or 125 miles an hour but, particularly if the answer is 140 miles an hour, the track will also need attention. Over the time that I have been travelling, it has got much more difficult to write on the train, which reflects the state of the track. The greater speed and electrification perhaps give an opportunity for improvements in that direction.

On the frequency of services and pressure, it is my impression that the real pressure on the Great Western, for instance, in the Bristol area where I come from—I

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do not regard Penzance as peripheral as the Liberal Democrats apparently do—the real pressure is on local trains rather than long-distance trains, which this announcement is about, particularly local trains in peak hours because there is more and more local commuting by train, which is desirable in itself, but not when the carriages are very full.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s broad welcome for the Statement. The trains will go up to 125 miles an hour, not 140 miles an hour. I am sorry that I did not answer that point earlier. The noble Lord is right that improvements can be made to the track. Significant improvements are already in the offing because of a big investment that will take place at Reading, a key bottleneck on the Great Western main line, including a substantial rebuilding of the station. There will also be improvements at the eastern end of the line as part of the electrification that will be necessary to extend the Crossrail line to Maidenhead. However, if there were to be substantial electrification, it would also involve track work, so we would expect to see upgrading of the track capability.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I intervene only to ask the Minister if he can give me an assurance. In my experience serving on the Merits Committee—this is something that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt raised—there was a steady stream of statutory instruments allowing dispensation for not reaching the standards for disability access in screens, announcements, loos and other things to make them disability friendly. Can he assure us that that stream of government acknowledgements that we are not meeting the targets that we have set will stop with the new trains? If not, it is about time that we did.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, of course we intend that the trains will be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. Indeed, taking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, to which I did not reply, about what might happen with the existing 125s, part of the reason why they need to be replaced is that they are not sufficiently compliant. Significant modifications, which would be very expensive, would be necessary to make them compliant beyond the deadline of 2020 set for them to be so compliant. It is not impossible that such changes could be made, but they would require significant investment which train operating companies would need to be prepared to entertain. I hope that we will not be seeing the steady stream of requests for exemptions from modifications that the noble Lord mentioned.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I declare an interest as a victim of Great Western’s sometimes aspirational timetabling. Can the Minister tell us when the electrification improvement begin, and when will it end?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I cannot, because we are still analysing the business case for electrification of the Great Western main line. Until we have done that, we cannot indicate timescales.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I join others in welcoming the Statement and am especially pleased that we have long-term investment and the opportunity

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to create much-needed jobs in future. In his capacity as the Minister responsible for the rail network, perhaps my noble friend can slow the pace down from high-speed to slower paces and consider the preservation and heritage railways. If we are looking to create jobs in the short term, perhaps we may persuade his department to consider some of the bids made by a range of the heritage and conservation societies for cash to assist in extending their networks.

I think in particular of the Bluebell Railway, which is endeavouring to extend to East Grinstead, which would make a link with the major network. For a relatively modest capital investment, if money were available, that would produce a substantial number of jobs: primarily labour is required to recover disused railways, rather than capital. If we are looking for quick hits using the fiscal stimulus package, I suggest that we consider some of the bids for lottery money in its various capacities. They go through a sieving and examination procedure—this applies not only to railways but in many areas—we could identify opportunities for relatively modest capital investment producing many jobs very quickly. We could do that for the railways.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am a great fan of the Bluebell Railway, and of our other preserved railways, which do a great job in maintaining our railway heritage and in acting as highly successful tourist attractions, but I fear that my responsibilities in respect of the existing network, which has onerous demands on investment, are such that it is not likely that we will be able also to fund improvements to preserved railways. I note my noble friend’s interest and if he can find any spare cash, I will bet his thoughts in mind.

Children: Social Networking Sites


2.53 pm

Moved By Lord Harris of Haringey

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to have secured this debate today. It is a particular pleasure to have followed the right reverend Prelate's debate on A Good Childhood, as the topics that I want to cover follow from some of the themes covered in your Lordships' House already.

The timing is also apposite in that the day before yesterday was the sixth European Safer Internet Day, although I suspect that many of your Lordships, in common with most citizens of Europe, may have missed that fact. My noble friend Lord West was originally scheduled to respond to this debate. However, I understand that other duties have now meant that his place is to be taken, very ably, by my noble friend Lord Brett. However, had my noble friend been responding as initially planned, he would have been able to bring

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some additional, first-hand knowledge to our discussion today. If the Sunday Times is to be believed—and all of your Lordships will have views on that as a general principle—my noble friend had some unfortunate experiences when he placed his profile on Facebook a couple of years ago, receiving what the Sunday Times describes as an avalanche of suggestive comments of the “Hello, sailor” variety.

In this debate today, I want to focus on the position of children and young people. My noble friend Lord West probably does not fall into that category—nor, I fear, do many of your Lordships speaking in this debate—but I am sure that we all recognise that there has been massive growth in the use of social networking sites by children and young people during the past few years. According to Ofcom, virtually all—99 per cent—of children and young people aged eight to 17 use the internet. In 2005, the average time spent online by children was 7.1 hours per week. By 2007, it had almost doubled to 13.8 hours per week. Almost half—49 per cent—of those aged eight to 17 have set up their own profile on a social networking site. My rough calculation suggests that more than 3 million children and young people in this country under the age of 18 have set up their own profiles.

That should not necessarily horrify or shock us. Indeed, we should recognise that social networking and video sharing sites, online games, iPods and internet-enabled mobile phones are now an integral part of youth culture. While many adults may worry that their offspring are wasting precious hours online, children and young people see online media as the means to extend friendships, explore interests, experiment with self-expression and develop their knowledge and skills.

However, to use the analogy of the inquiry conducted by the Science and Technology Committee into personal internet security, in the same way that young children are taught how to cross the road, but at the same time safety features are built into cars and traffic laws regulate unsafe driving, we need to make sure that our children and young people are protected when they make their way navigating the internet.

As we know, there are real perils for the unwary. Children and young people have been the victims of sexual predators as a result of information they have revealed about themselves on social networking sites; there are increasing problems of cyber-bullying; security weaknesses on sites have led to serious privacy infringements; and young people have discovered the hard way that the permanence of information posted in public cyberspace may not only be embarrassing in later life but also mean that employment offers or university places are not forthcoming.

The Information Commissioner's Office provides examples of young people who have faced unintended consequences of social networking. There was the 16 year-old girl who was held responsible for some bullying lyrics about another 16 year-old posted on a site that she had been involved with. Then there was the widely reported case of Rachel Bell, a 17 year-old from Durham, who was arrested in April 2007 after her family home was ruined by gatecrashers responding to a party advertisement on MySpace. More than £20,000 worth of damage was done to her parents'

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home after she allegedly advertised the party on a friend's profile. She, however, maintained that the profile was hacked by classmates who invited teenagers from across the UK to the party.

In the United States, there was the tragic case of 13 year-old Megan Meier who hung herself in October 2006 after receiving a message in her MySpace inbox which said, “The world would be a better place without you”. The “teenaged boy” who sent the message, Josh Evans, turned out to be a fake identity created by Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Megan's and a neighbour of the Meier family. Ms Drew, as well as her 13-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old assistant, used the profile to trick Megan into thinking that “Josh” liked her before sending a series of hateful messages. Megan, who had a history of depression, was targeted by Ms Drew in retaliation for her allegedly spreading rumours about Drew's daughter.

Only last week, an 18 year-old from Wisconsin, Anthony Stancl, was arrested, having posed as a girl on Facebook and persuaded his classmates to send him nude pictures of themselves. He then blackmailed the boys into engaging in sex acts with him, warning them that their pictures would be posted on the internet and e-mailed to friends if they refused. Seven boys were reported to have had sexual encounters with him, the youngest being 15 years old. Stancl allegedly had more than 300 nude photographs of his classmates on his computer.

As I have said, these are real perils and they are taking place in what is for many children and young people their zeitgeist, their social environment. It is clear that they are taking place in an environment that most young people assume is safe. The Information Commissioner's Office conducted a survey of 2,000 young people using social networking sites. It found that 60 per cent had not considered the consequence of the material that they posted remaining online and being seen by other people in the future. Colleges, universities and potential employers use the internet to find information about those who apply for a job or a place in college.

It follows therefore that throughout their education, children should be taught digital citizenship, so that they can make the most of the internet, but also recognise and deal with any dangers that they may encounter. As most parents acknowledge that their children are more internet-literate than they are, there also needs to be a serious effort in parallel to help parents, and perhaps all adults, to keep up with the rapid development of the internet and digital social media. At the same time, privacy laws should be strengthened with an age-related component specifically giving enhanced protection to the data relating to or provided by children and young people.

The US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, COPPA, while not perfect, provides a model that has required a number of US-based companies operating on the internet to improve their standards significantly. COPPA requires parental consent before personal information for a child of 12 or under can be provided online. This of course exempts most of the big social networking sites, which stipulate a minimum age of 13. But, as I will discuss later, systems for verifying the

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age that people claim to be are inadequate or non-existent. Moreover, some of the methods used to obtain parental consent are fairly flawed as well. In some instances, e-mail approval from an e-mail address that is controlled by the child has been known to suffice.

Nevertheless, COPPA has had an impact, usually with sites that are commercial ones marketing products, although often with social networking type features. For example, Sony BMG Music Entertainment was fined $1 million in December for collecting information from 30,000 children on 196 websites without parental consent. These sites related to musical artistes and labels. To register for those sites, Sony required users to submit personal information, including date of birth. But, having registered, those children were then able to interact and exchange messages with other fans, whatever their age.

That demonstrates why there should be higher expectations on those responsible for social networking sites or those sites with a social networking component. This should be especially the case for those sites aimed at children or where there are a significant number of users who are children and young people. These higher expectations should include prominent and clear safety information warning about potential dangers. Sites such as provide a good guide on internet safety and similar user-friendly, age-appropriate guidance should be an integral part of all processes for registering a profile.

There should be simple systems for reporting abuse, perhaps a prominent button on every page. The site should make it clear that inappropriate or threatening behaviour is not acceptable on that site. The “report abuse” facility should be monitored 24/7 and there should be real-time links to police and law enforcement. This readiness to co-operate with the police should not merely be that issues of abuse will be reported to them automatically where appropriate, but that there should also be a willingness to co-operate with requests from the police or law enforcement agencies. In practice, this means that all such sites should have staff available at any time to respond to police inquiries and to intervene immediately in an emergency if abuse is taking place.

Critical also is the monitoring of content. Sites should have increased numbers of suitably vetted moderators patrolling areas of sites frequented by young people. In particular, social networking sites must review discussion groups and other places where content is published to find harmful subject matter, hate speech and illegal behaviour, and delete that content when it is found. Moreover, sites must find ways to review every image or video that is hosted on their site, deleting those that are inappropriate. In addition, all sites should offer user-friendly systems enabling people to ignore and erase unwanted comments and to erase permanently their own profiles. Social networking sites, as with any other holder of sensitive personal data, must also be under a duty to maintain a high level of server security to prevent hacking and unauthorised access to personal information.

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