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Software Counterfeiting

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The threat posed to the United Kingdom by organised crime is assessed each year by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). NCIS' threat assessment for 2000 recognises that the impact of intellectual property

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theft, such as software counterfeiting, is high. The police service and other law enforcement organisations take this assessment into account in deciding how best to deploy their resources.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the recent discovery that police forces throughout the United Kingdom have purchased and installed counterfeit Microsoft software, whether they have any plans to review their information technology procurement strategy.[HL63]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government deplore the use of unlicensed software and in July 1999 issued guidance to Public Sector Organisations reinforcing the code of conduct endorsed by FAST (Federation Against Software Theft). Standard government conditions of contract for the purchase of computer software seek to ensure that all software procured and used by government is correctly licensed.

The Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers are working with industry representatives to examine ways of continuing to strengthen enforcement practice and existing guidance.

There are no plans to review government information technology procurement strategy.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many police computer systems are fitted with imitation software.[HL64]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: In the light of the discovery that systems supplied by a particular firm were loaded with counterfeit Microsoft software, the Association of Chief Police Officers is conducting an audit of software in use in a sample of police forces. This will provide some indication of whether the problem is confined to those particular systems or is more widespread. The findings will be available in the New Year.

Computer Use in Schools: Safety

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of the research being conducted by Dr Leon Straker at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, they have any plans to review the use of computers in schools, particularly in the context of protecting children from the potential risks of repetitive strain injury.[HL19]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The department believes that the effective use of computers in schools can help improve standards. The department is also determined to ensure that children's health and safety are protected at school, and we are continually looking to update our guidance and will maintain an interest in any relevant research. Earlier this year the department

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produced the Superhighway Safety information pack. This is a comprehensive guide to the whole range of safety measures which schools and parents can adopt, and includes information about pupils' physical well-being when using computers. The pack covers all the issues raised by Dr Straker, including addressing the potential risks of repetitive strain injury.

Chinook Helicopter ZD 576

Lord Chalfont asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the flight crew of Chinook helicopter ZD 576 made any representations, written or oral, to their senior officers regarding the fitness of the helicopter to undertake the flight to Scotland on 2 June 1994; if so, what was the response; what record is kept of this exchange; and where any record is now kept.[HL47]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): There is no evidence that the flight crew made any such representations.

Naval Service: Improved Personnel Management

Lord Puttnam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have for changing personnel management in the Naval Service.[HL108]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are considering improved approaches to the current arrangements for the management of people in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The aim of these changes which have been instigated by the Navy Board is to alleviate overstretch by lessening the impact on the individual of a high operational tempo and to reduce the turbulence which existing arrangements may produce. The benefits should include greater stability for members of the Naval Service and their families, both in geographical terms and in the predictability of their employment, and hence enable them to plan their lives with greater certainty.

The project is known as TOPMAST (Tomorrow's Personnel Management System). A basic concept has been outlined and will now be further developed. The concept is designed to provide the individual with quality sea time and properly managed time ashore, determined by reference to the individual rather than to the ship or unit, as under present arrangements.

TOPMAST will apply to all members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and is designed to enhance their quality of life while bringing greater flexibility to their employment. It is planned that these improvements will be implemented in phases, beginning to take effect from as early as late 2001, subject to the outcome of the next phase of development.

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ICANN: Internet Code Fees

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of the current dispute relating to fees being charged to Internet country code administrators, they have made any representations to ICANN on issues of Internet codes; and, if so, what was the nature of such representation.[HL20]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): ICANN's Government Advisory Committee (of which the UK is member) issued a communique on 14 July 2000 which covered, amongst other things, the funding of ICANN ( The communique recognised that country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) administrators should contribute towards the funding of ICANN and that collectively they should pay the allocation set out in ICANN's 1999-2000 budget but determine between themselves how much each should pay. The communique also encouraged ICANN to develop, in consultation with the ccTLD community and through a consensus based approach, appropriate criteria and mechanisms for calculating how much each ccTLD administrator should contribute annually to the future funding of ICANN.

Lawful Business Practice Regulations and Data Protection Act

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a company that complies with the terms of the Lawful Business Practice Regulations could lay itself open to potential liability under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.[HL21]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Under the Lawful Business Practice Regulations, businesses may have access to communications without the consent of the sender or recipient, for the purpose of monitoring or recording them for legitimate business purposes specified by the regulations. A business which complies with the regulations is exempt from liability under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The regulations do not however affect the obligations which the Data Protection Act 1998 places on businesses regarding the processing of personal data. In particular, under that Act, any business undertaking the interception of communications should ensure that its collection, use and other processing of personal data is targeted and proportionate to the needs of the business.

The Data Protection Commissioner has issued for consultation a draft code of practice on the use of personal data in employer/employee relationships. When this is finalised in the New Year, it will provide comprehensive guidance on the application of the Data Protection Act and the regulations to practice in the workplace.

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Telecommunications Sector Debt Level

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they draw from the level of debt currently being experienced by the telecommunications sector and its implications for the future development and advancement of information technology.[HL22]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I draw a number of conclusions.

First, the level of debt being borne by the telecommunications sector indicates that a high level of investment is being undertaken. Additional investment, be it in networks, equipment, software and applications, must be to the ultimate benefit of the consumer and the telecommunications sector itself.

Second, the level of financing being provided by the financial markets indicates that they believe they understand the telecommunications sector and can model risk and return. Of more concern would be an industry sector which was unable to raise affordable finance.

Third, efficient companies will always leverage their equity and, provided that it is properly managed, debt is a cheaper form of financing than issuing equity.

Finally, I believe that the apparent willingness of telecoms firms to invest; the readiness of financial markets to provide finance to the sector; and the efficiency with which telecoms firms are managing their equity is positive for the future development and advancement of information technology. While there are continuing concerns voiced about debt in the telecoms sector, these seem as much to be about the exposure of lenders to the telecoms market as about the level of debt being borne by the sector as a whole.

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