RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY
Draft Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community.
||Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
||Trade and Industry|
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 22 June 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 18 (15 November 2000)
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
||Not cleared; further information on progress requested
15.1 This draft Decision is one of seven proposals
for legislation that will form the new regulatory framework for
electronic communications networks and services. They were anticipated
in the Commission Communication on the results of the public consultation
on the 1999 Communications Review, which the Committee considered
on 24 May and 19 July 2000
and which was debated in European Standing Committee C on 16 February
15.2 The purpose of this proposal is to establish
a policy and legal framework in the Community through which harmonisation
of the use of the radio spectrum, in areas relevant to Community
policy objectives, can be achieved. It seeks to complement the
spectrum management activities of the International Telecommunication
Union (ITU) and the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications
Administrations (CEPT). When we considered it in November 2000,
we noted the Government's significant concerns with it and asked
the Government to report progress.
15.3 In a letter dated 27 March 2001, on which
we did not report, the then Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce
(Ms Patricia Hewitt) told us that up to that point there had been
only one discussion of the proposal in the Council Working Group,
in late October 2000.
The Minister's letter
15.4 In a further letter, dated 22 June 2001,
the Minister for e-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander)
provides us with an update as follows:
"Discussions on the
Spectrum Division recommenced in the Council working group in
April on the basis of a substantially revised Presidency text.
This took account of the reservations expressed by the UK and
other Member States on the Commission's original proposal. There
have now been four further discussions in the Council working
group, in the course of which a number of further helpful changes
have been agreed. The concerns that [were] highlighted in [the
Explanatory Memorandum] of 2 October 2000 have now been met.
"The most important change is that the scope
of the provision under which the Commission would be able to adopt
delegated spectrum-harmonisation measures through comitology procedures
has been considerably narrowed so that it is only now applies
to 'technical implementing measures'. The Commission would thus
only be able to bring forward harmonisation proposals where there
was an existing Community instrument, adopted by the Council or
jointly by the Parliament and the Council, that required spectrum
harmonisation for its full implementation. Any other harmonisation
proposals would have to be agreed under the co-decision procedure,
as at present.
"It has also been agreed that assignment methods
will not expressly fall within the scope of delegated harmonisation
measures. This is an important change for which we pressed hard.
The Government considers that the choice of assignment method
for radio spectrum (for example, whether to issue licences through
an auction or comparative selection) is a matter that should remain
within national competence.
"The requirements relating to publication of
spectrum information have also been clarified. The current text
would require Member States to publish their national frequency-allocation
table and information on rights, conditions, procedures, charges
and fees. We support this. However, the requirement to publish
information on assignments to individual users, which could have
been very problematic from the point of view of confidentiality,
has been deleted.
"One further significant change is that the
provisions establishing the Senior Official Radio Spectrum Policy
Group (SORSPG) have now been removed from the Decision. This follows
an opinion from the Council Legal Service that it would be inappropriate
for a purely advisory group to be set up under a formal text adopted
under the co-decision procedure. This is disappointing since we
see value in establishing a high-level forum to discuss strategic
spectrum-management issues at Community level. However, the Swedish
Presidency has attempted to minimise the consequences of this
opinion by attributing a policy co-ordination role to the Radio
Spectrum Committee, which will exercise formal responsibilities
under comitology procedures. The Commission also has the option
of setting up SORSPG under a separate Commission Decision, and
we understand that it is still considering this."
15.5 We thank the Minister for a useful detailed
account of progress and of the Government's concerns with the
proposal at this stage.
15.6 We do not clear the document but ask
the Government to continue to keep us informed of progress.
24 (21189) 8330/00; see HC 23-xix (1999-2000), paragraph
7 (24 May 2000) and HC 23-xxv (1999-2000), paragraph 8 (19 July
Report, European Standing
Committee C, 16 February 2000. Back