Evidence Session (Sections 4400-4499)|
28 MARCH 2006
4400. What about BT Retail, the next one you
(Mr Nunn) BT Retail
is primarily concerned with selling services to residential customers,
many of you will have a BT line at home, and so that is the primary
role. They do also sell services to other organisations for resale
so some of those things are resold through other providers.
4401. Do other operators provide similar retail
services to those which BT Retail sells?
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
there are many of them. It is difficult to tell how many because
Ofcom do not maintain a list of all of the providers in the UK.
We have looked for it and cannot find it. The only list that is
available is a list of those people who have number blocks allocated
to them. There are many service providers out there who sell who
do not have number blocks such as Tesco who sell phone services
now, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Mobile, those people do not
have number blocks allocated to them but still sell services to
4402. Yes, I am going to come back and a little
bit more in a moment, particularly having regard to the Chairman's
question yesterday about service providers. Tell us first about
BT Global services, would you? It is at Paragraph 15.
(Mr Nunn) Global
services for completeness sells services to end users both in
the UK and around the world but the UK operation is primarily
focused on our business customer base, our larger customers and
is less likely to be relevant in the case we are considering today.
It does also address central local government and large organisations
4403. Are these various divisions within BT,
separate entities or are they one of the same entity?
(Mr Nunn) They
are all party to the same legal entity but for regulatory reasons,
the divisions are called quite clearly and Ofcom have a number
of constraints that are placed on us about how we can pass data
around between those various organisations and also prices set
between those parts of the organisation, for example, prices are
set on Openreach. There is a mandate, Wholesale has to buy those
things at prices set by Openreach.
4404. Is that a reflection of the way in which
the industry as a whole works?
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
it is. Industry as a whole is subject to that same regulatory
framework and we have to serve them on an equivalent basis as
we would an internal part of BT organisation.
4405. Just as BT can provide services to end
users, can others do that as well?
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
they can, as I mentioned earlier on Tesco, for example, sells
home phone services. I do not know who the underlying provider
of those services is, if I did I would not be able to tell because
that would be breaching confidentiality but a number of players
like that, like Tesco and the Post Office, are not necessarily
small operators, they are fairly large brand names that are looking
to get into telecom services as a way of extending their brand
into other services.
4406. I am going to ask you to explain how
a traditional phone call is made because I think this may be of
some importance to illustrate a point.
(Mr Nunn) It may
be useful to have the diagram in front of you again. Everything
starts with an end user, and I have taken a fixed network, mobile
networks work in a broadly similar way except there is quite a
number of technical differences at the detailed level. It starts
at a local level, the caller dials, the digits of that telephone
number are then examined in the telephone exchange and the telephone
exchange makes a decision whether it can route that call on that
exchange alone or whether it has to pass across the network to
another node. If it passes across the network, it would then route
either directly in some cases to another local exchange or more
likely through either one or more core nodes to the termination
point. It may leave BT's network at any of those points. The number
analysis is such that if the number range is not allocated to
BT, it would leave the network at an appropriate point and there
are a number of decisions that are made on that. The key point
is it is only when the call gets all the way through to the network
to the final telephone exchange that there is user related data
there that advises whether the call is barred or not. The call
will always go all the way through that sequence of exchanges
through to the far end and only then it will be known whether
the line is in service or temporarily barred from receiving calls,
or indeed out of service altogether.
4407. I would like you to explain to the Committee
how all ranges of telephone numbers or blocks are allocated, if
you will please?
(Mr Nunn) As we
have already heard earlier today, Ofcom allocate number blocks
typically in ranges of ten thousand numbers but in certain areas
where numbers are scare it is one thousand number blocks, particularly
in London, there has been a number exhaustion issue over the last
few years which led to 0203 being opened up one year ago. This
information is in the public domain, Ofcom's website is an example,
on the next page towards the back of the exhibits, illustrating
what that information looks like. If I can talk you through this
page, the column headed "SABC" that has a number 2079
which indicates that is the number beginning with 02079 the initial
zero is dropped for purposes of this. The "D/DE" referred
to also as the D and DE Digits, for example, in the first column
there (indicating) 50 indicates that number is allocated
and indeed it is allocated to MCI WorldCom. So, we know any that
number beginning 0207950 is initially allocated to MCI WorldCom
and so that block of the ten thousand numbers between that number
and the next number in the column belongs to MCI WorldCom or at
least was initially allocated there. It is at that block level
that numbers are routed through the network. We do not know within
BT what goes on inside that range, that is MCI WorldCom's business.
4408. I would like to you ask you one or two
more questions in this area, if I may. First of all, that is,
I think you are saying, information of original allocation of
the telephone numbers to those providers is information in the
public domain, is it not?
(Mr Nunn) It is,
yes. There is a web link on the exhibit.
4409. If anyone has an 0207 or an 0208 number,
for example, is that a BT telecom number as one might suppose
or not necessarily?
(Mr Nunn) Not necessarily.
As you can see looking down the exhibit, there are only four instances
on that page where BT numbers are listed. There is another 11
operators listed on that page after 26 entries. That is not typical,
I should probably give the figures.
4410. Can you give the figures for this?
(Mr Nunn) Yes.
I want to make it clear I am not trying to mislead you. The numbers
allocated to BT in 0203 is 59 per cent allocated to BT, in 0207
it is 55 per cent BT and in 0208 it is 64 per cent BT and the
overall figure is 59 per cent BT, that is in terms of numbers
of blocks in the London area allocated to BT. Actually, there
was something like a 59 per cent chance of a number being allocated
to BT. Not being a statistician I have to get that one in somewhere.
4411. Yesterday, the Chairman asked who can
be a service provider in this context. Can you explain that, please?
(Mr Nunn) Essentially
anybody can be a service provider. The requirement, as I understand
it, from section 32 of the Communications Act and basically what
that says is that anyone wishing to offer service must previously
notify Ofcom that they intend to offer service. There are a number
of other general conditions which need to be met there which are
laid out in statute in the Communications Act but once those conditions
are met, then anybody can become a communications provider and
they are fairly straightforward conditions. For example, you do
not need to own a network to be a communications provider.
4412. Do you know how many service providers
are there operating in London so far as you are aware?
(Mr Nunn) In terms
of number blocks allocated, there are 146 fixed line operators
with number blocks allocated in London. There are a further 140
operators who have allocations in the 07 range and those are numbers
that would appear as a mobile number. There are also some personal
numbers in that range as well but essentially 07 contains 140.
That is a total of 286 operators with number allocation in the
London area but there is clearly nothing to stop people advertising
numbers that are outside the London area or indeed outside the
UK on those cards?
4413. Coming back to your paragraph 24, a telephone
call made to a BT number, that is an originally allocated BT telephone
number. Does that necessarily pass all the way through BT networks
all the way down the line or can you explain and elaborate on
that a little, please?
(Mr Nunn) If you
go back to the diagram in the pack then the answer is no because
any one of those blocks along the page there could be a third
party, so it could originate on an Orange mobile phone, be transited
through a Cable and Wireless trunk network and terminate onto
a BT network and that is an entirely valid way.
4414. How many service providers might you
have in such a sequence?
(Mr Nunn) That
is quite difficult to answer, the reason being that with portability
in fact the number could go through multiple providers so, for
example, if I was to extend that case it could start in the Orange
network, go through Cable and Wireless as a trunk, go to the BT
network which originally owned the block, BT would then find that
number has been ported to NTL for example, but it may be that
BT does not have a direct connection relationship with NTL in
that area so it might then have to go through another trunk operator
and perhaps back through Cable and Wireless again and then land
on NTL. These call flows can get quite complex with a mobile scenario,
there is a number of other signalling hiccups that go on as well
although it would stay within the network usually. If the phone
had roamed into another area, that would make it more complex.
4415. Can I understand your evidence, does
it follow from what you are saying that if an end user has a BT
telephone number, it does not necessarily follow that end user's
telephone services are provided by BT?
(Mr Nunn) That
is correct. There are a number of reasons why that might be the
case, I think the panel has understood that now. The other reason
might be is if BT has wholesaled that number to a third party,
for example, the Post Office or Tesco and the end user has gone
to Tesco to buy their phone service which is then provided by
a service provider, BT for example, whose number block is allocated
to so it would appear from the Ofcom website to be a BT number
but, in fact, BT would have no contractual relationship with the
end user of the service. We would have a contractual relationship
with Tesco in that case which would be covered by NDAs.
4416. CHAIRMAN: Could you remind us
what NDA is?
4417. A Non Disclosure Agreement; apologies
for using a TLA, a three letter acronym!
4418. MR ASPREY: Does it also follow
that the provider of the services to the end user could be any
one of 280 different service providers in London?
(Mr Nunn) Indeed
so and in fact more than that. As I said earlier on, I do not
believe that the Post Office, Tesco, or Virgin mobile have a number
range allocated to them so, there is no single place a borough
council can go to get a list of all the service providers that
could be providing end user service.
4419. CHAIRMAN: Can I ask Mr Nunn a
question very briefly. Mr Nunn, were you involved in any of the
discussions with Westminster that led to this clause coming forward?
(Mr Nunn) Not personally,
4420. You were aware of them perhaps?
(Mr Nunn) Not until
quite recently, until the Bill had been proposed.
4421. I wondered whether the information which
you are giving us now was made clear by BT in its discussions
4422. MR ASPREY: I think I need to make
it very clear, before this Bill was promulgated notwithstanding
our close working relationship with Westminster, we were not consulted
4423. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
4424. MR ASPREY: In light of the evidence
you have just given Mr Nunn to consider clause 7, I mean summarise
it again for the Committee. I turn to your paragraph 29 and I
am referring to the point which we have already made that the
borough council wish to serve notice under clause 7, "will
not know who is the 'relevant electronic communications service
provider'". What is your evidence about that, please?
(Mr Nunn) That
is correct and the key word in the clause is relevant. The council
cannot know the identity of the service provider who has the contract
with the end user, they can only know the owner of the number
block that was originally allocated. For example, if BT is granted
access to its network facilities to another service provider such
as the Post Office, the end user has then gone to the Post Office
- and I think I have talked through this already - if that is
the case then the number on the card will aware to be a BT number
but, in fact, the contract with the end user will be the Post
Office. The relevant service provider would be the Post Office,
the borough council has got no way of knowing that.
4425. When you say no way of knowing that,
can you explain further leaving on one side the statutory provision
which Mr Clarkson referred to earlier?
(Mr Nunn) There
is no way that they can find that out. They can try and ring the
number and ask who their service provider was. I suspect if it
was someone engaging in criminal activity, that would get them
nowhere. They could look the number up on the Ofcom website and
that would give them BT which would be the incorrect answer so
all we would be able to do is serve a notice. We would not know
quite what to do to serve a notice, I think that is one of the
key issues for us. Would we try and enforce barring, find the
number is not one of ours and then have to respond to the council
and say, sorry we cannot enforce this notice. We may be able to
go straight back to them and say this is not one of our numbers
but they will say what is the status of that notice that has already
been served on us incorrectly. It is those sorts of issues.
4426. Would you, BT, in the example you have
given, necessarily know who the provider of the telephone service
is to the end-user?
(Mr Nunn) Not necessarily,
because some of these retail issues can become complex, where
in fact a reseller can, again, sell the service to another party,
so there would be quite a complex audit trail. We obviously internally
know who we are providing service to in the next link in the chain,
but the sequence of resellers would need to be followed all the
way through to the end to identify the end-user.
4427. Even if you did know who the ultimate
service provider was, would you consider yourself at liberty to
divulge that information to the local authority?
(Mr Nunn) Not as I understand
it. I think we have already covered the issue that our contract
would have a nondisclosure agreement. In the example I have given,
we would not tell anyone that that number is allocated to a service
we are providing to the Post Office, for example.
4428. Turning to your paragraph 35, can you
see some adverse consequences arising from the enactment of clause
7 in these circumstances?
(Mr Nunn) Yes.
Certainly one possibility is that BT and in fact all other service
providers would be bombarded with a large number of invalid notices.
In fact, from the previous evidence the implication was that the
council would serve the notice on all 286 people who could potentially
own that number range and leave it to them to work out whether
the notice was relevant to them. If that were to be the case,
that would be a huge overhead on the service providers, some of
whom only have one 10,000 number book in the London area, and
yet the implication from the answer given to the question earlier
is that they too would receive a letter.
4429. Therefore, it is not just BT who would
be in this predicament; it would be all service providers.
(Mr Nunn) Absolutely
it would, yes.
4430. I would like you to discuss the topic
of number portability, first explaining how this works, if you
(Mr Nunn) It might
be useful to have the diagram in mind. First of all, may I describe
how portability is applied for and provided. Portability is intended
to give customers freedom of choice from whom they take their
telephone service and the ability to retain their number when
moving between operators. Let us say a BT customer decides they
want to take their service from NTL, they will contact that second
service provider, NTL in that example, and request that their
number be ported. NTL will then come to BT and ask us to apply
portability. We are obliged, as we have heard earlier, under article
30 of the Universal Services Directive 2002 to provide portability
to NTL in "as reasonable time as possible" I believe
the Act says. We would aim to do that within four working days
in BT. That is a legal requirement. It is also included in
general condition 18 of the standard conditions which are applied
to all telecommunications providers.
4431. If a number has been ported to another
network, is the borough council able to know or find out to whom
that number has been ported?
(Mr Nunn) No. As
far as BT is concerned that information would be confidential
between us and NTL in that example. The other thing I should say
about portability is that we deliberately ignore any other actions
around ceasing or barring the line, for very good reason, because
I, as a customer wanting to move my number from BT to NTL, may
contact BT and say, "Please cease my BT service because I
do not want to be billed any more by BT, I want my bill to come
from NTL" but if we did cease service at that point, we would
not then be able to call the number because the number would be
allocated back potentially to another customer. So we have to
ignore cease requests, and we do not actually take note of barring
requests at that point either, we simply enact what the legislation
tells us to do and blindly allow portability to happen.
4432. I would like you to consider clause 7
and the impact of number portability on clause 7, please.
(Mr Nunn) Okay.
Assuming that the borough council could identify who they thought
was the relevant service provider or even the relevant service
provider to serve a notice, the end-user advertising their number
could simply ask for their number to be ported as soon as the
clause 7 piece had been enacted.
4433. Would you like to express an example
(Mr Nunn) If, for
example, it was a BT number, and BT was the service provider that
was providing that service so that the customer was in fact a
BT customer, the borough council would not know that that was
so, but they may assume so because it was a number allocated to
BT. As soon as the end-user requested the number be ported, the
notice would become invalid because we would no longer be the
relevant service provider. Once the number had been ported, the
customer would then have a relationship with another service provider
and no longer with us. They would not then know the identity of
the service provider on which to serve the new notice and would
not be able to find it out either.
4434. CHAIRMAN: Mr Asprey, the Committee
has heard quite a lot on portability. I think we have the picture.
Is there more to unpack on this subject?
4435. MR ASPREY: No. I will go on to
the new technology. Would you turn to appendix 2, please,
and give us your evidence on new technology.
(Mr Nunn) I think
people are aware now that broadband is a growing technology and
you can run multiple services over broadband. The top three telephones
on the illustration are base-band telephony - so called because
they work in the same way as phones do today. Those three telephones
would be caught by the provisions of clause 7 as currently drafted.
The bottom three would not, because those all use internet protocol.
Internet protocol is always used to carry services on broadband.
With regard to the bottom left-hand one, which is labelled "POTS",
there are a number of service providers out there, including BT,
who provide an adapter that is either a separate unit to the DSL
modem or embedded in it in some cases, which gives you the ability
to plug a second phone in, and the benefit for the user is that
it is a second phone line in the home. The middle one is a smart
phone, an IP phone, typically found in offices these days, which
uses technology, and the right-hand one we have heard about already,
about Skype. I would like to make one point about Skype. The point
was made yesterday that you cannot call a Skype user from a regular
phone. That is incorrect. Skype do provide a facility called Skype-in,
which gives you a phone number to associate with your Skype account.
This would mean that a pimp or a prostitute could sit, let us
say, in a café, with a laptop computer and headset, receiving
calls from a regular telephone. I thought I ought to make
clear that is entirely feasible. There was some evidence given
that perhaps new technology was not relevant because it is some
time in the future. These are all things that you can buy today
and use today.
4436. Given that calls made over internet protocol
have been excluded from the ambit of clause 7, would you
explain what all this means as to whether or not clause 7 can
(Mr Nunn) The top
three telephones on the picture would be caught by clause 7 because
they are analogue devices; the bottom three devices would not
be caught by clause 7 but would be exempt from it.
4437. Can anyone ask for their telephone line
to be broadband enabled?
(Mr Nunn) They
4438. Do you happen to know what the cost is?
(Mr Nunn) I believe
BT have a special offer at the moment, which I think is something
like £14.99 a month, but generally it is in the region of
between £15 and £30 depending on the features you want
and depending on the speed and the contention ratio and a number
of other technical issues.
4439. Does it require any change in the telephone
(Mr Nunn) No, it
4440. If somebody has in fact asked to be broadband
enabled, it would be possible to connect up any one of those three
facilities on the bottom line there and use those facilities on
(Mr Nunn) It would,
4441. I would like you to draw a conclusion
to the evidence, please.
(Mr Nunn) Assuming
the borough council can identify the right service provider and
assuming the end-user does not port their service to another number,
then they could still avoid it by using a broadband service and
simply putting a service and running it over broadband. Therefore,
we believe the clause is completely misconceived. It is difficult
to see how it can be of practical benefit when there is such a
get-out for someone to employ that. On the downside, there is
a huge bureaucratic nuisance. It is going to require hundreds
of notices being served on BT. I think we heard of 3,700 numbers
found, so we can expect to receive that number of notices, as
can the 140-odd London operators. Finally, on new technology,
BT are upgrading both their core and access networks so that all
telephone calls can be carried using internet protocol. That would
clearly neutralise the Bill in its entirety and that process is
starting in November this year.
4442. MR ASPREY: Thank you very much.
Cross-examined by MR CLARKSON
4443. How long is that going to take to come
(Mr Nunn) We are
planning on that process taking around four years. We were entering
a trial in the Cardiff area first in November of this year
and the plan is to do the roll-out over the following four years.
4444. Then there will have to be developed,
will there - I do not know - a degree of numeracy as far as the
users are concerned?
(Mr Nunn) No, there
is no change to the equipment on the end-user; it is all changed
within the network. Effectively, we use the same technology as
is used to provide broadband services but move that back into
our local exchanges.
4445. Could we go back to the approach on TRAP.
Were you or are you involved in that in any way?
(Mr Nunn) I am
not involved in TRAP at all, no.
4446. Do you know anything about it?
(Mr Nunn) I know
what I have learned over the past few weeks, researching for this
event, but that is the extent of my knowledge.
4447. Would you tell us, with regard to any
of your exhibits, what BT have done as part of the TRAP process.
It is a mechanical or electrical engineering question, all right?
(Mr Nunn) Are you
asking at what point on the flow chart TRAP becomes an engineering
(Mr Nunn) The first
point at which engineering on the network, other than just data
analysis, becomes relevant, is the point at which service is suspended
to a customer. That, as has already been said, is simply a matter
of a number of key strokes on to the management system that manages
the local exchanges to change the user data on the exchange that
serves the end-user, basically to say "reject incoming calls".
4449. Could you tell us, in relation to your
first exhibit, what it is that BT did as part of the TRAP call
(Mr Nunn) Assuming
the call is originating on the left-hand side of that picture
and terminating on the right-hand side, we have modified the data
in the box labelled "Access", which is our local telephone
exchange, to reject the call.
4450. We have heard statistics of reducing
it somewhere down from 95 per cent to four per cent over a period
of time. You did that quite well.
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
I believe the TRAP process has been quite successful in removing
BT numbers from boxes.
4451. Call barring in respect of BT was not
(Mr Nunn) No, the
technical issue of call barring for us is very straightforward.
4452. Do you know where all the numbers that
were allocated have gone?
(Mr Nunn) In what
sense? I am not sure I understand the question there.
4453. As I understand it, some BT numbers have
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
numbers might be moved because they have been ported to another
4454. Did you in that exercise bar any that
had been ported?
(Mr Nunn) I do
not know the answer to that question. I would have to refer to
my colleague Mr Ferguson to be able to answer that question.
4455. Do you know, nevertheless, what the numbers
(Mr Nunn) We know
from our system whether a number that has been allocated to BT
has been ported, yes.
4456. You would know that, would you, at the
stage of end-user/access?
(Mr Nunn) Can you
take me to that stage in the flowchart?
4457. I am looking at the right of the blue
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
we know on any given exchange which numbers are ported, yes.
4458. When it comes to call barring of all
those numbers, you know what the numbers are and you could bar
them at the end-user/access stage, could you?
(Mr Nunn) No, we
could not. The way a telephone exchange works is that it is a
sequential process of analysing digit strings until you get to
a point where you can read the call and at that point a decision
is made what to do with the call. It just so happens that the
data that relates to the porting overrides any data related to
the user, and incoming call barring data is user-related data,
and, essentially, the call never gets to see whether that data
has been set or not, so the call would always take the port route
rather than test for barring. That is a technical restraint
of the exchanges.
4459. It might be a technical restraint, but
surely it is technically possible, is it not, for you to bar the
number as opposed to the user, as you just described?
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
it is technically possible. However, the European Directive states
that we must port the number. It does not make any statements
about a subsequent request to apply barring from a third party.
I suspect we would be in breach of the European Directive.
4460. We will wait for submission on that if
that is pursued. The simple position is that it is mechanically
possible at the stage of end-user and access for you to bar all
the numbers that you know were BT numbers or were ported numbers
ex-BT. Is that fair?
(Mr Nunn) It is
mechanically possible, yes, although it would clearly create some
contractual and potentially legality issues, as was raised earlier.
4461. Yes, the contractual position, which
we understand. Were there any contractual positions, do you know,
at the time of TRAP?
(Mr Nunn) I cannot
comment on that. I do not know the contractual status.
4462. Let us return to the situation of those
that have not been ported, just so I understand it. Are you saying
that of the number of allocated operators that you have identified,
there is a 59 per cent chance of them being BT numbers?
(Mr Nunn) That
4463. If there is an 0203, 0207 or 0208 number
on a card in a telephone box, there is a 6:4 chance that you have
it, is that right?
(Mr Nunn) Roughly,
4464. Which company is the next biggest?
(Mr Nunn) Cable
and Wireless have 13 per cent of the number box allocated; followed
by NTL with five per cent; Telewest with four per cent; Colt with
three per cent; MCI with three per cent; and then 140 others each
with less than one per cent.
4465. The 140 others are known, are they?
(Mr Nunn) They
would be known from the Ofcom database, yes.
4466. If they were asked a question: "Have
you got x number?" they could say yes or no, could
(Mr Nunn) They
4467. If you were asked - and this is not a
legal question but a general question - "Can you address
the issue of a serious criminal activity?" it is possible
at all stages, is it not, for you to find out where the number
(Mr Nunn) Yes,
it is. We know that information on our systems and I would imagine
the other operators would have a similar system that would enable
them to find out, yes.
4468. MR CLARKSON: Thank you, Mr Nunn,
4469. MR ASPREY: I have no further questions.
4470. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I think that
is the end of your witnesses.
The witness withdrew
4471. MR ASPREY:
That is the end of my evidence, yes.
4472. CHAIRMAN: We would normally expect
to hear from the Government at the end of the process. Am I right
in thinking that there was a request that the Petitioners should
be heard after the Government?
4473. MR ASPREY: I think that is right.
I would certainly make the request if it happens to be convenient
to the Committee. It seems to me that we should sum up on the
basis of all the information which has been provided to you.
4474. CHAIRMAN: I will take advice.
(The Chairman conferred with the Clerk) As you will be
aware, the Government representative has just walked into the
room, so we will give her 30 seconds to catch her breath.
We must bear in mind, firstly, that she is not here to give evidence
but to answer questions on the statement from her Department.
4475. Ms Gillatt, I believe you have a short
statement from your department.
4476. MS GILLATT: We thought it might
be simplest to state the basics of the position and save questions
as far as possible.
4477. The Government is sympathetic to local
communities that encounter nuisance from prostitution in their
daily lives and is determined to reduce the numbers involved in
prostitution, to reduce the levels of violence and exploitation
associated with it and to improve the safety and quality of life
4478. The report of the Minister of State for
the Department of Trade and Industry, which was submitted on behalf
of the Government on 16 June 2005, details our main concerns and
forms the basis upon which we wish to see clause 7 deleted from
4479. The Government's Prostitution Strategy,
published in January 2006, followed the widest review of prostitution
in 50 years. Consultees were specifically asked about the issue
of prostitutes' cards and how the problem could be addressed.
4480. As part of the review, the Home Office
developed a partial regulatory impact assessment on a coordinated
strategy for prostitution. It found that the problem of prostitutes'
cards in telephone boxes occurs in only a few areas of the country,
principally Brighton, Norwich and some London boroughs, most notably
4481. The partial regulatory impact assessment
looked at costs and benefits resulting from prostitution and the
impact on the police and other agencies and on the taxpayer, although
it did not specifically address particular costs such as those
associated with carding as it accompanied the open consultation
document rather than a firm set of recommendations or proposals
4482. No regulatory impact assessment has been
made of the costs of those proposals to telecoms operators. Nor
has any fact-based evidence been produced to demonstrate that
the benefits of the clause would outweigh the costs.
4483. As a consequence, to implement these
proposals would represent poor regulatory practice and go against
the Government's objective to reduce the burden on business as
part of its Better Regulation Agenda: regulating only when necessary
and doing so in a way that is proportionate to risk.
4484. Legislation that was introduced in 2001,
as the Committee is aware, makes it an offence to place prostitutes'
cards in telephone boxes. It is the Government's view that a targeted
approach to enforcement of that existing law is needed, together
with environmental measures, including redesigning telephone kiosks
and a cleaning crackdown, as recommended in The Jill Dando Institute
report of 2004. This would be a more proportionate and effective
way of tackling the problem of carding.
4485. Such an approach has already proved successful
in Brighton. The Home Office's regulatory impact assessment notes
that: "Sussex Police report that enforcement of the offence,
together with follow-up visits to those brothels using prostitutes'
cards has been sufficient to remove the problem."
4486. The Prostitution Strategy takes
the approach that street prostitution and any form of commercial
sexual exploitation, whether in massage parlours or saunas, brothels
or on the street, should not be tolerated. The strategy provides
a framework for local partnerships to disrupt local sex markets
through preventative measures to stop young people from being
drawn into prostitution; the development of routes out for those
already involved; targeted enforcement against those who create
the demand for such markets; and robust use of the new powers
in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to address all forms of commercial
sexual exploitation. In time, this should reduce the numbers of
brothels, and the nuisance - including prostitutes' cards - associated
4487. Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom
was given powers by Parliament to oversee and regulate electronic
communications networks and services on a national level. Telecoms
policy is implemented on this basis and has not been devolved
4488. Clause 7 calls for individual local authorities
to be given powers to impose local conditions on operators of
telecommunications services. The Government's view is that this
would not be appropriate. The Government maintains that regulation
of the telecommunications industry is a matter for Ofcom.
4489. Ofcom is best placed to take a national
co-ordinated approach. All regulation has to be carefully considered
to ensure a transparent open and fair market in what is a complex
area. We think that a piecemeal approach, whereby other bodies
such as local authorities can impose conditions on telecoms operators,
is highly undesirable and will be likely to undermine that openness
4490. The Government can see no convincing
evidence that call barring as proposed under this clause would
cease the practice of carding or produce any of the intended benefits
for local communities.
4491. The voluntary call barring scheme operated
by BT with Westminster City Council, has shown that it can have
a disruptive effect where landlines are used, but the growing
use of mobile phones, particularly pre-pay phones, with their
anonymity, quick and relatively inexpensive portability and replacement
of numbers, means call barring would have no significant impact
if such a scheme was extended to mobile networks. The Mobile Broadband
Group has raised concerns with us about the effectiveness of such
a scheme in the light of advancing technologies. We believe an
increasing availability of internet based communications, many
of them based beyond the UK's jurisdiction, will undermine the
effectiveness of the proposed measures.
4492. The Government reasserts its opposition
to clause 7 of the Bill for the reasons stated and calls for it
to be removed in its entirety. Ofcom and BT have confirmed their
support to the Government's objection.
4493. CHAIRMAN: Does any member of the
Committee have any questions relating to what we have just heard?
4494. LORD FAULKNER OF WORCESTER: I
am sure Ms Gillatt is aware that this has been around in Parliament
for a very long time. The first consultation paper of which I
have notice in which prostitutes' cards were described as a problem
was in 1999. The legislation to which you refer was passed in
2001. The Minister, replying in this House of the Government,
Lord Bassim said then, "My understanding is that Oftel"
- the predecessor of Ofcom - "has had discussions with the
telecommunications industry about a call barring scheme. Some
progress has been made in that area. I am told it is not a simple
business. It needs to be developed. I hope it can be." Why
do you think it is that the Government have not made any progress
on developing a call barring scheme since 2001?
4495. MS GILLATT: The key reason for
that, so far as I am aware, as I have just indicated, is that
the communications channels that are available have become increasingly
complex, increasingly easy and anonymous for people to use, and
there is increasing availability of telecommunications channels
that have their roots outside the UK's jurisdiction. We are certainly
conscious that it is increasingly difficult to come up with a
scheme that would operate as an effective stop to this particular
aspect of the nuisance caused by prostitution.
4496. MR CLARKSON: Can I just ask through
you one question, it may help you, it is a practical question?
How many prostitutes are there in Brighton and how many in London?
4497. MS GILLATT: I am sorry, My Lord
4498. CHAIRMAN: I did not expect you
to be able to supply the answer, the implication is clear. Do
any other counsel have questions?
4499. MR JONES: I have no questions.