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Zanzibar: Free Elections

Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Commonwealth and other international observers were unanimous in their strong criticism of the organisation of the elections on Zanzibar on 29 October. We, with EU colleagues, criticised the decision to rerun the elections in only 16 constituencies on 5 November and under the supervision of the current electoral commission. The EU also condemned the excessive use of force by the security forces against Zanzibaris.

My honourable friend Peter Hain MP spoke to the Tanzanian Foreign Minister on 4 November to express our concerns about the situation. He particularly urged the security forces to act with restraint. We will continue to press the Tanzanian authorities to find a solution to the political crisis that respects the democratic and human rights of all Zanzibaris. We have been encouraged by the recent release of opposition members who had been imprisoned on politically motivated treason charges for nearly three years. We hope that this is an indication of a genuine desire for reconciliation and openness on the part of the Zanzibar authorities.

Millennium Volunteers

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to reduce the time commitment expected from millennium volunteers.[HL4566]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): There are no plans to reduce the 200 hours of voluntary activity required to achieve the Millennium Volunteers Award of Excellence. Over 900 young people have already received Millennium Volunteers Awards. Young people also receive a Millennium Volunteers Certificate after 100 hours' voluntary activity in recognition of their achievement. We have contracted with 160 projects throughout England.

EU Rural Development Initiative

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements have been made for the implementation of the European Community Initiative for Rural Development (the LEADER+ Programme) in England.[HL4694]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): MAFF has submitted the draft England LEADER+Programme to Brussels; similar arrangements are being made for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Copies of the Programme document are to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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E-Commerce: Customer Protection Directive

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the current European Commission proposals with respect to customer protection on the Internet, particularly in the light of recent criticism from the Alliance for Electronic Business.[HL4598]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Commission's revised proposal for a Community Regulation on jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters includes in Article 15 consumer provisions which in certain circumstances would allow consumers to sue in their home courts when in dispute with traders in other member states. In particular, consumers would be entitled to do so where the trader, "pursues commercial or professional activities in the Member State of the consumer's domicile or . . . directs such activities to that Member State".

The Government's approach is to seek to avoid placing significant extra burdens on business, while taking into account the need to build consumer confidence in e-commerce. In the light of this we welcome the Commission's proposal to delete Recital 13 of its original proposal, which defined "directs such activities" in such a way that all transactions involving Internet websites would automatically have been covered by Article 15. Member states have provisionally agreed that this recital should be deleted.

The Government agree with the Alliance for Electronic Business (AEB) that it would be desirable to have a new definition of "directs such activities". One possibility would be to provide that Article 15 would only apply where websites are intentionally targeted at particular member states. The fact that a website is accessible in different countries, or uses languages or currencies which are in common use in several countries, should not by itself indicate that a trader's activities are directed to those countries.

The Government also agree with the AEB that it would be desirable for the Presidency to allow more time for member states to discuss the implications of Article 15 for e-commerce, and for the five-year review period for the regulation to be shortened. We have proposed that the Commission be required to review the impact of Article 15, particularly on smaller firms, at the same time as the review of the Directive on Electronic Commerce, which is to be completed by July 2003.

The Government believe that in many future cases the best way to resolve contractual disputes will be through low cost, user friendly alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes such as arbitration and ombudsmen. We support proposals from other member states that the regulation should be accompanied by a joint statement from the Council and the Commission drawing attention to the importance of developing cross-border ADR in the single market.

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Internet Fraud Prevention

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to respond to the recent survey from the SAS Institute revealing that 62 per cent of top tier companies across all sectors in the United Kingdom have no measures in place to combat Internet fraud.[HL4599]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: This seems to confirm the findings of our own survey on information security breaches, which the DTI published in April 2000, where a thousand organisations of all sizes and across a range of sectors were interviewed. Internet security is clearly a matter for business but the Department of Trade and Industry promotes good information security practice to UK business. In particular, the department has promoted the use of British Standard 7799, which gives a management and organisational framework for implementing best practice in information security. This framework is grounded in the assessment of risk and the application of appropriate controls to counter those risks.

Autism and MMR Vaccination

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the study or causal factors of autism announced by the Medical Research Council on 3 April will investigate the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination. [HL4540]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The study in question is led by Professor Andrew Hall of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is a population-based case controlled study to identify possible causes of autism. It will determine whether autistic children have an abnormal history of medical conditions, such as problems during birth or viral infections in the womb. The research will include investigating the association, if any, between MMR vaccination and autism.

Mirror Group Newspapers plc Investigation: Payments to Inspectors

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What payments in pursuance of their duties have been made to each of the two Inspectors appointed in 1992 to investigate the affairs of Mirror Group Newspapers plc, broken down for each year since then up to October 2000. [HL4591]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: A full analysis of payments made to the two inspectors in the case of Mirror Group Newspapers plc, Sir John Thomas and Raymond Turner, could only be produced at disproportionate cost. However, since taking up his

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judicial appointment in 1996, for which he receives a salary from the public purse, Sir John Thomas has not sought payment in respect of his work on the inspection.

Coal Industry Pension Scheme Surpluses

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What sums they have obtained annually as guarantor from surpluses arising from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS) and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (BCSSS) since 1994 at constant prices; what percentage increases have been awarded annually to pensioner beneficiaries under the MPS and the BCSSS; and what has been their total value annually at constant prices.[HL4467]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: As a result of arrangements established in 1994, the Government receive 50 per cent of actuarial surpluses in the MPS and the BCSSS in exchange for providing the schemes with solvency guarantees. The cash values of receipts from the two schemes since payments began in 1996-97 are as follows:

£ millions1996-971997-981998-991999-20002000-01

The department's calculation of the value of these sums at 1999-2000 prices, using the GDP Deflator (the 2000-01 deflation factor is an estimate based upon HM Treasury's current working assumptions), is as follows:

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1999-2000 Prices
£ millions1996-971997-981998-991999-20002000-01

Pension levels are a matter for the trustees, but over the same period MPS and BCSSS members have received the following valuation surplus bonuses in addition to the annual inflation-linked increases they receive to maintain real value of their pensions:

MPS: 20 per cent payable from 1997 and approx. 9 per cent payable from 2000

BCSSS: 6.7 per cent payable from 1996 and 10.8 per cent payable from 1998

The total cash values to scheme members of these post-surplus bonuses is as follows (figures for the current financial year are not yet available):

£ millions1996-971997-981998-991999-2000

The department's calculation of the value of these sums at 1999-2000 prices is:

1999-2000 Prices
£ millions1996-971997-981998-991999-2000

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