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Parcelforce: International Export Shipments

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): This is a commercial matter for the Post Office. However I understand from it that the proportion of parcels sent is seasonally variable and is in these ranges.

Business to businessBusiness to consumerConsumer to consumerFamily member gifts (included in consumer to consumer)
TOTAL (approx. percentages)41-47%17-22%27-37%20-27%

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E-commerce and Changes to the Brussels Convention

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will be publishing their response to the consultations sought in the Department of Trade and Industry's paper Proposed Changes to the Brussels Convention before the House of Lords European Union Committee publishes its report on e-commerce; and, if not, whether they will treat the report as if it were a formal response to the consultation.[HL2959]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: In determining their position the Government will take full account of the report, along with the forthcoming opinion of the European Parliament and any amended proposal which the European Commission may then present. These are not expected before the end of July.

Iraq: Applications for Essential Medical Equipment

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long, on average, the Department of Trade and Industry takes to process an application for essential medical equipment for Iraqi hospitals by recognised United Kingdom-based charities.[HL2984]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Export Control Organisation (ECO) of the DTI does not record the average length of time it takes to process licence applications. The Government's commitments to exporters are published in the ECO's Service and Performance Code which sets out the targets for processing applications. However, these targets do not apply to applications concerning Iran or Iraq or to applications for licences to export goods which are subject to control solely because of UN sanctions. This is because there are special licensing procedures for those destinations which reflect the Government's concerns.

European Single Sky

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Single European Sky will cover the deployment of NATO aircraft in the United Kingdom or in British airspace.[HL2971]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Detailed proposals on Single Sky are still being developed. Therefore, there are currently no mature proposals which would impact on military operations.

The focus of Single Sky is on improving Europe's civil air traffic management system so it can keep pace

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with the continuing rapid rise in traffic. It is however recognised that closer co-operation between civil and military authorities is an important factor in achieving this goal.

European Car Free Day

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to participate in the European Union's car free day on Friday 22 September; and what advice or encouragement they are giving to local authorities to support it.[HL3003]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: We are considering whether to sign a declaration drawn up by the European Commission in support of the European car free day on 22 September. We have taken the view that it is for individual authorities to decide whether, and if so how, to support the initiative, taking into account local circumstances.

ORR and sSRA: Discounted Rail Travel

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many employees in:

    (a) the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR); and

    (b) the Office of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority (sSRA); receive free or discounted rail travel from train operators.[HL3004]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: There are four employees in ORR and 39 in sSRA who receive free or discounted rail travel.

Disabled People: Access to the Built Environment

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action are they taking in respect of the recommendation of the Disability Rights Task Force in From Exclusion to Inclusion that they should establish a statutory group on improving access to the built environment for disabled people.[HL3110]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We accept the thinking behind the task force's recommendation. We have therefore asked the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Commitee (DPTAC) to establish a working group to advise government on improving access to the built environment for disabled people. DPTAC has agreed to do so. This new role for the committee will be in addition to its statutory functions in respect of the

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transport needs of disabled people. There will be no immediate amendment to those statutory functions.

Easy access to buildings and facilities within buildings are basic civil rights which are sometimes denied to people with disabilities. We will be looking to the new group to tell me how government and industry can make improvements in this area.

Outdoor Advertisement Control

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to proceed in the light of the reponse to the Outdoor Advertisement Control consultation paper published in July 1999.[HL3111]

Lord Whitty: We are pleased by the positive reaction to the proposals in this consultation paper. The proposals received widespread support and there were also a number of helpful suggestions for improving individual proposals which are reflected in our final conclusions. We are grateful to all those who took the trouble to comment. Their views have been given careful consideration in deciding how to proceed.

We are placing in the Library of the House a list of our proposals showing the changes made following consultation. The department is now preparing the necessary statutory instruments and guidance to implement the changes.

London Mayor and Assembly Elections

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports they have received from the Greater London Returning Officer on the election of the mayor and assembly for London. [HL3112]

Lord Whitty: We have now had advice from the Greater London Returning Officer (GLRO) about the first election of the mayor and assembly for London. There were a number of innovations at the election designed to make voting more convenient and to speed up the counting process. These included electronic counting, early voting, opening polling stations an hour earlier than usual and sending a leaflet to every elector containing an election address from each candidate contesting the mayoral election.

Two issues have emerged in relation to the count: the speed of the count and the number of votes classified as "rejected".

Although the count took a few hours longer than originally expected, the GLRO has stressed that Ministers can be satisfied that the first use of electronic counting in an election of this size and complexity went well. There were some technical problems with some scanning machines on the night but a manual count would have taken many more days to complete. In all other respects the electronic counting system worked very well and fully in line with expectations.

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A number of other factors also contributed to the slower than expected count. For example, there were a larger than expected number of ballot papers out-sorted by the scanning machines for manual checking before they were entered into the system. It is also the case that as this was the first time that staff had used an electronic counting system in an election, they quite rightly took time to make sure that the new procedures were followed properly. These factors inevitably slow things up.

The other issue was the larger than expected number of electors who chose not to cast a vote in one or more of the elections. Each elector had four opportunities to vote--first choice for mayor, second choice for mayor, constituency assembly member and London assembly member--and each is recorded separately. If an elector chooses not to vote in any of the four ballots, which they have every right to do, this is recorded as a "rejected" vote even though the ballot paper was left blank. For example, if a voter selects a first choice for mayor but not a second choice, and does not vote at all in the two assembly elections, the system would record one valid vote and three "rejected" votes.

Over 6.5 million votes were cast by about 1.75 million electors. Around 0.5 million votes were recorded as "rejected". These were made up of multiple votes (where the voter had voted more than once in a column), papers where marks identified the voter, blanks where no vote had been cast and uncertain votes where even after manual checking the voter's intention was still not clear.

The majority of votes classified as "rejected" simply record the fact that many electors chose not to use all the four votes at their disposal. Almost 300,000 people did not use their second preference vote for the mayor, although they did give a first preference. About 130,000 did not cast a vote for a constituency assembly member and about 70,000 did not cast a vote for a London assembly member. About 1 per cent of ballot papers were "rejected" because they were either marked with multiple votes or had marks that identified the voter. This proportion is in line with other elections.

Over 3 per cent of voters took advantage of early voting. Almost all of them welcomed the opportunity to vote early and said they would use it again if it is available. Just under half of those who used the facility said that they would not have voted on polling day.

About 3 per cent of voters also took advantage of the extended polling hours on polling day and voted between 7am and 8am on polling day. In some polling stations 11 per cent of voters voted in the first hour. Most were on their way to work and 20 per cent said that they would not have been able to vote at another time on the day. More people preferred the polls to open an extra hour in the morning rather than later in the evening.

A leaflet containing election addresses for all 11 mayoral candidates was produced and delivered to every elector in London, as required by law.

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