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Electronic Security and Computer Viruses

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: These issues are dealt with by the Government's National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC), set up to help protect the UK's critical national infrastructure from electronic attack.

NISCC has a 24/7 response capability and issues both warnings and best practice advice (for example, encouraging the protection of systems by regularly updating anti-virus software and by the application of fixes for known vulnerabilities).

Where NISCC discovers or is informed about a vulnerability, it will work with vendors and others to develop mitigating actions. It is especially careful about disclosing its knowledge about vulnerabilities before effective protective measures can be taken.

During the morning that "Slammer" spread, NISCC's rapid response team carried out a technical analysis, consulted with national and international partners, and issued a number of prompt alerts. No warning could have been fast enough to prevent some infection from a worm that spread world-wide in 10 minutes. This infection did however exploit a known vulnerability which NISCC had warned about some months earlier.

NISCC alerts, and other information, are e-mailed to government and CNI partners, but are also posted on its website for the benefit of all. NISCC has an outreach programme with the critical national infrastructure, is involved in government information security issues, and actively supports the formation of information sharing groups which can help raise awareness and improve appropriate levels of protection. clean jenny

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to update the Computer Misuse Act 1990 in light of the recent decision of the European Union Justice Ministers to approve new laws for dealing with computer hackers and spreaders of computer viruses and worms.[HL1987]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: On 28 February 2003, approval of the general approach to the European Union framework decision on attacks against information systems was given by the Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers.

The Government are considering the extent to which the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and wider legislation deals with the requirements of the framework decision, and the related provisions contained in the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention.

While existing UK legislation already covers the majority of the requirements of these texts as they relate to offences against computer and information systems, there will need to be some amendments to legislation in order to be fully compliant. These changes will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows. jenny

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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many reports of virus attacks or other computer crimes have been made under the confidentiality charter of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit since its inception in December.[HL2041]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It is not possible to classify the number of reports made to National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) as a direct result of the charter which was launched on 10 December 2002. However, since this date the unit has noted a marked increase in the number of calls, reports and enquiries from business and industry. In some cases, the contact has been to enquire how the new charter works; in others, it has been to report an incident or occurrence. The unit believed that a high proportion of these reports would not have been lodged had it not been for the charter.

The confidentiality charter assists in developing the environment in which businesses can safely report suspicious hi-tech activity and attacks against computer systems without concern that this will cause interruption to their business. The charter, in contributing to a greater understanding of the range and amount of hi-tech crime which is being committed, will enable law enforcement and the Government to take effective action to deal with this threat.

The role of NHTCU in receiving reports of virus attacks is in addition to that of the unified incident reporting and alert scheme (UNIRAS) which receives reports of significant electronic attack incidents, threats, new vulnerabilities and countermeasures from its customer base and other commercial, government and international sources. jenny

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act: Independent Visits to PersonsHeld without Trial

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What independent persons have visited the 15 persons held without trial, under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, since they were first detained; whether these have included the International Committee of the Red Cross; and whether they receive independent reports on this matter.[HL2033]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Thirteen suspected international terrorists are being held under the powers in Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Twelve of these people are being held in HMPs Belmarsh and Woodhill, and the 13th in a secure hospital. The people detained have received visits from two independent bodies: the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which published its report on 12 February 2003 (available on the Internet at; and the National Council

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for the Welfare of Muslim Prisoners, which has not published a report.

Her Majesty's Prison Service has at no stage received a request from the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the people detained. Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has been appointed to carry out an annual independent review of the working of the Part IV powers. This review covers all aspects of the provisions, including prison conditions. In completing his report, Lord Carlile visited the prisons concerned and a number of the detained individuals. His report is available on jenny

Identity Checking Online

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 4 March (HL Deb, col. 707), to which databases, other than those of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Passport Service, the URU service (an online identity checking service) has access.[HL2042]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The URU service is not a government service but a commercial service provided by BT. It does not have access to the databases of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or the United Kingdom (UK) Passport Service. I have written to the noble Earl to provide him with the name and address of a contact in BT who can provide him with more information about the URU service.

Asylum Appeals: Home Office Representation

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

    Whether they will ensure that either Home Office presenting officers or counsel representing the Home Office participate in the hearing of asylum appeals by adjudicators; if not, why not.[HL2051]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): It is our intention that the Home Office should be represented in all asylum appeals. Eighty-five new Home Office presenting officers have been appointed since the start of 2003 and plans are in hand to increase the number further in line with the expansion in the capacity of the Immigration Appellate Authority.

E-conveyancing Consultation

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the findings of HM Land Registry's e-conveyancing consultation will be published.[HL2171]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): A report on the responses to the e-conveyancing consultation exercise will be published later today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Most respondents viewed the concept of an e-conveyancing system positively. Useful suggestions were made to enhance the initial proposals, and a number of concerns were highlighted. All of these issues will be addressed during the next phase of the e-conveyancing programme. I believe it to be important that the system finally delivered carries the greatest measure of support from stakeholders and makes full use of the talents of the private sector. I have asked the Land Registry to continue to take forward this work.

It will now be engaging stakeholders, including potential service providers, in developing the e-conveyancing concept and proposing the shape of the final system.

I have asked for a report on progress to be made to me later in the year.

Adoption: European Court of Human Rights Judgment

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What directions are to be issued to judges on the conduct of care and adoption proceedings in the light of the judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of P C and S v the United Kingdom.[HL1861]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The position is unchanged since the Answer I gave the noble Lord on 29 July 2002. jenny

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