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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Yes. Good progress is already being made. The international benchmarking study, The World's Most Effective Policies For The e-Economy, prepared in 2002 by Booz Allen Hamilton for the Office of the e-Envoy and the DTI ranks the UK as having the second best environment in the world for e-commerce, second only to the USA.

The study attributes this achievement to strong venture capital markets, competitive internet access costs on broadband and dial-up, strong leadership of the e-agenda and a very supportive regulatory environment. UK broadband prices have reduced from among the most expensive in the G7 to among the cheapest.

More remains to be done, particularly to improve UK performance in uptake and use of information and communications technologies. Government policies are being developed to address these areas.


The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: We are awarding the licences through an auction process as this is the best way to deliver them into the hands of those who value them most and who we expect to deliver services to consumers. The 28GHz and 3.4GHz bands have different characteristics and the business cases for their development are different. Our market analysis and industry feedback for 3.4GHz indicates that there is demand for the licences we are offering.

The 3.4GHz licence packaging was designed to increase competition and availability of broadband services across the UK. The licence regions were drawn up following market and economic studies to be as

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economically viable and inclusive as possible, maximising the potential development of sustainable wireless services and broadband market throughout the UK.

To meet the Government's objectives for extensiveness and competition, networks must be deployed based on sound market principles and this is the basis for the licence regions specified. A number of business cases, including some for rural and sparsely populated regions of the UK, have recognised this and will make use of the spectrum of 2.4GHz, 5GHz and at 28GHz as well as 3.4GHz to broaden the business base. This is also why constraints that have appeared in earlier licensing processes have been removed in this instance. Recent analysis of the markets indicates that broadband in the 3.4GHz waveband is not the single panacea for rural services. Current technology at 3.4GHz does not easily lend itself to the mass market or for thinly populated regions.

Glucose Meters

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider supplying glucose meters on prescription.[HL1909]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Items of equipment such as blood glucometers are not available on National Health Service prescription from general practitioners. It has been a long-standing policy that it would be most appropriate for them to remain as NHS property to monitor their usage. The meters can be loaned to patients if the clinician managing a patient's diabetes feels they are appropriate. There are several testing strips which are available on prescription on the NHS.

Public Services: Competition

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which provisions in any treaty of the European Community or in directives or regulations arising therefrom which require public services provided directly by national or local government, or delivered by other bodies which are wholly owned by them, to be open to competition from private firms; and whether there are any judicial decisions enforcing, or exempting them from, any such requirement.[HL1553]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Neither the treaty nor the EC Procurement Directives and implementing regulations that arise from them require public services to be open to competition from private firms.

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Irish and Ulster Scots

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the terms of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 require that any support for the Irish language (as provided for in the Communications Bill now before Parliament) must be matched by equal support for the Ulster Scots language.[HL1567]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The agreement does not contain provision in the terms outlined.

Northern Ireland Civil Service

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to encourage civil servants in Northern Ireland to continue working until 65.[HL1937]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Since 4 October 2002, all staff employed in the Northern Ireland Civil Service have the option of remaining in post up to age 65. Staff

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were made aware of the change of policy by means of a general circular issued on that date.

Broadcasting: Invitations forMinisterial Interviews

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many official invitations they have received since 1 January from the British Broadcasting Corporation and other national broadcasting bodies respectively for Ministers of the Crown to be interviewed on current political topics or issues for which they were responsible; how many of these invitations were declined; and on how many occasions an official spokesperson was, or was not, offered in lieu.[HL1863]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Individual communication directorates within departments are responsible for processing and managing invitations for ministerial interviews from the BBC, other broadcasters and the wider media. The information requested is therefore not held centrally.

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