Select Committee on European Scrutiny Nineteenth Report




COM(01) 706

Commission Communication: Seventh Report on the Implementation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Package.

Legal base:
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration:Minister's letter of 7 February 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 152-xviii (2001-02), paragraph 7 (6 February 2002)
Discussed in Council:6/7 December Transport and Telecommunications Council
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested

  8.1  When we considered this Commission Communication last week,[37] we noted that, according to the Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister for eCommerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander), agreement had been reached in December by the Council and the European Parliament on four Directives which comprise the greater part of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, the proposed Framework, Access, Authorisation and Universal Service Directives.

The Minister's letter

  8.2  The Minister now informs us that, following intensive negotiations in Council and in the European Parliament, the Parliament voted on 12 December to accept a set of amendments, put forward by the Belgian Council Presidency, to these proposed Directives, and the proposed Radio Spectrum Decision.[38] These new measures will be adopted early this year, This means that agreement has now been reached on the key elements of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, leaving outstanding the proposed Communications Data Protection Directive.[39] According to the Minister, the Commission will introduce a Competition Directive[40] under its own powers which will not be negotiated by Member States or the European Parliament. The package as a whole is meant to produce a more streamlined and technology-neutral framework for regulation which will support the development of competition in the electronic communications sector.

  8.3  The Minister then sets out the terms of the agreement in December:

"All the key measures in the package are subject to co-decision with the European Parliament and in order to reach agreement last month both the Council and Parliament had to find common ground. The main change was to the Framework Directive, where the Council agreed a new Commission power to block national regulatory authority (NRA) decisions on market definition and the designation of operators with significant market power, where these would damage the single market or be contrary to Community law. This met MEPs' concerns about the danger of inconsistent regulatory action harming the development of the single market. It will allow intervention by the Commission in the areas where a consistent approach by regulators is going to be most important, without giving the Commission wider oversight powers which Member States feared could seriously hinder national regulators' ability to act quickly and decisively where necessary. The Government had opposed earlier, broader intervention powers for the Commission because they did not satisfy this key requirement.

"The other major elements of the Presidency package included extension of the right of appeal against NRA decisions to appeal on the merits; for digital television standards, an obligation on Member States to encourage the development of common standards in the interests of interoperability and freedom of choice; inclusion of the charges for call termination to mobiles and international roaming in the areas to be monitored by NRAs for any distortion of competition; and stronger requirements on NRAs to consult and take account of the needs of disabled users.

"The new texts are currently being finalised for adoption early this year, and explanatory memoranda will be submitted on them at that stage as normal.

"I believe this represents a very good outcome for the UK, and the fact that agreement has been reached without needing to go through formal conciliation procedures means that one of the key objectives of the Lisbon European Council, on which much of the eEurope Action Plan was predicated, has been achieved on time".


  8.4  We thank the Minister for bringing us up to date on the terms of the agreement reached and for giving us the Government's views on it. We too welcome the fact that this was achieved without recourse to formal conciliation procedures and are pleased to hear that the Minister regards the outcome as very good for the UK.

  8.5  The Minister tells us that the Commission will be introducing a Competition Directive under its own powers, which will not be negotiated by Member States or the European Parliament. We considered this proposal in November 2000 and the Minister brought us up to date by letter on 27 March 2001. We understand that it will consolidate existing sectoral competition requirements, taking the new regulatory framework into account. We ask him to ensure that we have a further opportunity to consider it on the basis of a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum before it comes into force.

  8.6  We also ask the Minister to bring us up to date on the negotiations on the Communications Data Protection Directive, on which we understand that political agreement was reached at the December Council. He will recall that he asked us to lift the scrutiny reserve on that proposal, in which two important issues remained outstanding, namely access to communications or traffic data by the law enforcement agencies and the regulation of unsolicited commercial e-mail.

  8.7  In the meantime, we shall hold the document under scrutiny.

37  (23027) 14838/01; see HC 152-xviii (2001-02), paragraph 7.15 (6 February 2002). Back

38  (22768) -; see HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 15.1 (21 November 2001). Back

39  (21561) 10961/00; see HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 18.1 (21 November 2001). Back

40  (21623) -; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 21 (15 November 2000). Back

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