Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(00) 385

Draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector.

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 14 (15 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; opportunity for scrutiny requested before political agreement on an amended proposal is reached


18.1  This draft Directive 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 and which was debated in European Standing Committee C on 16 February 2000.[34]

18.2  Our predecessors left the document uncleared on 15 November 2000 and asked to be informed of progress. The then Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce (Ms Patricia Hewitt) wrote to the Committee on 19 March and 27 March 2001, by which time it was still not clear when negotiations on the proposal would start in the Council Working Group. In the meantime, she said, the Government was consulting on the proposed UK approach, which was also being discussed with the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Minister's letter

18.3  The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Douglas Alexander), in a letter dated 22 June, tells us that negotiations began in April and continued throughout May. He comments:

    "There has been progress in some areas, including the scope of new provisions allowing the use of traffic and location data to provide value-added services and revised rules on subscriber directories. However, some key issues remain to be resolved. Among the main areas of disagreement are the provisions requiring the deletion of call-related data and the circumstances in which exemptions should be allowed (Articles 6 and 15 of the proposed Directive). The UK and a number of other Member States are seeking changes that would more clearly allow arrangements to be put in place to allow service providers to meet law-enforcement agencies' need to access communications data to assist in their investigations. We would also like to clarify the rules on operators' own use of communications data for traffic-management purposes.

    "Another important issue is the approach proposed in Article 13 for unsolicited commercial email. As currently drafted, this would impose a harmonised opt-in regime so that emails for promotional or advertising purposes could only be sent to individuals who had previously consented to this. The UK, supported by some other delegations, is arguing that Member States should be allowed to operate an opt-out regime instead. Under this, individual users could register either with individual companies or on a blanket basis with email preference lists if they did not want to receive unsolicited commercial emails. We think that this would give equally effective protection against unwanted email to individual users and would be more consistent with the approach adopted under the eCommerce Directive, which was agreed last year for implementation by January 2002."


18.4  We regard the issues raised by this proposal, in the draft described by the Minister, as of some importance. He does not indicate how optimistic the Government is that it will secure sufficient support for the text to be amended to meet its concerns and we ask him to ensure that political agreement to a Common Position is not reached before we have had an opportunity to consider a revised version of the proposal.

18.5  Meanwhile, we do not clear the document.

34  (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). Official Report, European Standing Committee C, 16 February 2000. Back

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