Select Committee on Trade and Industry Annxes to the Report

Annex E


"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 recommendation.

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.

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