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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his further clarification regarding consistency with the Data Protection Act in relation to Clause 4. I thank the noble Lord for his explanation of Amendment No. 3 and confirm our support, as clearly stated during our debate in Grand

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Committee, for the need for consultation on a broad scale. As I stated in Grand Committee, the credibility of any regulatory scheme depends upon the degree of respect that it has among the major practitioners and consumers in that industry. We are concerned here with a new, nascent industry and it is therefore crucial that the Government listen to and respect those involved with its evolution to ensure that its development will not be compromised or impeded in any way by unnecessary or burdensome regulation.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response to the concern I raised on the Data Protection Act and, in particular, for his detailed statement which, when set out in Hansard, will be very useful for future interpretation of the Bill.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I may raise one or two questions on the wording of the amendment. I am concerned that the word "shall" in conjunction with paragraph (a) means that the Secretary of State is obliged to consult everyone who might be affected by those regulations, which is likely to be quite a large number of people. That is particularly so when it is taken with the word "and" at the end of paragraph (a). He not only has to consult those people but also people appearing to him to be representative of them. I am concerned that there is not the usual combination of "may" and "or", which are the words I would have expected there, and that the drafting will leave the Secretary of State with a very large task on his hands and one on which he may well be challenged on suspicion of incompleteness.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, for their support, both for the amendment and for the statement which I was able to make about the Data Protection Act. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for his tender concern for the sensibilities and duties of the Secretary of State. If there were the kind of challenge to which he referred, the Secretary of State could respond by saying, in terms of the final three words of the amendment, that he did not think fit to go any further in the consultation than he had done. I think that is a let out. It is an interesting point. We frequently use "shall" and "and" where some people think that we should use "may" and "or"; and more frequently the other way round.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8 [Power to modify legislation]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 4:


    Page 9, line 15, at end insert--


("( ) The Secretary of State shall maintain at a specified office and a specified site on the internet a list of all orders made under this section.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to continue a discussion which we had at the Committee stage concerning all the regulations that are to be made under Clause 8. They will be many and various and will be made at different times, by different departments, on different bases and will

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concern different problems. Over the course of time it will be difficult for anyone wishing to use electronic signatures to know quite where the legislation is as regards their acceptability.

In Committee we discussed various ways in which this issue might be addressed. Those were not acceptable. This amendment is an attempt to look at the problem in a different way and to make sure that the information and the legislation on the use of electronic signatures are easily and consistently obtainable by anyone needing to know it. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for giving me the opportunity to explain the Government's plans for publicising the use of Clause 8.

First, I remind the House that my honourable friend Patricia Hewitt has deposited in the House Library a memorandum, prepared by the Cabinet Office's Central IT Unit, giving more detail--indeed, a great deal more detail-- on how we will use this power. The Cabinet Office already publishes six-monthly reports, not only to Parliament but also on the web, on our progress towards information age government. That report is likely to be the appropriate vehicle for reporting on progress in using Clause 8 and, together with individual departments' targeted publicity on legislative changes, would achieve the objective of the noble Lord's amendment.

The Government have already announced their intention to use Clause 8 to make changes to the Companies Act and to facilitate electronic conveyancing. We will shortly be publishing further details on our priorities for using Clause 8.I should add that whether or not Clause 8 has been used in a particular area will not be the only indication of whether electronic means are permitted. Where the only requirement is for a "signature", Clause 7, which will come into force two months after Royal Assent, will put it beyond doubt that electronic signatures are admissible. In some cases, existing legislation may already allow electronic means. Alternatively, the use of electronic means may be authorised or facilitated by new primary legislation or by secondary legislation made under powers conferred by existing primary legislation.

Although Clause 8 can apply to future legislation, made after this Bill becomes law, I expect that future legislation will often provide for electronic means. So the important thing will be for people to check an up-to-date copy of the relevant legislation, possibly as amended by what will be the Electronic Communications Act, rather than to know whether or not Clause 8 has been applied in a particular case.

In any case, secondary legislation is already available on a website maintained by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk) which enables details of any future orders made under Clause 8 to be readily found. I understand that this has been checked within the past 24 hours and that it is necessary only to access that website and, to use the

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"natural language" search so as to find, for example, statutory instruments made under Section 8 of what will be the Electronic Communications Act 2000. I hope that this clarification will persuade the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I preferred my own simpler and more straightforward way of going about this; nevertheless I shall give in on the argument and accept that the Government will have their way. I hope that in this matter electronic government is rather more effective than it has been in my request for responses to my Written Questions by e-mail. I still cannot consistently obtain them in that form some three years after making my initial request.

Although I share the Minister's hopes that this will form an effective part of electronic government, we shall have to wait and see. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 5:


    After Clause 8, insert the following new clause--

VALIDATION OF ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE

(" . An order under section 8 may not require that an electronic signature may only be validated by a cryptography service provider registered under the provisions of Part I of this Act; nor may any government department or agency make any such stipulation in any contract or document.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I had intended to speak to this amendment with Amendment No. 2, which failed to appear. To an extent both amendments address the same question.

The Minister said in Committee that the Government have no intention of licensing, approving or in any way signing up to other countries' systems for registration. However, the reality is that other countries, in particular the United States, will put in place their own forms of registration. If we do not accept those forms, we shall force companies to register under every system in the world, including ours, in order to be on side of the domestic legislation.

The Government will need to take decisions as to which forms of overseas registration they will accept for the purposes of regulations made under the provisions of Clause 8. When they have done that, they should not then declare that only UK forms of registration are acceptable under particular circumstances set out in UK legislation. We should aim for as simple and usable a world-wide system of registration as we can achieve. The Government will need to participate in that. I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government have had further thoughts on the matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I rise in support of my noble friend Lord Lucas to say only that this matter was discussed at great length in Committee. I feel that it is important that the Minister should clarify what will happen when companies wish to register to

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set up and do business in this country. Will they be burdened with the extra costs and time needed to re-register each time they establish operations in the United Kingdom? Without clarification on this point, we shall put in place a hindrance as regards the development of e-commerce. That would go against the Government's declaration that the UK is the best place in the world as regards the promotion of e-commerce.


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