Letter from the Chairman to Mr Stephen
Timms MP, Minister of State (E-Commerce), Department of Trade
Un-numbered 2000/0189 (COD)Information
note: proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and
of the Council concerning the processing of personal data and
the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sectorOutcome
of the European Parliament's second reading (Brussels 29-30 May
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
10 June which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 17
We are glad to see that the European Parliament's
second reading debate and vote on 29/30 May has produced support
for the compromise amendments supported by the Council Presidency
and acceptable to the Commission. We note that this means that
formal conciliation procedures will not be required.
We have looked at the four key elements that
constitute the compromise:
the explicit reference to the need
for proper safeguards including the need to comply with the European
Convention on Human Rights and fundamental freedoms and the rulings
of the European Court of Human Rights;
on cookies and other tracking devices,
we note that the amendment deletes the requirement for information
to be provided in advance; given that cookies can be disabled
restrospectively, this seems a sensible compromise;
on the amendments for unsolicited
commercial email (spamming), we note that the general rule should
be opt-in, but with an opt-out exemption for emails sent in the
context of an existing customer relationship;
and on the question of subscriber
directories we applaud the need for subscribers to be informed
in advance about the directories in which they may be included.
We note that the amendments effectively leave it to Member States
to decide whether they want to impose a separate consent requirement
on directories which have reverse search functions. We should
be grateful to know what HMG's position is on this.
Finally, we note that the introduction of a
new review clause will apply to the whole Directive.
Given the positive outcome of the vote in the
European Parliament, the Scrutiny reserve on this document is
19 June 2002
Letter from Stephen Timms MP to the Chairman
The DTI submitted an Explanatory Memorandum
on this document on 10 June 2002. The Commons European Scrutiny
Committee considered it politically important and cleared it (Report
32, Item 23523, Session 01/02). The Lords Select Committee on
the EU lifted scrutiny reserve in a letter to the Minister dated
19/6/02 following consideration in Sub-Committee B.
You also considered an ONTYR Explanatory Memorandum
on the draft version of the document, as a result of which you
wrote to Douglas Alexander on 15 May 2002 on the specific issue
of the implementation of the Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) Regulation
in the UK. I have dealt with this issue in my reply to your letter
of 15 May concerning the Commission's Seventh Report on implementation
of telecoms regulation.
In your letter of 19 June to Douglas Alexander
you lifted the Scrutiny reserve on the final version of the eEurope
2005 Action Plan but expressed concerns about specific aspects
of the Action Plan. These were the inclusion in the plan of eLearning
targets, the pace of future roll-out or broadband and the arguments
advanced by the European Competitive Telecommunications Association
(ECTA) for the development of an EU-wide common cost account methodology.
The new eEurope 2005 targets for eLearning are
not new territory for European cooperation. They represent a progression
from targets set in the eEurope 2002 Action Plan which aimed for
all schools to have access to the internet and multimedia resources
and to be linked to high speed academic and research networks.
The new 2005 targetsbroadband connections, the specific
eLearning Programme, virtual campuses, computer-supported resource
sharingfollow on as a natural development of the earlier
objectives. During discussion of the draft action plan with the
Member States, the Commission accepted that it would be unrealistic
to set hard and fast goals, and Member States are therefore left
with considerable flexibility to implement the eEurope strategy
by developing appropriate policies to fit their own circumstances.
This means that the cost implications remain firmly under the
control of national governments.
You ask for the Government's view on the pace
of the future roll-out of broadband. Broadband internet access
in the UK is currently making substantial progress, there are
currently 20,000 new broadband connections each week and Oftel
announced on 8 October that there are now more than one million
broadband subscribers in the UK. This has come as a result of
the price cuts over the past 18 months in which the cable companies
and then BT have dramatically reduced their prices enabling consumers
to benefit from basic broadband products at less (in some cases
much less) than £30 per month. Terrestrial broadband is now
available to some two-thirds of the UK population. Rising demand
will be a substantial driver of further roll-out of broadband.
BT, Liberty Broadband (a wireless broadband operator) and the
East of England Development Agency are all running schemes by
which people are encouraged to register demand in areas which
are not currently served by terrestrial broadband. These schemes
are designed to reduce the risk associated with capital investment
necessary to extend access. Several providers are also offering
new satellite broadband services which are available throughout
the country. We also hope to see new technologies and business
models develop and the £30 million UK broadband fund is helping
to finance trials of some of these in the regions and devolved
administrations. However, the Government recognises that the investments
needed to supply the remaining third of the UK population are
large and attract a high-risk premium, and is seeking to address
this through measures to stimulate supply and demand in parallel,
including using public sector purchasing of broadband more effectively.
Oftel is playing an active role in setting the
regulatory framework for a competitive broadband market which
is conducive to further investment and roll-out to more remote
areas of the country. Oftel recently directed BT to allow telecoms
operators to interconnect with their network so as to provide
their own DSL services, either on a wholesale basis or directly
to end users.
You also sought the Government's view on the
suggestion made by ECTA that the Commission should develop a common
cost accounting methodology for use by national regulatory authorities.
In fact, the Independent Regulators' Group, of which Oftel is
a member, has recognised that cost accounting methods vary across
Europe and as part of its 2002 work programme is seeking to develop
a common approach to cost accounting. The Government does not
believe, therefore, that it is necessary for the Commission to
address this issue at the present time.
Letter from the Chairman to Stephen Timms
MP, Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness, Department for
Trade and Industry
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
22 October which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on
We have no difficulty with this resolution,
and the Scrutiny reserve is accordingly lifted.
6 November 2002