18.1 This proposal, known as "the Access Directive" is part of the telecoms regulatory package, of which three others on which we report also form part. It aims to set out a harmonised regulatory framework for access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks in the European Community. We cleared the draft on 21 March 2001, before the Council agreed a Common Position on it.
18.2 On 13 February 2002 we considered a letter from the Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander) in which he informed us of the outcome of negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament on key elements of the telecoms regulatory package. He said that a Second Reading Agreement had been reached shortly before Christmas 2001. No texts were available but, when they had been finalised, Explanatory Memoranda would be submitted on them "as normal".
18.3 In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 19 March, the Minister told us that the Directive was adopted on 14 February 2002. He summarised the amendments to the Common Position that were agreed as part of the final deal and said that the Government fully supported the Agreement, believing that the final version represented a very good outcome for the UK. He gave some detailed reasons why this was the case. He made no reference to the fact that the "final deal" had not been submitted for scrutiny before adoption, but said that it was expected to come into force "imminently".
18.4 The proposed Framework, Authorisation and Universal Service Directives also, according to the Minister, formed part of the same Second Reading Agreement. The comments we made on the Framework Directive applied equally to the Universal Service Directive which we consider here.