Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

"Adopter": Definition

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): There is no significance in the difference between the definitions in the two regulations. The wording is slightly different but this had no effect in practice.

Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) (No. 2) Order 2002

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

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The variations in increases occur because Section 34(3) of the Employment Relations Act 1999 provides that, in making the calculation to apply the relevant percentage increase (or decrease) the Secretary of State shall round up the new sums variously to the nearest 10 pence, £10 or £100.

Patent Office: Electronic Communications

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

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Subsections (6) and (13) of Section 124A, which is inserted in the Patents Act 1977 by paragraph 2 of Order S.I. 2003 No. 512, deal with electronic communications respectively incoming to and outgoing from the Patent Office. There are several considerations which require these two classes of communication to be treated differently in this order.

For communications coming into the Patent Office, it is frequently the case that their time and date of receipt is critical to the establishment and maintenance of patent rights or to the compliance with time-critical requirements of the patents legislation. This justifies a level of technical precision whereby senders can be

19 May 2003 : Column WA62

assured that the Patent Office electronic receiving system has operated satisfactorily, and they gain this assurance if they receive an acknowledgement from that system. The Patent Office intends to provide such acknowledgement, and may wish to rely on it to the extent that a delivery cannot be treated as made if the acknowledgement has not been issued. The purpose of Section 124A(6) is specifically to give legal powers to the Comptroller of the Patent Office to make a future direction which places such importance on the acknowledgement, and will thereby provide a safeguard to senders that Patent Office systems are working to the customary high standard.

For outgoing electronic communications from the Patent Office the same criteria do not apply. In striving for legal certainty as to whether such outgoing delivery can be deemed to be effected, the view was taken that the obligations on the office must be limited to properly addressing and transmitting the electronic communication. Satisfactory receipt of these outgoing communications depends, among other things, on the functionality of the various electronic systems installed in different users' offices. It may be that users' systems will provide an acknowledgement of receipt to the Patent Office, but the Patent Office should make no assumptions and should not be entitled to rely on it. Section 124A(13) presents this approach as the default situation, but also allows the comptroller to override that default situation by specifying "contrary intention", should that be appropriate. This wording is based upon the established drafting used in Section 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978 in connection with service by post. This "intention" would be applicable only in the context of outgoing communications from the Patent Office and has no application to the provisions for communications coming into it.


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

    Which organisation set the safety limit for thiomersal laid down in the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/835).[HL2765]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Decisions regarding the imposition of safety limits, or restrictions to be placed on their use in cosmetics, are taken by member states following opinions given by the European independent Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products intended for Consumers (SCCNFP).

The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2003 revoke and re-enact a number of national regulations which were made to implement amendments to Council Directive 76/768/EEC on the safety of cosmetic products. Thiomersal has not been newly regulated under the 2003 regulations; it has been regulated since 1982. However, I understand that the use of thiomersal in decorative cosmetic products is very limited.

19 May 2003 : Column WA63

Electricity Meters

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

    Why in the Electricity (Approval of Pattern on Construction and Installation and Certification) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002/2139) the sum charged by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority for meter examiners is under £45 an hour while that for inspectors is £110 an hour.[HL2766]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Statutory Instrument S.I. 2002/3129 makes provision for the amendment to the Meters (Certification) Regulations 1998 and the Meters (Approval of Pattern or Construction and Manner of Installation) Regulations 1998. These regulations were amended, in part, to facilitate the outsourcing of Ofgem's operational meter testing and examination services to a private contractor.

For the examination, testing and certification of meters, the £45 hourly rate does not necessarily represent the entirety of the fee that may be incurred. The Meters (Certification) Regulation 1998 provides that the fee payable to the authority for examination testing and certification of meters by a meter examiner (who is a member of the authority's staff) or by a meter examiner instructed by the authority (but not a member of the authority's staff) can include £45 per hour for time spent examining or testing or procuring the testing of a meter; any reasonable expenses (including incidental expenses) in accordance with the provisions of the SI; a sum equal to the costs incurred

19 May 2003 : Column WA64

by the authority (other than the cost of employing the meter examiner, referred to above) attributable to procuring from any person the provision of premises, equipment, or personnel (including a meter examiner) for the purpose of examining or carrying out any test on the meter.

The fee is intended to cover the administrative costs of an Ofgem meter examiner.

Members' and Peers' Correspondence

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish departmental and agency correspondence figures for 2002.[HL2931]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My honourable friend the Member for Paisley South in a Written Ministerial Statement on 15 May (Official Report, col. 18WS) published a report on departments' and agencies' performance in handling Members' and Peers' correspondence during the 2002 calendar year. Details are set out in the attached table. Departmental figures, where possible, are based on substantive replies.

For the first time, the report includes performance on handling correspondence received from Members of the House of Lords across all departments since 1 June 2002.

The footnotes to the table provide general background information on how the figures have been compiled.

19 May 2003 : Column WA63

19 May 2003 : Column WA63

Correspondence from MPs/Peers to Ministers and Agency Chief Executives(1)

Department or Agency2001 Target set for reply (working days)Number of letters received% of replies within target2002 Target set for reply (working days)Number of letters received% of replies within target
Cabinet Office(2)15599901547573
Leader of the House of Lords1553801515596
Crown Prosecution Service(3)1597941536685
Department for Culture, Media and Sport184,41690184,76783
HM Customs and Excise (4)182,45262181,61659
Ministry of Defence(4)155,35085155,38183
Armed Forces Personnel1518100
Administration Agency Defence Aviation Repair Agency1014100
Met Office1520801514100
Veterans Agency20279991526599
Department for Education and Skills(4)1518,237761515,59584
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(5)159,905341511,24147
Foreign and Commonwealth Office2010,275792015,53583
UK Visas158,276781510,32298
Department of Health(6)2019,665602017,94229
NHS Pensions Agency156598156595
Medicines Control Agency101782153689
Home Office(7)
*Non Prison Service correspondence15*16,2513515*26,05335
**Prison Service correspondence20**1,2107820**1,26786
Criminal Records Bureau(8)5632N/A
HM Prison Service201,272752094277
UK Passport Service10279871013297
Inland Revenue (4)
*Local Tax Office delegated figures183,35677183,15771
(where local tax offices have replied to direct to MPs)183827518*43980
Valuation Office233090182075
Department for International Development(4)151,74087152,61296
Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers(2)15284961537863
Lord Chancellor's Department201,73774202,57754
Court Service15591682023084
HM Land Registry2024792032100
Public Records Office10111001516698
Public Guardianship Office(9)15120621526131
*Target for correspondence sent direct to Agency Chief Executive **Target for correspondence sent direct to Agency Chief Executive
Northern Ireland Office10358491050159
Compensation Agency for NI72793
Northern Ireland Prison Service102778103391
National Savings and Investments(4)156362154466
National Statistics(4)
*Letters where Chief Executive15192772021282
replied on Minister's behalf.10*15463
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister(3)155,52376
Planning Inspectorate836494829190
Privy Council Office15237741548895
Scotland Office1596751511573
Department of Trade and Industry (10)109,260491011,56541
Companies House*10501001045100
Employment Tribunals Service**151210064693
Insolvency Service10292801039896
Patent Office10154951036798
Radiocommunication Agency1515100104489
Small Business Service***104796
*Letters sent direct to Agency Chief Executive. **Target date for letters sent direct to Agency=15 working days. ***Figures included in main DTI return.
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions(3)1514,37584157,67183
Department for Transport(3)156,50584
Driving Standards Agency(3)1582100155698
Highways Agency(3)15322961527396
Maritime and Coastguard Agency1521951527100
Vehicle Inspectorate1532941527100
HM Treasury(3)154,03978154,64778
Treasury Solicitor's Department10391001026100
Wales Office(3)1591631511897
Department for Work and Pensions2012,698662014,29765
Appeals Service158764155288
Benefits Agency202,529902050487
Child Support Agency203,29358203,19451
Employment Service1552094157295
Jobcentre Plus151,10357
The Pension Service1551171
Disability and Carers Service15749100
Debt Management153086
Child Benefit Centre202095

(1) Departments and Agencies who received a total of 10 MPs/Peers letters or less during 2002 are not shown in this table. Holding or interim replies are not included unless otherwise indicated.

(2) 2002 statistics no longer include interim or holding replies details of which had been included in previous annual reports.

(3) Includes interim or holding replies.

(4) Includes all Ministerial correspondence eg letters from MEPs, Members of devolved legislatures etc.

(5) The performance reflects problems in early part of 2002. DEFRA has taken steps to improve performance. Currently answering 74 per cent. correspondence within targets.

(6) Poor performance was partly due to problems with a new internal tracking system and problems interfacing with the Agencies. Robust action is now taking place to address these problems including the setting up of a new Customer Service Centre to ensure that problems that occurred in 2002 do not happen again. Also includes figures for the Food Standards Agency as such correspondence is replied to by Department of Health Ministers.

(7) The large increase in letters received relating to immigration matters has affected the overall performance. Home Office has made the improvement of performance a high priority with more robust systems being put in place to monitor the progress of correspondence and provide early indications of any outstanding or newly emerging problems, this includes the introduction of a new IT tracking system.

(8) Figures for 2002 are not currently available.

(9) A major restructuring programme has led to a large backlog of correspondence. There has also been a substantial increase in complaints to Ministers. A major recovery programme was launched to deal with this. 89 per cent. of Ministerial correspondence was answered within target by the end of 2002.

(10) Due to problems in meeting the 10 working days target, DTI have raised their target for reply from 10 to 15 working days (in line with majority of other government departments) for correspondence received in 2003. Raising the level to 15 working days will help improve performance to a more acceptable level.

19 May 2003 : Column WA67

19 May 2003 : Column WA67

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page