Select Committee on Trade and Industry Eighth Report


The Trade and Industry Committee has agreed to the following Report:—





1. In December 1998 the DTI published its Competitiveness White Paper, a central plank of which was a commitment to make the UK the best environment in the world for electronic trading by 2002. The Queen's Speech of 24 November 1998 had announced the Government's intention to bring in a Bill to promote electronic commerce, "and start modernising the law, improving competitiveness by enabling the United Kingdom to compete in the digital marketplace". In March 1999 the DTI published its White Paper entitled "Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce", drafts of which had been in circulation for some months. We heard evidence on electronic commerce in the course of the spring of 1999 and reported on the White Paper proposals in May 1999.[1] Following a visit to the USA in May 1999, we published a Report on wider aspects of electronic commerce in July 1999 — "our July 1999 Report".[2] In July 1999 , the Government also published its response to our May 1999 Report, and a draft Bill on electronic commerce.[3] In September 1999 the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office published its major Report on e-commerce.[4] The first e-Envoy was appointed in the same month. We reported on the draft Bill in October 1999.[5] The Government replied to our July 1999 Report in October 1999[6] and to our October 1999 Report on the draft Bill in January 2000.[7]


2. In the course of 2000, Parliament passed into law the Government's legislative proposals, divided into two separate Acts. The first e-Envoy, Alex Allan, took up post in January 2000. The first of a promised series of Annual Reports from the e-Envoy had been scheduled for July 2000; it eventually appeared in September 2000, entitled "UK Online", exclusively in electronic form. Shortly thereafter, the e-Envoy resigned for personal reasons. We heard oral evidence from the e-Minister and acting e-Envoy, who has since been appointed the e-Envoy, on 13 December 2000. We received further written evidence in late January 2001. We have drawn on the detailed monthly progress reports on implementation of the September 2000 Annual Report posted on the e-envoy website; on some of the voluminous government material mainly available in electronic form; and on material from our other related inquiries. As in our previous inquiries, we have been assisted by Mr Peter Sommer, Research Fellow of the Computer Security Research Centre, London School of Economics.

3. A major effort to bring to reality the promise of public and private e-business within and outside Government is now under way. Almost any walk of life or aspect of Government, central or local , seems to have an e-aspect and to require an e-strategy. Many of the issues cross departmental boundaries. Some have little or nothing directly to do with DTI's departmental responsibilities. We have sought by and large to limit our commentary to those areas which we have examined in past Reports; where DTI is involved; where our past inquiries give us some insight; or, as in the case of the e-Europe initiatives, where we have been briefed in Brussels. We commend to other departmental committees the 65 commitments in the September 2000 Report as a rich seam, which we suspect would benefit from further scrutiny.

1  HC 187 of session 1998-99  Back

2  HC 648 of session 1998-99 Back

3   Cm 4417 Back

4 Back

5  HC 862 of session 1998-99 Back

6  Twelfth Special Report, HC 835 of session 1998-99 Back

7  Second Special Report, HC 168 of session 1999-2000 Back

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Prepared 23 March 2001