Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


COM(02) 74

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 the Council on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services.

Legal base:Article 95; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21567) 10979/00: HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph 8 (21 March 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 6-7 December 2001 Transport and Telecommunications Council
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared

  17.1  This proposal, known as "the Authorisation Directive", is one of seven proposals 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[36]. It was debated in European Standing Committee C on 16 February 2000[37].

  17.2  The Directive aims to harmonise and simplify existing national systems for the authorisation of networks and services by national regulatory authorities (NRAs), setting out the framework with which NRAs must comply when setting, for example, administrative charges and conditions. We cleared the draft before the Council agreed a Common Position on it on 21 March 2001[38].

  17.3  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 his letter on 13 February[39]. The Minister now tells us that the Directive was adopted on 14 February.

The Commission document

  17.4  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 there were only four changes to the Common Position:

    "—  new recital wording on the payment arrangements for one-off usage fees for radio frequencies and the scope for benchmarking studies by the Commission;
  • specification of licensees' rights on the withdrawal or restriction of rights to install facilities;

  • a description of different national, regional and other agencies' roles, as part of the information to be made available on applying for rights to install facilities; and

  • a technical change reducing the additional transitional period for cases where the new regime will lead to a reduction in rights or an extension of obligations (from twelve to nine months)."

The Government's view

  17.5  The Minister comments 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. He notes that there were relatively few amendments to the Common Position text of the Authorisation Directive and that none of them has any adverse policy implications for the UK.


  17.6  The Minister says that the final text of this proposal before adoption was acceptable to the Government and that it liaised closely with industry and consumer representatives throughout the negotiations. We have no particular problems with the revised text, but we would have expected the Minister to ensure that we had an opportunity to scrutinise it before it was adopted on 14 February. In his letter of 7 February, he certainly appeared to give this undertaking.

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

  17.8  We clear the document.

36  (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

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

38  (21567) 10979/00; see HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph 8 (21 March 2001). Back

39  (23027) 14838/01; see HC 152-xix (2001-02), paragraph 8 (13 February 2002). Back

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