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Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Regulation 5 of SI 2002 No 2013 enables UK enforcement authorities to take action against online service providers established in other EEA member states on a case by case basis where there is a grave and serious risk to public policy, in particular crime prevention or investigation, public health, public security or consumer protection. Use of this derogation is subject to certain conditions. Among other things, enforcement authorities must normally first ask the member state concerned to take action, and can only proceed with the action if the member state concerned does not, for whatever reason, take enforcement action itself or it is inadequate.

Neither the directive nor the UK implementing regulations specify how much time the other member state concerned must be given to act. However, in emergency cases enforcement authorities are able to bypass the prior request requirement and take action immediately.

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Flexible Working Regulations

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What date explanatory booklets and guidance on the Flexible Working Regulations will be available.[HL1170]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Flexible Working Regulations come into force on 6 April 2003.

In preparation for this, summary guidance on the Flexible Working Regulations has been available since August 2002 in both hard copy and on the DTI website.

Detailed guidance, which will include case studies and set of sample best practice forms to help employees make a valid application and employers handle the request properly, has been tested with key stakeholders. The aim is to have the finalised guidance available on the DTI website by the beginning of February, with a hard copy and an interactive website version by the middle of February.

The Acas helpline 08457 47 47 47, which provides advice and guidance on all employment issues, is already covering the new regulations. All helpline staff have received initial training and further more detailed training will be completed by the middle of February.

UK Space Strategy

Lord Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When will the United Kingdom space strategy be published.[HL1194]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The draft United Kingdom space strategy Space for science, enterprise and environment is being published today. It sets out proposals to enhance the UK's standing in space exploration, to promote the use of space in government and commerce and to develop innovative space systems. The public is invited to comment on the draft by 30 April. Copies of the strategy and guidance on how to respond are available on the website of the British National Space Centre Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Queen's Counsel

Lord Goodhart asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 7 January (WA 167) concerning the system of appointment of Queen's Counsel, what are the benefits which the system allegedly confers on consumers in relation to the provision of services by the legal profession.[HL975]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The system of appointment of Queen's Counsel identifies those solicitors or barristers who demonstrate outstanding advocacy, legal and professional skills in

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court and are specialists in their chosen field. Solicitors who need to instruct counsel for a complex case in a specialism or jurisdiction with which they are not familiar are aided by the quality mark of QC which allows them to distinguish which advocate will be able to handle that case most effectively on behalf of their client (the consumer). Consumers who wish to seek direct access to advocacy services may well be uninformed as to who best to instruct and can be guided by the quality mark represented by Queen's Counsel status. This quality mark also enables the consumer, or solicitor, to switch to new advocates with confidence, thereby facilitating competition and helping to create an open market for providers of advocacy services.

General Commissioners of Income Tax

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their proposals for the amalgamation of divisions of the General Commissioners of Income Tax in Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.[HL1195]

The Lord Chancellor: On 21 January 2003, I made an order under Section 2(6) of the Taxes Management Act 1970 amalgamating a number of divisions in Berkshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire as follows. The Newbury, Reading, Slough, Windsor and Wokingham divisions shall be merged into one new division to be called the Berkshire division. The North East Wiltshire and Cirencester divisions shall be merged into one new division to be called the Thamesmead Division. This comes into force on

1 February 2003.

That order also gives effect from 1 April 2003 to the merger of Huntingdon and St Ives divisions into one new division to be called Huntingdon and St Ives.

All the amalgamations were made at the request of the General Commissioners in all the divisions with the aim of improving the organisational efficiency of the divisions concerned. I have placed a copy of the order amalgamating the divisions in the Libraries of both Houses.

Ram Doctrine

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the Performance and Innovation Unit's report Privacy and data-sharing: The way forward for public services (April 2002), they will publish the Ram doctrine.[HL595]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Ram doctrine, which is set out in a memorandum dated 2 November 1945 from the then First Parliamentary Counsel, Granville Ram, states that a Minister of the Crown may exercise any powers that the Crown has power to exercise, except in so far as the Minister is

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precluded by statute from so doing, either expressly or by necessary implication. Generally, legally privileged advice to government is not disclosed but, given the age of the advice, we are content to do so in this case and the text of the memorandum has been made available in the Library.

Funding of Political Parties

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they would consider it to be in the public interest for British political parties and parliamentary elections to be funded by business interests; and, if not, what are their reasons for this view.[HL944]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government's current policy on the funding of political parties follows the recommendations which the Committee on Standards in Public Life made in its 1998 report. The Government have since introduced rules on openness and transparency in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The independent Electoral Commission, which is charged with a statutory obligation to review and report on matters relating to the regulation and funding of political parties, has begun a review of the arguments for and against state funding and a cap on donations.

Atomic Weapons Establishment

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to extend the Atomic Weapons Establishment contract.[HL1224]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): We have decided that, following detailed negotiations, and as allowed for in the announcement of the existing 10-year contract for the management and operation of the Atomic Weapons Establishment with AWE Management Limited, the contract should be extended to 25 years and that the contractor should, where necessary, have access to private capital. The extended contract will continue to give overriding priority to safety and security. The resultant long-term partnering arrangement will allow the optimisation of investment in capital projects and will result in improved facilities, environmental improvements and efficiency gains.

Aldermaston and Burghfield will continue as nuclear licensed sites, subject to independent regulation by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Environment Agency. The Ministry of Defence Compliance Officer will also retain the authority and responsibility to cancel the contract and to instruct the contractor to cease operations if there is a serious breach of MoD's requirements.

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All existing and completed new assets will be owned by the Government. The total value of the contract will be £5.3 billion.

The AWE workforce and their trade unions will be given details today by AWE Management Limited.

Injury Prevention

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to involve regional directors of public health in the implementation of the recommendations in the report Preventing Accidental Injury—Priorities for Action from the Accidental Injury Task Force.[HL834]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The report recommended that regional directors of public health should co-ordinate injury prevention at regional level. The report also highlighted the role of public health observatories. This is one of a wide range of public health responsibilities being discussed with regional directors of public health.

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