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e-Mails and Information Security

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 makes it a requirement not to send commercial e-mail which disguises or conceals the identity of the person on whose behalf it is sent or does not provide a valid address to which a request that communications cease may be sent. These regulations come into force on 11 December 2003. But in any case the modification of any computer system without the owner's permission is likely to be covered by the Computer Misuse Act 1990. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is currently looking to update the CMA. For some years the DTI has sought to increase awareness of information security, particularly among smaller businesses. One particular initiative to help such companies was announced earlier this year by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. This is an online resource offering easy to understand advice and assistance on information security. This resource can be found at

Small Businesses

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The number of businesses that registered for VAT increased, from 174,600 in 2001 to 175,800 in 2002.

The reason why deregistrations have risen is not clear.

Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

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

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: We received over 600 responses to our consultation on the draft Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and on the draft Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Those responses covered a range of issues, including the need for religious organisations to be able to continue to comply with doctrinal requirements or strongly held religious beliefs of their followers.

As part of the response form, respondents were asked to indicate whether they were content for their responses to be made available under the Code of Practice on Open Government. Responses from those who indicated they were willing for these to be made available publicly can be inspected at the Department of Trade and Industry. We have no plans to place any of these responses in the Libraries of the House.

Mineworkers' Pension Scheme

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the miners' pension scheme is slipping into deficit; if so, why they continue to deduct significant sums from the scheme; and whether, in the circumstances, the 1994 deal should be revised.[HL5171]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The results of the latest actuarial valuation of the mineworkers' pension scheme (MPS) have revealed a deficit. However, under the terms of the current guarantee arrangements over £350 million of government money has now been transferred from the investment reserve, a sub-fund in the scheme, to the main fund in the scheme to ensure members' guaranteed benefits are paid. The Government have also agreed to MPS members continuing to receive inflation linked increases to their total pension—basic pension plus bonuses—over the next three years.

The government guarantee ensures that miners' pensions as at privatisation will always rise in line with inflation and never fall in cash terms even if, as now, there is a significant deficit in the scheme. In exchange for the guarantee, the Government receive a 50 per cent share of any scheme investment surplus created by past valuations. The other 50 per cent of surpluses is available for the trustees to distribute to members and has meant that members have, over the years, received bonuses totalling around 30 per cent.

Against the background of large falls in world stock markets, which have had a major effect on investment performance as highlighted by the deficit in the MPS, the trustees have been advised that the Government do not feel it would be right to change the current arrangements which provides such an unprecedented degree of security for scheme members.

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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the decision of Oftel to revise their definition of "broadband" by dropping the requirement that Internet connections should be capable of delivering real-time video content; and, if so, what is the rationale underpinning this decision.[HL5172] Joan

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Oftel is an independent regulator, which has to decide for itself how to define a market so as best to fulfil its responsibilities.

Oftel published a consultation on the narrowband Internet market in August 2003. This provisionally concluded that asymmetric broadband Internet access is in a separate market from narrowband Internet access.

This revised definition takes account of responses to earlier consultations and Oftel's own consumer research which shows that people do not see real-time video content delivery and 256kbps as the defining feature of broadband (as previously set out in an earlier consultation by Oftel, published in April 2003). This is an economic definition for the purposes of the market review, which conforms to established principles of competition law methodology. It does not affect the range of services available to consumers at different bandwidths.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the definition of broadband as an expression of data transfer speed in (a) Germany, (b) Sweden, (c) Spain, (d) Japan, (e) South Korea, (f) Australia, (g) the United States and (h) Canada differs from that in the United Kingdom; and, if so, how.[HL5173]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government do not keep information on other countries' definitions of broadband in terms of data transfer speeds. However, in their own analysis of the United Kingdom's relative position in the G7, they use the same definition to apply to all countries.

Universities: Funding

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

    What is the average rate of funding per student at British universities; and how it compares (adjusted for inflation) with the average rate of funding 10 years ago.[HL5114]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Scotland and Wales are devolved administrations. The information for higher education institutions in England is shown in the table below:

Unit funding per students £s real terms


The Government made a commitment in the 2000 spending review to increase the funding per student from 2001–02. As a result of the 2002 spending review publicly planned spending per FTE in higher education will rise by 7 per cent in real terms between 2002–03 and 2005–06. Information for Northern Ireland is not available on a comparable basis.

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

    How funding levels for British universities compare with funding levels for state and private universities in the United States.[HL5115]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The publication Education at a Glance for 2003 reports expenditure per tertiary student in the USA of 20,358 US dollars and 9,657 US dollars for a student in the UK in 2000. The figures include both public and private expenditure. The relative proportions of public to private expenditure at tertiary level in 2000 are 67.7:32.3 for the UK and 33.9:66.1 for the USA.

NHS Hospitals: Clinical Research Support

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the current system of support for academic research in National Health Service hospitals, in particular the effect of the Culyer levy on certain teaching hospitals outside London; and, if so, when.[HL5282]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Issues about future support for clinical research have been raised in the recent report from the Academy of Medical Sciences, Strengthening Clinical Research, and also in a report to government from the Biosciences Innovation and Growth Team to be launched later this month. The Government will be considering their response to both reports.

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