Clause 227 is the first of three clauses dealing with the service of notification and electronic working. It makes general provision for any notification or sending of documents authorised or required by the Bill. It might be helpful to make some general observations about those clauses.
As hon. Members are aware, it is the Government's policy to make our services available online by 2005, and to allow people to communicate with public bodies electronically if they wish. Hon. Members also know that we have no intention of compelling anyone to accept or send an e-mail or any other form of electronic communication. I know that certain groups have been concerned about that for reasons of their own faith. These clauses follow equivalent provisions dealing with notification and electronic communication elsewhere in primary legislation—for
example, in the current Energy Bill. This Bill ensures a consistent approach across the statute book.
I thought that it was worth making those few comments. I was tempted to send Committee members an e-mail to that effect, but decided it was more appropriate to tell them verbally.
I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of these new-fangled methods. If some of his briefing notes were intended to get to people like me in time, e-mail is a good way of doing that. I would like to propose that idea, even at this late stage, and toss it over to the Government side. Even us fuddy-duddy old Tories use e-mail.