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Mr. White: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that voluntary groups have a key role to play in ensuring that access to the internet and similar facilities is available to all? I commend the example of Sweden and Finland, which have gone down that route. Does he think that such an approach is useful?

Mr. Baldry: When my colleagues return from Sweden, I am sure that they will bring with them good news about that. I visited a college of further education in Banbury the other day and saw signs for a course entitled, "Computing for the terrified". I have enlisted for the next course that the college runs.

On Europe, it is important that we recognise the value of the European Union's internal market as our marketplace. In so far as the Bill sets a precedent for the rest of the European Community, it will be good news. However, the Standing Committee considering the Bill must recognise that the European single market is our domestic market and that we must consider liabilities and consumer rights in the internal market. I accept, however, that that will involve complex issues, such as when contracts are signed.

Will the Minister say a little more about the e-envoy or e-tsar? Everyone now seems to be a tsar, and I am looking forward to being appointed one. Some of us are not allowed to sit on the Opposition Front Bench, so perhaps a few more "tsarships" could be given out. It strikes me that one of the great virtues of the Russian royal family was that everyone seemed to be related to one other and everyone had a title.

The story of the e-envoy is not a happy one because that seems to be a virtual appointment, and he or she has a role to demonstrate that e-commerce is not all pornography, gambling and electronic boot sales. I suspect, however, that the e-envoy has a very important role, but I am not sure that it has been fully or sufficiently promulgated to the House, to industry or more widely.

If or when the Bill obtains its Second Reading, the Minister and the Department might consider using the vast army of Government information officers to ensure that more work is done in the business pages and in the media generally to explain the Bill, not to those who are already knowledgeable about it, but to the broad sweep of people in business or commerce. They will want more clearly to understand the Government's proposals and what exactly people such as the e-envoy will do.

I have seen the reasoned amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and the Opposition have decided collectively that they must vote against the Bill. As I believe in collective government and therefore in collective opposition, I shall join my colleagues in

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the Lobby. Suffice it to say that the Select Committee's recommendations were unanimous and, on behalf of the Select Committee, I thank the Government in so far as they have listened to those recommendations.

7.31 pm

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): Thirty years ago last month, the internet was born. It connected nuclear scientists in a restricted number of universities across America, courtesy of the Pentagon. I suppose that today we would call that an intranet. A second system was then devised that linked all academia in America. That was our first e-mail system, and it is called the internet.

Eight years ago, however, a Brit, Tim Berners-Lee, working at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland, gave us a brand new language--www, or the worldwide web--and the modern graphical internet arrived to change our lives. Tim, who is not yet Sir Tim or even Lord Web, ought to be a vice-chancellor or a professor of computation in the United Kingdom, but alas he works at the media laboratory at Harvard. Although we have just announced a link between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge, it is a pity that we have not properly enabled Imperial college, which is easily the best science and technology centre of excellence in the United Kingdom. Imperial already outstrips Oxford, and ought to be given university status of its own and the chance to become our own Stanford university. However, I digress.

Before discussing the Bill, I should put on record that I am the--alas unremunerated--non-executive chairman of the council of Clicksure, which has offices in Oxford and Washington DC. Clicksure is an ethical--I must be careful about the use of that word--standards association on the internet which analyses websites.

Last week, on the BBC show "Watchdog", Anne Robinson took great pleasure in upsetting a website called "", which is a brilliant site run by a brilliant UK company. Somehow the "Watchdog" team managed to book two tickets from its site with a dodgy credit card. Had "" been clicksured, that could not have happened. Clicksure evaluates a website to check that it is safe, so that consumers can trust it. That has some relevance to today's discussions of the Bill.

I am also the founder of the World Internet Forum. This morning, we addressed more than 60 ambassadors and their staff on the subject of the forum, which will take place in Oxford next September. The World Internet Forum aims to become a portal for public services in the world.

E-commerce can have the most stimulating effect on a company's bottom line. Let us consider Cisco, the US Nasdaq-listed router company, which worked out that the cost of a conventional invoice was just over $100. When it switched to electronic invoicing, it saved a cool$600 million in the first year because the average cost of the same invoice was just under 50 cents. I wonder where the innovation in this country is when a company such as Cisco can show us the way.

The Bill has been a long time in gestation, but it is all the better for it. It is in three parts, and I shall discuss each one, in reverse order. The last part, which deals with telecommunications issues, is a bolt-on and clears up issues dating back to 1984. I shall not detain the House

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further on that because I have noted that the Minister has already agreed to go out to wider consultation on that; and it needs wider consultation.

The middle part, entitled "Facilitation of electronic commerce, data storage, etc.", deals only with electronic signatures, and I want to address the problem of voice signatures. I shall try to explain the new technology that is already on the market, which inverts the www language, and is currently called "mmm". Mmm is part of the WAP--the wireless application protocol. I shall try to explain how it works.

I have said before that the House is not kitted out for the 21st century, but I have here a tri-band mobile phone which is currently on sale in the United Kingdom. It is voice-activated, as most phones are, but in this case I mean that I can gain internet access by talking to it. I can phone a number and by talking via the website on the phone I can ask for the train times from Sittingbourne to Victoria. That information will be voice-activated and sent back to me.

Hon. Members may ask what that has to do with signatures, but what if I were phoning my bank? There would have to be a voice signature for the new technology as well as an electronic signature. I want better to understand whether the electronic signature arrangement adequately covers the voice wireless application protocol. I can see civil servants nodding and I will be reassured if that is the case.

Mr. Duncan: Is not voice recognition a form of unique encryption which is delivered electronically? I therefore guess, and hope, that it is included in the Bill.

Mr. Wyatt: I am getting reassurance from the civil servants who drafted the Bill. Let us wait and see whether that is the case.

I am not quite sure which Department would be responsible for the second part of the technology that I shall describe, but I shall try to explain it clearly. I have here a mobile phone and a credit card. I am sure that hon. Members understand what those things are, but from next year, credit cards will change and will contain a chip. That can be inserted in the phone, and, using the voice mode, I can phone and order money to be downloaded on to the card, or I can tell the card to purchase jeans or anything else that I want to buy.

For that technology to be effective, a third party must hold my details, such as the interests that I subscribe to, which include Charlton Athletic and English rugby. I would therefore have to trust the details of the card to a third-party holder. That is not provided for in data protection legislation. That technology is already available in trials, and 1,000 such phones are on trial in Leeds this week. They are also on trial in Finland and America.

Changes are occurring in the way in which the internet is accessed and credit cards are used. If one says, as the Opposition do, "Let us not have regulation," I reply that we have to be careful not only to explain what is happening to the UK population but to make sure that we

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have a proper safety environment. That is why I think that you are wrong, if you do not mind my saying so, about your opposition to that part of the Bill--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. The Chair is never wrong.

Mr. Wyatt: I wish that I could get away with saying that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I want to know, as the technology is currently available, whether there will be an opportunity to include it in the Bill, so that the Bill is the best that we can provide.

That brings me back to the light-touch framework that we have agreed on. The basic issues of the internet are ones of trust. We have to make sure that when we order goods, we receive what we ordered. It is very easy to trust Why? All the credit card companies came together and guaranteed purchases from Unfortunately, not every credit card company will give its guarantee that every one of the 10 million websites can be trusted. We need to develop a common trust--a way of branding a website front page, so that when people see the brand, such as the Clicksure, Consumers Association or "Which?" brands, they will know that the site is safe and secure. The more the Government can do in that respect, the better, and that is what is laid out in the Bill.

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