E is for …

A Page on the Web, published in the Solicitors Journal, February 2002

E is for ‘electronic’, or rather ‘using the internet to undertake’ – as in ‘e-commerce’. (Now that doing business on the internet is commonplace, the term ‘e-commerce’ has lost its cachet and I suspect will soon fall into disuse.) This month we look at other ‘e-‘ phrases in the news.


The Office of the e-Envoy (www.e-envoy.gov.uk) is leading the Government’s online strategy and has three core objectives:

  • to make the UK the best environment in the world for e-commerce by 2002
  • to ensure that everyone who wants it has access to the internet by 2005
  • to make all government services available electronically by 2005

Regarding the latter, the e-Envoy claims that:

‘the UK now has in place the most advanced e-government infrastructure in the world. The first stage of the Government Gateway was completed, on time, on scope and on budget in January 2001 and registration, enrolment and transaction handling are fully operational.’

Registering with the Government Gateway (www.gateway.gov.uk) enables you to sign up for any of the UK Government’s services that are available over the internet. These are:

  • Inland Revenue PAYE
  • Inland Revenue Self-Assessment
  • VAT returns
  • the DEFRA Integrated Administration and Control System Area Aid Application

I have personal experience of preparing and submitting (e-filing) my Self Assessment return online and have to report that it all worked smoothly. Although other software may be used, the IR’s own online forms work well and save your work in progress after each page is completed and validated. At present only the main return and Self Employment supplement are operational.


The Court Service this month took a significant step towards delivering access to justice over the internet with the launch of its Money Claims Online (MCOL) service (www.courtservice.gov.uk/mcol/). The service can be used by individuals or businesses, or their solicitors, if they are issuing a claim for a fixed amount of money. Where a claim has been issued online they can also enter judgment, file an acknowledgement of service or defence and apply for a warrant of execution online.

Claims are entered over a series of pages, each of which is validated and saved as you move to the next. Court fees are calculated. There is extensive online help and links to other parts of the Court Service site where appropriate. Saved draft claims may be revisited and continued or deleted up to submission stage.

All claims submitted online are processed through the County Court Bulk Centre in the name of Northampton County Court, to take advantage of its existing technology and the staff’s experience of administering a centralised system. An advantage of this is that the claim will usually be issued, printed and posted to the defendant on the day the request is submitted.


With the Land Registration Act 2002 just about to reach the statute books, ‘e-conveyancing’ is on many lips. The Land Registration Bill creates a framework in which it will be possible to transfer and create interests in registered land by electronic means. It does so by enabling the formal documents to be executed electronically; and providing for a secure electronic communications network. Access to the network will be controlled by the Land Registry, who will also be obliged to make arrangements for those who wish to undertake their own conveyancing. The system will be introduced in stages, starting with the simplest transactions and progressing to the more complex and the Bill provides for the Lord Chancellor to regulate by rules transactions that can be carried out electronically. The Lord Chancellor will have power to make the use of electronic means for conveyancing compulsory in due course.

A very useful site for the aspirant e-conveyancer is Propert-e, developed jointly by EGi and Wragge & Co (www.egi.co.uk/properte.asp), which aims to provide comprehensive news, articles and analysis on the latest developments in electronic conveyancing. This free site also includes links to relevant legislation, consultation papers and other valuable resources.