Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


COM (02) 75

Commission Opinion pursuant to Article 251 (2), third subparagraph, point (c), of the EC Treaty, on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's common position regarding the draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities.

Legal base:Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21560) 10960/00: HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph 7 (21 March 2001)
Discussed in Council: 6-7 December 2001 Transport and Telecommunications Council
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared

  16.1  This proposal is one of seven that will form the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. They were anticipated in the Commission Communication on the results of the public consultation on the 1999 Communications Review, which we considered on 24 May 1999 and 19 July 1999[32] and which was debated in European Standing Committee C on 16 February 2000.[33]

  16.2  This proposal sets out a harmonised regulatory framework for access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks in the European Community. We cleared the draft before the Council agreed a Common Position on it on 21 March 2001[34].

  16.3  The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander) says that the Council and European Parliament started negotiations on the key elements in the package in the autumn of 2000. These culminated in a Second Reading agreement reached shortly before Christmas 2001. On 7 February, the Minister informed us of the outcome of the negotiations. No texts were available at that time but the Minister said that when they had been finalised, Explanatory Memoranda would be submitted on them "as normal". We considered this letter on 13 February[35]. The Minister now tells us that the Directive was adopted on 14 February.

The Commission document

  16.4  The Commission's Opinion lists the amendments to the Common Position agreed as part of the final deal, and confirms that the Commission finds all of these acceptable in full. The Minister says that the main changes agreed were to the Recitals, which now highlight the need for monitoring and action, if necessary, by National Regulatory Authorities and the Commission in certain key areas. These include the interoperability of services for end-users, the impact of charges on tariffs for end-users, the need for market analysis of international roaming and the possible adverse effects of new infrastructure on the environment and landscape.

The Government's view

  16.5  The Minister says that the Government fully supported the agreement reached on the Directive in December, and believes that the final version of the package represents a very good outcome for the UK. There were relatively few amendments to the Common Position text of the Access Directive and a number of those were of a purely technical nature (for example, aligning references to the start dates of market analysis reviews by National Regulatory Authorities with those in the Framework Directive). The more substantive amendments to the recitals reflect MEPs' concerns about, among other things, international roaming and end-user tariffs, and are consistent with the regulatory approach of this and the other Directives in the package.


  16.6  We accept that the final result was acceptable to the Government and that it liaised closely with industry and consumer representatives throughout the negotiations. Nevertheless, we would have expected the Minister to ensure that we had an opportunity to scrutinise the revised text before it was adopted on 14 February. In his letter of 7 February, he certainly appeared to give this undertaking.

  16.7  We comment on the failure of scrutiny on this and other proposals in the package which were part of the Second Reading Agreement in our Conclusion on the Framework Directive in paragraph 15 of this Report.

  16.8  We clear the document.

32  (21189) 8330/00; see HC 23-xix (1999-2000), paragraph 7 (24 May 2000) and HC 23-xxv (1999-2000), paragraph 8 (19 July 2000). Back

33  Official Report, European Standing Committee C, 16 February 2000. Back

34  (21560)10960/00; see HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph 7 (21 March 2001). Back

35  (23027) 14838/01; see HC 152-xix (2001-02), paragraph 8 (13 February 2002). Back

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