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Programme highlights Monday, 22 January, 2001, 16:07 GMT
Can internet adoption adverts be banned?
The government wants to crack down on internet adoption
Mr and Mrs Kilshaw claim their adoption was legal
The internet adoption drama has put ministers on their mettle.

The very public battle over the fate of Belinda and Kimberley cries out for some sort of action, both to protect the children's interests and to prevent a repetition of the farcical and distressing scenes of the past few days

Government warns internet companies

It's in that atmosphere that the Health Minister, John Hutton, has moved to close down access to adoption sites on the internet.

Mr Hutton has contacted 80 internet service providers - ISPs - advising them that they may be in breach of the 1976 Act, which bans advertising children for adoption except by local authorities or government approved agencies.

However, as Mr Hutton certainly realises, trying to control cyber-space is notoriously difficult, and according to some commentators, this latest attempt is bound to fail.

Kilshaws claim vindication

The couple who brought the problem to Britain, the Kilshaws, made their own further vivid contribution to the debate outside their home in North Wales this morning.

Alan Kilshaw was asked by reporters what he made of the Government's latest moves to strengthen the rules governing inter-country adoption.

The twins who sparked the internet adoption row
Belinda and Kimberley Kilshaw

He insisted that the couple had done nothing wrong in adopting Belinda and Kimberley and that attempts to change the law on the issue proved that their actions were legal as the law stands at present.

But if the Government gets its way, the website which led them to Belinda and Kimberley would no longer be available to British families.

However, there are serious doubts about whether the internet can be policed in this way. Attempts to control other internet sites, such as those containing child pornography or racist material, have been notoriously unsuccessful.

So is it possible?

The World at One spoke to the media lawyer Mark Stephens. He is highly sceptical about the feasibility of the plan and he told us that as the law stands, internet service providers would be unlikely to be held responsible for sites they give access to.

He suggested Mr Hutton should focus on the people who place the advertisements rather than internet companies.

It's not as clear cut as he makes out.

Richard Clayton commenting on John Hutton's plans

We also spoke to Richard Clayton of Demon Internet, now known as Thus Plc, which is one of the largest internet service providers in Britain. He claimed that blocking sites was too difficult and expensive to be effective.

When we put these points to the Health Minister John Hutton, he insisted that the government was right to point out internet service providers' responsibilities under the Adoption Act.

Health Minister John Hutton
Adoption websites should not be accessible
He also said that if any member of the public were to alert an ISP about a site contravening the Adoption Act, the ISP would be expected to take action and restrict access to the site.

Mark Stephens
The law is aimed at advertisers not internet service providers
Richard Clayton
"If you think you can block these haven't understood the way the internet works."
John Hutton
"We are clear about the legislation"
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