"Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce":
the Government's Proposals, Seventh Report of 1998-99, HC 187:
Promoting Electronic Commerce: Consultation on Draft Legislation
and the Government's Response to the Trade and Industry Committee's
Report, Cm 4417
1. The Committee decided to launch an inquiry
into electronic commerce issues in December 1998 following both
the inclusion of electronic commerce measures in the Competitiveness
White Paper, in which the DTI pledged to deliver online services
by 2008, and the proposed legislation on electronic signatures
and licensed encryption which formed part of the 1998 Queen's
Speech. Outlined proposals for this legislation were included
in the March 1999 DTI document "Building Confidence in Electronic
Commerce", and this was the central focus of the inquiry.
2. The Report was published in May 1999.
The Committee welcomed the proposal to legislate on electronic
commerce. It approved of the move to establish voluntary accreditation
for Trusted Service Providers, but advised that there be clarification
of the proposed regime and that statutory registration should
only be considered if voluntary accreditation failed. The Committee
also saw the development of a controlled cryptography policy as
a step in the right direction. The Committee also questioned the
concept of the rebuttable presumption as the basis of the proposed
legislation regarding electronic signatures.
3. The Government response was published
in July 1999 together with a draft Bill. The concept of the rebuttable
presumption was abandoned in the draft Bill. The voluntary licensing
scheme was preserved and it was stated that this would be referred
to as an "approvals regime". The draft Bill proposed
to set up a statutory voluntary accreditation scheme by secondary
legislation to be held in reserve, in line with the Committee's
Electronic Commerce, Tenth Report of 1998-99,
HC 648: Government and Office of Telecommunications Observations
on the Tenth Report from the Trade and Industry Committee (Session
1998-99) on Electronic Commerce, Twelfth Special Report, HC 835
1. Following the Committee's Seventh Report,
it decided to report on those areas of the DTI consultation document
that had not been covered in that Report. The Committee made use
of evidence received for that Report, and also visited the US
in May 1999. The Report was published in July 1999.
2. The Report examined the proposed appointment
of an "e-Envoy"; the importance of an adequate telecommunications
infrastructure and of cheap or un-metered access; the dangers
of social exclusion; and the importance of Government ensuring
that its online services were well designed and easy to use, as
well as prompt.
3. The Government's response was published
in October 1999. An e-Envoy, Alex Allen, was appointed in September
1999. Many of the issues raised then have been recently covered
in evidence sessions with Oftel and telecommunications operators
in November and December 2000 and in an oral evidence session
with the E-Minister in December 2000.
Draft Electronic Communications Bill, Fourteenth
Report of 1998-99, HC 862: Government Responses, Second Special
Report, HC 168 and Third Special Report, HC 199
1. The Committee had intended to examine
the Draft Electronic Communications Bill in its Tenth Report,
published in July 1999, but at the time the Report was written
it was still awaiting publication. The Committee did not invite
any new evidence but questioned DTI in writing on the content
of the draft Bill. This Report was published in October 1999.
2. The Report expressed general approval
of the encryption measures contained in Part III of the Bill;
sought to discover what criteria would be required to ask for
production of a private key for decryption; and made a number
of critical comments on various provisions in the draft Bill,
including the balance between affirmative and negative resolution
procedure for the proposed secondary legislation.
3. The Government Response published in
January 2000 responded positively to a number of the Committee's
recommendations, including those on non-core parts of the Bill.
Those parts dealing with interception were eventually moved to
a separate Bill on the Interception of Communications.