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19 Apr 1999 : Column WA137

Written Answers

Monday, 19th April 1999.

Defence Computer Infrastructure: Protection

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to set up a body similar to the United States Defence Computer Forensics Laboratory (Aviation Week, 22 March, page 82); and, if not, why not.[HL1843]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are fully alert to the risks of electronic attack and are working closely with key players in the private sector and with our partners internationally, in particular the United States, to ensure that the protection of the critical national infrastructure, including defence, is as robust as possible.

The Government do not expect to have identical arrangements to those in the United States, as the situation in the United Kingdom differs greatly. Therefore we have no plans to set up a similar body to the Defence Computer Forensics Laboratory. The main problem for the United States is their dependency on the Internet; this is less true in the United Kingdom, as we do not allow sensitive information to be passed on the Internet. However, the Government accept that this is a fast moving area and realise that we cannot be complacent. For example, the resources of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) provide technical support to the Ministry of Defence and other government departments as necessary in developing information security tools, including computer forensics.

I can therefore state that, although not necessarily following the same structure as the United States in meeting the threat from electronic attack, we are actively protecting all of our critical national infrastructure within both the private and public sectors.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

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

    Whether they will consider introducing a measure to provide for the approval of an appointment to the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration by both Houses of Parliament by a two-thirds majority using a proportional system of voting.[HL1813]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government have no plans to change the way in which the Parliamentary Ombudsman is appointed. The terms of his appointment are set out in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

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Walking

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the medical evidence about the value for the health of adults of a two-mile walk each day, they will make one the objectives of the Millennium the creation of 2,000 new circular country walks near or adjacent to centres of residential population.[HL1906]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We recognise the valuable contribution that walking can make to improving and sustaining both physical and mental health, and are taking action to encourage it. On circular walks, the British Heart Foundation and the Countryside Agency are working together, within their "Walking--the Way to Health" initiative, to create local schemes to increase the availability of such walks and to encourage otherwise sedentary people to realise the benefits of regular walking. The principal responsibility for developing circular paths, and most other walking routes, lies with local authorities, which are well placed to understand local needs and recreation opportunities. They have powers to create, divert and extinguish paths, by agreement with landowners or by order.

National Lottery funds are available for the creation of new routes. The Millennium Commission has awarded £84.6 million in grant to 18 capital projects which help in some way to encourage walking--through footpath development and restoration, park development, and increasing public access to the countryside. These projects include the Trans-Pennine Trail, the Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli and the Peterborough Green Wheel. Other Lottery Funds have also made significant contributions to improving access to the countryside. This is an important element too of the "Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities Initiative", one of the three new initiatives recently announced to be funded by the New Opportunities Fund.

Biosafety Protocol and GMOs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the absence of agreement on a Biosafety Protocol under the Biodiversity Convention, the World Trade Organisation may back exporters of products including genetically modified organisms which governments of importing countries wish to subject to "advance informed consent"; and, if so, whether they will seek to halt activities in this field until agreement on the Protocol has been reached.[HL1439]

Lord Whitty: Advance informed consent for the import of products including genetically modified organisms is not necessarily inconsistent with WTO rules. The UK, in accordance with the EC legislation, will continue to require that any person intending to import a GMO intended for release into the environment

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or for marketing must first obtain a consent. The advance informed agreement in the Biosafety Protocol would not negate the need for a consent under the EC legislation. This EC requirement is consistent with WTO rules. There is therefore no need to halt activities in this field until agreement on the Biosafety Protocol is reached.

M.74, Glasgow: Hazard Lights

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the emergency telephones on the M.74 road approaching Glasgow have been placed so that they frequently obscure from motorists the lower of the two vertical hazard lights which adjoin the motorway.[HL1847]

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Scottish Office is aware of this design fault and steps are being taken to rectify the problem.

From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Copyright: Amendment to Draft Directive

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Parliament's amendment to Article 5.2(b) of the proposed Copyright in the Information Society Directive means that private copying, such as the timeshifting exception in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, will become illegal if any private party introduces a "reliable and effective" technical means to stop such copying; and[HL1897]

    Whether the amendment of the European Parliament to Article 6 of the proposed Copyright in the Information Society Directive would allow the rightholders technically to block lawful copying; and whether it would be unlawful to do anything to allow such lawful copying to take place; and[HL1898]

    Whether the European Parliament's amendment to Article 6 of the proposed European Copyright in the Information Society Directive is compliant with Article 11 of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation Copyright Treaty, which does not apply to acts which are authorised or permitted by law.[HL1899]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The amendment to Article 5.2(b) of the draft directive proposed by the European Parliament appears to mean that exceptions to rights allowing private copying on digital recording media, such as for time-shifting purposes, would not be permitted in cases where reliable and effective technical protection means are available. However, such technical means could in any event be used to prevent copying, irrespective of whether exceptions to copyright might otherwise apply.

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We do not consider the use of technical means inconsistent with the exceptions in the UK since, although these provide that certain acts are permitted without infringing copyright, they do not in general confer any right to do these acts. There are no restrictions in the UK on the use of technical measures, and Article 6 of the draft directive would not alter this situation. In UK law, provisions already exist to control unauthorised circumvention of technical protection measures, and it is to this aspect that Article 6 is directed. We would agree that careful consideration is necessary of the circumstances under which circumvention should be illegal, and we are not convinced that Article 6 is appropriately worded in this respect, either as originally drafted or as amended by the European Parliament. However, it does not seem to us that the Parliament's amendments are inconsistent with the provisions of Article 11 of the World Intellectual Property Organisation Copyright Treaty, since this establishes only minimum standards of protection against circumvention which contracting parties are free to exceed if they so choose.

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are in favour of an exception to the proposed European Copyright in the Information Society Directive in order to ensure that people with a learning disability or with a visual or hearing impairment are able to copy copyright works, which they currently have a lawful right to use in order to be able to enjoy equivalent use of that work to a person without the disability.[HL1900]

Lord Simon of Highbury: We fully support a provision in the draft directive which would allow member states to provide exceptions to copyright for the benefit of disabled people. At present, the only exception of this kind in the UK relates to sub-titling of broadcasts and cable programmes, but we will carefully consider whether further exceptions for the disabled should be introduced once the content of the directive is settled and we can be certain of the obligations it places on us.


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