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House of Commons Commission written question – answered on 24th February 2003.

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Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for North Cornwall on 27 January 2003, Official Report, column 584W, on e-mail, what steps have been taken to meet hon. Members' concerns that legitimate communications are not being blocked; what filters are in place to block unsolicited spam messages; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

As I indicated in my answer to the hon. Member on 27 January 2003, Hansard, column 584W, the sender of any e-mail that is blocked will be notified and invited to contact the intended recipient, who, by contacting the Parliamentary Communications Directorate (PCD) Helpdesk, can arrange for the e-mail to be swiftly unblocked. This prevents legitimate e-mails being lost.

PCD are monitoring the system, which can be easily modified in response to feedback from hon. Members and staff. For example, seven legitimate e-mails about the Sexual Offences Bill were inadvertently blocked: the filter has now been adjusted so that this does not happen. I am aware of concerns that legitimate e-mails might be blocked because they are written in Welsh; this is certainly not the case either for Welsh or for any other language.

During the first three weeks that the filter was in place, it blocked 3,465 of the 555,000 e-mails received, or about one in every 160 e-mails. The PCD Helpdesk received only 29 unblocking requests, which is less than one per cent. of the e-mails blocked. These figures suggest that the proportion of e-mails which have been incorrectly delayed as a result of the e-mail filter is around one in every 20,000 received.

Only inappropriate incoming e-mails are filtered. No filters are currently in place to block other spam. After further consultation with the relevant domestic committees to determine the views and needs of Members, PCD plan to introduce a new service to help users of the Parliamentary Network identify and manage this additional nuisance.

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