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Mr. Boswell: Perhaps that could be resolved bythe Minister or the chief executive of the Radiocommunications Agency writing to my hon. Friend with such information about the study as they are able to give.

The broad principle, which I hope is endorsed on both sides of the House, is that information should be in the public domain unless there is a compelling reason for it not to be. If there is a reason--such as national security or the commercial sensitivity of information given in confidence--we will understand that constraints are necessary, as I acknowledged in my opening remarks.

The Minister's assurance was helpful, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) rightly said--miraculously anticipating my comments--the proof of the pudding will be in the

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eating. We shall use the Minister's remarks as a template to test any withholding of information. We shall return them to her with interest if there is any dereliction from that duty. I am sure that the chief executive and the agency will read the report of the debate and take the comments to heart.

On amendment No. 9 and the release of information about grants, I have a slight feeling that Sir Humphrey may have been at work. I understand that the matter is difficult. We do not want a tedious list of ha'penny items, which, while important to the individuals involved, are less important in the national picture. The Minister gave a welcome assurance that, in broad terms--again with the term of art subject to considerations of commercial confidence--big items would be released. It might be helpful for her to consider inviting the agency to provide some details by generic type as an alternative to specifying each at tedious length.

Mr. Lansley: I am prompted by our discussions in Committee to suggest that responses to the agency's consultation document might be made available on the agency's web site. That would provide a vehicle through which information could be listed in sufficient detail for those who want it.

Mr. Boswell: Provided there is not a server error--as my hon. Friend said in Committee. My hon. Friend is right, although I respond jocularly. Putting material on the internet is cost free once the site has been set up. It would be available to technically sophisticated persons with inexpensive equipment. I notice my hon. Friend wrinkling his nose. He seems to be modestly implying that he is not technically sophisticated, but ever more of us are learning to use the internet.

We can call the debate a no-score draw--or perhaps a score draw. We have not achieved our objective of having the new clause and amendment adopted, but we have had some useful assurances which we shall use to test the future actions and intentions of the Government and the agency. With some reluctance because of my natural combativeness, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New clause 2

Efficient use of the electro-magnetic spectrum


'.--The Secretary of State may reallocate any part of the electro-magnetic spectrum which he considers is not being used efficiently.'.--[Mr. Boswell.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Boswell: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 3--Substitution of parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum--


'.--The Secretary of State may allocate a new part of the spectrum to a licence holder in return for that licence holder relinquishing that part of the spectrum that they have previously been allocated.'.

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New clause 4--Secretary of State's power to purchase electro-magnetic spectrum--


'.--The Secretary of State may purchase electro-magnetic spectrum from a licence holder.'.

New clause 5--Selling or trading of electro-magnetic spectrum--


'.--A licence holder may sell or otherwise trade all or part of the electro-magnetic spectrum which they have been allocated.'.

New clause 6--Reallocation of electro-magnetic spectrum from broadcasters--


'.--The Secretary of State may reallocate any part of the electro-magnetic spectrum from television or radio broadcasting licence holders to other users if he considers it expedient to do so, or if he considers it will promote the change-over to new technologies, or both.'.

New clause 9--Requirement on broadcasters to use electro-magnetic spectrum efficiently--


'.--The Secretary of State shall require holders of broadcasting licences to use the electro-magnetic spectrum efficiently, and may reallocate any part of the spectrum made available as a consequence of such efficient use for other purposes.'.

New clause 11--Promotion of free market in the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum--


'. Having regard to the desirability of promoting a free market in the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum, the Secretary of State may re-allocate spectrum from existing licence holders to new entrants to the market.'.

New clause 12--Reallocation of spectrum within particular wavelengths--


'. The Secretary of State may re-allocate electro-magnetic spectrum within particular wavelengths to ensure competition in services which require a specific electro-magnetic wavelength.'.

New clause 15--Low power transmitters--


'. The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that low power transmitting devices which do not cause interference to other users do not require a licence.'.

New clause 19--Unauthorised use of spectrum or breach of licence conditions--


'.--The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the actions to be taken against those who use the electro-magnetic spectrum without authorisation, or who operate in breach of licence conditions.'.

New clause 20--Transfer of services from electro-magnetic spectrum--


'.--The Secretary of State may, by regulations, make provision to encourage the transfer of certain services from the electro-magnetic spectrum to other delivery systems.'.

Mr. Boswell: I suppose that it would be possible for somebody looking at this rather long list of new clauses to conclude that, in the words of a popular newspaper's motto, all human life is there. The group is comprehensive. It has a lot to say, but then it concerns some of the Bill's central objectives and issues. Basically, we are addressing the power to reallocate parts of the spectrum. We are seeking to put a bit of zip and life into the issue of reallocation by proposing alternative approaches.

I come to these matters comparatively freshly. There has been so little going on recently that I am only too happy to participate. After the National Minimum Wage Bill and those small considerations, I have been most struck by the relative conservatism--I hope that I will not put off Ministers when I say that they have been guilty of that--of the Government's rather static attitude to existing

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users of the spectrum. They find themselves in the position of somebody drawing up a structure plan for a county, where land is either subject to development or it is not. If it is not, it stays as it is. Indeed, it is proposed that only the additional parts of the spectrum will be reallocated.

In the new clauses, we are giving the Government a series of alternative perspectives and options. I hope that they will consider them seriously. It is certainly within the experience and comment of many persons in the field, as well as business users and those who are technical or academic, that some options should become available for reallocation of the spectrum.

I shall pick out three comments. First, as has been discussed, there is congestion in certain areas of the spectrum. There is, therefore, a need to do something about that, although not universally to the same extent. Secondly, there is a growing technical efficiency in compression of signal use; one can do things that would not physically have been possible a few years ago. Thirdly, there will be a changing pattern of use. It is not for us to debate--certainly not in public session--whether the Ministry of Defence requires all its spectrum, and whether it makes best use of it. I certainly would not claim to be a practitioner or be able to speak with authority on that. Those who are--I do not think that they are shooting a line--express some concern.

Mr. Ian Taylor: I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend. He might find that there is a fourth point: where technology enables new use of existing spectrum, which therefore requires reconsideration of the allocation.


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