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North Korea

12. Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West): If he will make a statement on bilateral relations with North Korea. [117950]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The UK established diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea in December 2000 and opened an embassy in Pyongyang in July 2001. We believe that this provides a useful channel of communication to impress directly on the DPRK regime that it has to desist from developing nuclear weapons and must re-engage with the international community through multilateral dialogue.

Rachel Squire : I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he agree that although engaging in any constructive dialogue with North Korea is extremely difficult, it is vital in the interests of regional and global security to keep the channels of communication open?

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Will he join me in welcoming the recent statements by China and Russia and the G8 summit on North Korea's nuclear ambitions? What role is the UK playing in developing and supporting the international partnership of North Korea's closest neighbours?

Mr. Rammell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is certainly the case that pursuing diplomatic negotiations with the DPRK regime is a challenging task to undertake. Nevertheless, it is crucial that we do so and we remain engaged with all the key

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international partners. That is certainly the case in respect of China and Russia, and I have had detailed discussions about the issue with my counterparts in those countries.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the initiative of the Chinese Government in calling for and hosting the recent trilateral talks in Beijing. That was a very helpful and positive step forward. Additionally, we remain engaged and in contact with South Korea and Japan. It is crucial that North Korea comes back to the negotiating table and agrees to give up its nuclear weapons programme so that we can move forward.

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Point of Order

12.31 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. What is your policy on moving Question Time along? I know that it is difficult, but we only reached Question 12 today, despite the fact that several questions were grouped. Members spend a lot of time preparing questions for the Order Paper and the ballot. How do you think that you can move things along so that we can perhaps get to Question 15 or even further?

Mr. Speaker: I know that the hon. Gentleman's question was next on the Order Paper. I do try to move things along. In fact, I have had some success, because in the past we have had fewer Foreign Office questions than we had today—so things are improving.

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Consumer Protection (Unsolicited E-Mails)

12.32 pm

Paul Flynn (Newport, West): I beg to move,

Unsolicited commercial e-mails are a pestilential nuisance that threaten terminally to swamp and suffocate the world e-mail system, which is probably the biggest improvement in communications that the world has experienced since the invention of the telephone. Spam is now a multiplying giant parasite that threatens to destroy its host.

One hon. Member told me that when he returned from a Select Committee visit abroad his inbox was jammed with 600 e-mails—a common experience for hon. Members. Another hon. Member told me that he is so exasperated with the deluge of junk that he receives that he is threatening to change his URL to The only person I have ever known who claims to have benefited from spam is a gentleman who says that he bought every offer he received to enhance his maleness and now has a male appendage that is 43 m long. That neatly illustrates the preposterous and ridiculous claims made by spammers to enliven our love lives or to give us brides from Nigeria.

There is a much more sinister side to spam, however. A large number of spam messages are from companies offering medicinal drugs. We know that even under this country's strict rules about 2,000 people a year die from the use of prescribed drugs.

However, the drugs offered by spammers are not on prescription and are offered without any rules or regulations whatsoever. Most odious of all are the pornographic e-mails. It is estimated that three out of 10 unsolicited e-mails are pornographic. They are sent out on an entirely random basis, so are received by vulnerable people and children, and the images that they present are often distressing and damaging.

Spammers keep up their deception, lies and dissembling, and are constantly disguising their methods to get through filtering systems. The Member who received 600 e-mails, for example, has an efficient filtering system. The great danger is that the advantages that we gain as parliamentarians from e-mail might be destroyed if we had a filtering system that destroyed the legitimate vigorously expressed messages that we occasionally receive from our constituents. E-mail is a great boon for those of us who serve on international bodies such as the Council of Europe, as we can complete work in a short time—a matter of an hour— by sending reports abroad to be edited, corrected and commented on; previously, that would have taken many weeks.

Our open, universal system is already in danger of collapse. China has now virtually cut itself off from the world system. There is now another great wall of China—an electronic one—that keeps e-mails out

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because of the problems that have been experienced there. New Scientist reported last week that one of its journalists sent an e-mail to Texas and had it returned with the message:

The blacklisted country was the United Kingdom, so the system is imploding.

What can we do? Our role is to legislate—that is all that we can do. Twenty American states, eight European countries and the EU have passed much legislation. Heroic work has been done by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), and my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) and for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt), who have campaigned against spam and are organising a spam summit on 1 July.

The purpose of my Bill is to make sure that we act in solidarity with states and countries that are trying to make sending unsolicited e-mail a prosecutable offence. There has been optimism about achieving that goal because of the successful action taken against junk faxes, which have now literally dried up. As for spamming, the rogue country in the free world is the United States of America. One individual there recently equipped his house to send a billion e-mails a day. He knows that if he gets one response for every 1 million e-mails sent he is still in profit. Unfortunately, we are up against the belief in America that free trade should be unfettered and

In this case, however, that means the freedom of pornographers in their thousands to pollute the internet and the freedom of thousands of criminals to try to rob us. Action must therefore be universal and concerted.

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The Bill seeks to amend consumer protection legislation to prohibit the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail, making it a criminal offence unless the consent of the recipient has been gained. That has already been done in Denmark and Austria. The main message, however, is that we must ensure that people who receive such e-mail are aware of the best way to discourage such e-mails being sent to them in future. There are measures that ordinary e-mail users can take—never make a list of e-mail addresses; never respond to spam at all and, in particular, to spam e-mail that instructs people to reply with the word "remove", as that is used by those who prowl the internet to gather new addresses; and never sign up to sites that promise to remove one's name, because the racket is that those names are used to confirm that there is someone at the other end.

Finally, I pay tribute to Steve Linford who, in many ways, has been conducting a successful one-man campaign against spam, but is now in despair. Although he has been adept at spotting spammers' new moves and devices, he said last week that the menace could bring the e-mail system juddering to a halt.

He thinks it may have only six months left. He says:

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Paul Flynn, Tony Lloyd, Mr. Win Griffiths, Michael Fabricant, David Taylor, Brian White, Mr. Andrew Dismore and Mr. Huw Edwards.

Consumer Protection (Unsolicited E-Mails)

Paul Flynn accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the prevention of unsolicited commercial e-mail; to amend the Consumer Protection (Direct Selling) Regulations 2000; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 July, and to be printed [Bill 119].

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Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill (Carry-Over)

12.41 pm

The Leader of the House (Dr. John Reid): I beg to move,

The carry-over of a public Bill is not unprecedented. The House agreed to carry over the Financial Services and Markets Bill on 25 October 1999. As I understand it, that Bill was a highly detailed and complex measure, which was significantly improved by the extra time provided for scrutiny, but this is the first time a carry-over motion has been moved under the procedure approved by the House last October.

In its second report of last Session, the Modernisation Committee recommended that Standing Orders be amended to permit carry-over of a Bill by resolution of the House for an experimental period, but that no Bill should be carried over for more than one extra Session. The Committee argued in paragraph 38:

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