32. COMMISSION GREEN PAPER ON RADIO SPECTRUM
Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee, to Michael Wills MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary
of State for Small Firms, Trade and Industry, Department Trade
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum (EM)
of 2 February on this subject. This was considered by Sub-Committee
B at its meeting this morning.
The Committee notes the substantial policy matters
potentially at issue. We assume that the Government will have
taken its thinking on these further in framing (with the involvement
of OFTEL and the Spectrum Management Advisory Group) its response
to the Green Paper, due in mid-April. We should therefore be grateful
if you would send us a copy of that response, in the light of
which the Committee will consider the matter further.
The Committee attaches great importance to adequate
consultations with those likely to be affected by such proposals.
We would be interested to know what the Government understands
to be the general thrust of other UK responses to the consultation.
As and when more detailed proposals emerge, we shall expect the
rmore direct consultation with the range of users likely to be
affected foreshadowed in paragraph 23 of your EM. In that connection,
the Committee considers that paragraph 24 of your EM rather understates
the potential impact on business and other users.
In the meantime, the scrutiny reserve is retained.
29 April 1999
Letter from Michael Wills MP, Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State for Small Firms, Trade and Industry,
Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
Thank you for your letter of 29 April.
As you suggest, the Government's thinking on
the matters outlined in our Explanatory Memorandum (EM) of 2 February
was taken forward between the preparation of the EM and submission
of the Government's response. However, the key points made in
the response are still very much in line with EM. These can be
summarised as follows:
(i) the importance of effective, strategic
spectrum management that optimises the use of the spectrum, taking
account of national circumstances;
(ii) the need for effective international
spectrum harmonisation, particularly for those services which
are likely to operate on a Europe-wide or global basis;
(iii) the importance of building, so far
as possible, on the existing arrangements for international harmonisation,
through the ITU and CEPT, and avoiding unnecessary duplication;
(iv) the advantages of selective EU intervention
to provide an impetus to harmonisation in areas where rapid international
agreement is desirable, as has been done, for example, for third
generation mobile telephony through the UMTS Decision;
(v) the need for an effective means of identifying
those strategic issues where a concerted EU-wide approach would
be desirable, (we have suggested this might be done through a
high-level advisory group, chaired by DGXIII); and
(vi) the advantages of a flexible approach
to assignment and licensing, in which tools such as spectrum pricing,
auctions and spectrum trading could play a part, taking account
of the needs and particular circumstances of each Member State.
You asked about the general thrust of other
UK responses to the consultation. From the Commission's website
we understand that there were 122 responses in total, of which
17 (including the Government's), were from the UK. I attach a
list of the other 16 UK respondents which may be of interest to
Some of these responses inevitably have a rather
narrow, sectoral focus. However, I think it is fair to say that
on the key issues I have summarised at (i) to (v) above, in particular
on the question of the appropriate degree of EU intervention in
spectrum management matters, there is a great deal of common ground
between the Government's response and that of the other UK respondents.
The only significant area of divergence is in relation to auctions,
where some respondents have emphasised what they see as their
potential drawbacks, rather than their advantages. I consider
that our proposals for selective and focused use of the powers
in the 1998 Act, as outlined in paragraphs 49-54 of the response,
take account of the legitimate concerns expressed by some respondents.
As stated in the EM, we will certainly consult
fully with the whole range of radio users as and when specific
legislative proposals emerge. Such consultation is a matter to
which I attach the highest priority. Paragraphs 77 to 78 of the
UK response explain the ways in which the Radicommunications Agency
consults users, for example through regular publication of its
Spectrum Strategy, through standing sectorally-based consultation
groups and through extensive consultation on specific proposals.
In addition, the Spectrum Management Advisory Group, which my
predecessor Barbara Roche set up last year, provides a high level
user input into the strategic management of the radio spectrum.
Finally, I note your Committee's view that paragraph
24 of the EM rather understates the potential impact on business
and users. I can only reiterate that the Green Paper does not
contain any specific legislative proposals and it is far from
clear that any will emerge. We believe that there is a consensus
among both national administrations and industry that the approach
of harmonising spectrum use in the Europe through legally binding
measures, which was tried with mixed success in the early 1990s,
is not the best way forward.
Certainly, no one should be in any doubt that
the Government is fully aware of the vital importance of the radio
spectrum as a raw material for business activity, innovation and
economic growth, as the introduction to our response, in particular,
makes clear. This has been clearly stated in our Convergence Green
Paper and Competitiveness White Paper and is the reason why we
took the powers through the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1998 to introduce
radical new spectrum management tools to enable us to ensure that
this valuable resource is used in the most effective way. Your
Committee can be assured that we will rigorously examine any proposals
which may be brought forward following the consultation on the
Green Paper in the light of this and would oppose any which were
incompatible with this overriding aim.
19 May 1999
Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee, to Michael Wills MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Small Firms, Trade and Industry, Department of Trade
Thank you for your letter of 19 May in response
to mine of 29 April. This was considered by Sub-Committee B at
its meeting this morning.
We were grateful for the further information
you supplied. In the light of that, we lift our scrutiny reserve
on this early stage of the developing initiative.
As noted in my letter of 29 April, however,
there are substantial issues at stake in developing radio spectrum
policy. We expect to take a close interest in more detailed policies
as and when they emerge following deliberations on responses to
the EC's Green Paper. To underline a point made in my earlier
letter, we shall, in particular, be interested in the arrangements
made for developing the UK line in close consultation with business
and other users.
1 July 1999