Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY


(21585)
11117/00
COM(00) 407

Draft Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community.


Legal base: Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: 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
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information on progress requested

Background

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[24] and which was debated in European Standing Committee C on 16 February 2000.[25]

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."

Conclusion

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 2000). Back

25  Official Report, European Standing Committee C, 16 February 2000. Back


 
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