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Internet Participation by Developing Countries

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government consider that the Internet will only realise its economic and social potential for all of us as an accessible, low cost global network for information exchange if there is full participation by developing countries. The Government therefore strongly support work to close this international "digital divide", particularly through the "Dot.force" launched at the recent G8 Summit in Okinawa, which brings together public and private sectors in developing and developed countries. This will be to the mutual benefit of developing and developed countries.

Broadband Radio Spectrum Licence Awards

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: We have not yet decided what procedure should be used for awarding licences for these three bands. We are currently consulting industry on the award procedure for 3.4 GHz and 10 GHz radio spectrum licences and the indications are that businesses are keen for the licences to become available as soon as possible. We will be consulting industry, early in 2001, on a range of options for awarding licences at 40 GHz.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: One of the Government's aims for the auction was to promote competition within the wider broadband market. We offered three licences in each region to encourage new entrants who would provide competition in existing broadband operators. Ten companies qualified to take part in the auction and although not all of them obtained licences it was a major achievement to attact six new entrants to the market.

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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the recent auction of 28 GHz broadband radio spectrum, how they intend to address the problem that 40 per cent of the population will not have broadband high-speed Internet access; what impact this has on their policy of making the United Kingdom the best place in the world for e-commerce; and to what extent the lack of sale of any licences for Wales, and, in England, South Central, South West, East Anglia and East Midlands areas will delay the roll-out of high-speed Internet access throughout the United Kingdom.[HL4781]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: 28 GHz broadband fixed wireless access is only one way of delivering broadband services such as high-speed Internet access. There are comparable services available via ADSL, cable, fibre and satellite. The licences awarded through the auction will provide a competitive stimulus to existing operators which will help bring better and cheaper services to users. The auction has provided new information on industry's valuation of the spectrum. This will form a good basis for future decisions on making spectrum available for broadband access. The Government will be considering when to re-offer licences in regions where no licences were sold. This will provide a further opportunity for operators to obtain licences and to enhance existing services and coverage.

Medeva Polio Vaccine: Foetal Calf Serum History

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the calf serum used in the preparation of the polio vaccine which has recently been withdrawn from use came from a "controlled veterinary herd"; if so, how many animals were in the herd at the time that the serum was taken; and when (if ever) any of those animals were diagnosed as having BSE.[HL4402]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): According to the information supplied by the company to the Medicines Control Agency, the foetal calf serum used in the manufacture of this stock was collected before 1984 and used in the manufacture of a component batch of polio vaccine in 1985. In 1985 there were no BSE-related controls in place. Medeva has no records of the herd from which the material came, and it is therefore not possible to examine whether there were any subsequent BSE-related issues associated with the source of this material. However, Medeva has confirmed that the serum was obtained from herds that would have been under veterinary supervision and compliant with requirements for human food consumption.

We have asked the Chief Medical Officer to review all the advice given to Ministers on vaccines in relation

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to Public Health and vCJD. This review will include the circumstances leading to the withdrawal of the Medeva manufactured oral polio vaccine and advice to Ministers on withdrawal or recall of vaccines more generally.

When the report of the CMO is available, I will respond to the specific points raised.

NHS Estates Agency

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the findings of the Quinquennial Review of the NHS Estates and Health Building Agency.[HL4835]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are publishing today the report of the NHS Estates Quinquennial Review and copies have been placed in the Library. The review concludes that the agency has performed well in advising Ministers and the National Health Service Executive on policy and strategy for the NHS Estate and on the performance of NHS trusts in managing their estate. It finds that executive agency status has been beneficial and recommends that NHS Estates should remain as an agency.

Baroness Thornton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the Strategic Direction 2000-01--2004-05, Key Tasks and Targets for 2000-01 and Annual Plan 2000-01 for the NHS Estates Agency.[HL4836]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have agreed the agency's Strategic Direction 2000-01--2004-05, Key Tasks and Targets for 2000-01 and Annual Plan 2000-01 and have placed copies in the Library.

Disability Information: Funding

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the extent of Government funding to facilitate the provision of disability information since 1990; to whom it has been paid; and with what result.[HL4767]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A full answer could be provided only at a disproportionate cost. However, since 1996, the Department of Health has provided over £14 million to voluntary organisations providing disability information under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968. We also funded the development of a UK Disability Database by two voluntary organisations, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Disabled Living Foundation, at a cost of £200,000 per year in the three years between 1997-98 and 1999-2000. We have also provided disability information directly to the public at a cost of around £1.4 million between 1994 and 2000.

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Indonesia: Lasker Jihad Islamic Forces

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of violence in recent weeks in Indonesia in the Moluccas, especially in the islands of Ambon and Sapura, whether they have urged the Indonesian Government to remove the Lasker Jihad Islamic forces from the region.[HL4627]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Since the latest upsurge in violence we have repeatedly urged the Indonesian Government at the highest levels, including President Wahid, to remove the Lasker Jihad forces from Maluku. Representatives from European Union Embassies in Jakarta visited Maluku Province from 12-14 October. They found the situation in North Maluku to be improved, but real problems remain in Ambon. We will continue to work with the Indonesian Government and partners to help find a lasting solution.

Israel: Beit Sahour Shelling

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the Government of Israel following the persistent shelling of Beit Sahour. [HL4720]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have on several occasions urged the Israeli Government to limit its use of force with a view to minimising casualties and contributing to de-escalation.

European Rapid Reaction Force

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which countries the Foreign Secretary has in mind as enemies when he said that Europe will be made "safe and secure" by the new European Union armed force; and how that safety and security will be enhanced above that already provided by NATO. [HL4728]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is no "new European Union armed force". European Union nations and others (including European members of NATO and EU candidate countries) are making forces available and improving their capabilities for possible EU-led crisis management operations (e.g. humanitarian relief and peace-keeping). They will act militarily only where NATO as a whole is not engaged. They will not act in collective defence, which remains for NATO. This effort will strengthen NATO. Hence the welcome for the EU's intentions, repeated in recent days, from NATO's Secretary-General and from the US Secretary of State, among others.

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