Memorandum submitted by the Home Office
I understand that the Joint Committee on the
draft Communications Bill has asked for details of the functions
and powers of the Home Office in connection with matters covered
by the Bill, ie telecommunications, broadcasting and the Internet.
Policy responsibility for the majority of these issues transferred
from the Home Office to DCMS several years ago. The only residual
responsibility is in the area of telecommunications.
The Home Office has no statutory powers in relations
to telecommunications. There have been major changes over the
years to the management of the radio spectrum used by the emergency
services. The most significant was the setting up of the Public
Safety Spectrum Management Group (PSSMG), to manage the 380-400
MHz band. As a result of a review of radio spectrum management,
carried out by Professor Cave, the work of this group is being
expanded to include all of the frequency bands used by the emergency
services. The membership has also been expanded and DTLR now has
direct representation on this group, now called the Public Safety
Spectrum Policy Group (PSSPG).
Technological developments and policy changes
have also significantly reduced the Home Office's spectrum management
role because the responsibility for system planning and detailed
channel assignment now rests with the network operator. The Home
Office does have the residual task of undertaking the detailed
spectrum management of the legacy systems (Police and Fire) and
will continue to undertake this task until the equipment is phased
out, or the management of the band is taken over by the PSSPG.
Standardisation and certification procedures
have also undergone significant changes in recent years and are
now handled at the European level. Home Office radio specifications
are no longer produced because we now refer to standards produced
by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
Although we participate in ETSI, the Home Office role is to steer
developments. The in-depth technical knowledge resides with the
ETSI industrial representatives. The certification process, in
compliance with EC Directives, is no longer based on type approval
but relies on a manufacturer's declaration of conformance to a