Documents considered by the Committee on 19 January 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

4 Global navigation satellite system



COM(10) 550

Draft Decision on the detailed rules for access to the public regulated service offered by the global navigation satellite system established under the Galileo programme

Legal baseArticle 172 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 13 January 2011
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-viii (2010-11), chapter 5 (17 November 2010)
To be discussed in CouncilNot yet known
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information awaited


4.1 The EU has a two-phase policy for developing a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). The first phase, GNSS 1, is the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) programme. The second phase, GNSS 2, is the programme, named Galileo, to establish a new satellite navigation constellation with appropriate ground infrastructure. Galileo is based on the presumption that Europe ought not to rely indefinitely on the GPS (the US Global Positioning System) and GLONASS (the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System) systems, augmented by EGNOS. Galileo is being carried out in conjunction with the European Space Agency[20] and there are a number of agreements in place or being negotiated with third countries about cooperation in the project.

4.2 It is intended that Galileo will allow provision of five services. These are known as the:

  • Open Service (OS), free of charge at the point of use — a basic service, but it is expected to potentially offer greater accuracy and coverage than GPS;
  • Commercial Service (CS), offering for a fee added value for more demanding uses — that is expected to be professional users who need superior accuracy and guaranteed service;
  • Safety of Life Service (SoL), for safety-critical applications that require high integrity — this will have the same accuracy as the Open Signal, but with a service guarantee providing high reliability;
  • Search and Rescue Service (SAR), to complement the current COSPAS-SARSAT system (International Satellite Search and Rescue System founded by Canada, France, the former USSR and the USA in 1988 and with 33 countries now participating) — the service is more advanced than any comparable existing service: it relays the distress signal and location to the nearest rescue centre and informs the sender that that signal has been received and that help is on its way; and
  • Public Regulated Service (PRS), a high-performance, encrypted service for authorised civil government applications — such as for such as national security, law enforcement agencies, customs and excise. The potential users will need a service which is useable, available, reliable and secure. The main benefit of this service will be its greater resistance to jamming and interference than the other four services, the fact that it will remain operational if other services are turned off or locally denied (jammed) in times of crisis and the ability to deny signals to specific receivers and user groups.

4.3 From early in 1999 previous Committees have reported to the House on many aspects of the Galileo project, most recently in October 2009.[21] The matter has been debated four times in European Standing Committee, most recently on 26 November 2007,[22] and once on the Floor of the House.[23] We ourselves have reported on a Commission Communication: Action plan on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) applications.[24]

4.4 Most recently, in October 2010, the Commission presented this draft Decision relating to the PRS, which will provide a highly accurate positioning service to specific government-designated users requiring a high continuity of service and access to which will be controlled. The draft Decision sets out the proposed high-level rules governing access to the PRS. Member States will be able to take their own decisions regarding the use, or not, of the PRS and the nature of its use. When we considered this document, in November 2010, we heard that:

  • the Government was considering its approach to the PRS in the light of this proposal, including the potential user organisations in the UK, the likely costs and potential charges for the PRS and the most appropriate organisation to deliver PRS management in the UK;
  • the Government would also consider the issue of security-related use of the PRS — an important factor in this assessment was the successful joint bid by the UK and France to host the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre, referred to in the proposed Decision as the "Security Centre"; and
  • the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum noted that the draft Decision had not been subjected to an impact assessment and the Government would push for transparency over the assessments made by the Commission in support of its proposal.

We noted that the Government was considering its position in relation to the Public Regulated Service and security-related use of the service and was pressing the Commission for information which should have been in an impact assessment. So we said that before considering this draft Decision further we wanted to hear from the Government about developments on these matters. Meanwhile the document remained under scrutiny.[25]

The Minister's letter

4.5 The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers) tells us that a progress report on the draft Directive was given to the December 2010 Transport Council. She says that:

  • the Government referred to the lack of a Commission impact assessment and expressed disappointment at the lack of visibility on costs;
  • in order for the Government to assess potential uses of the PRS in the UK, greater clarity is required on the estimated infrastructure and operational costs as well as an indication from the Commission on whether it proposes to charge Member States for access to the PRS; and
  • the Commission has undertaken to provide a paper on costs at the next Transport Council Working Group, scheduled for 20 January 2011.

The Minister continues that:

  • following receipt of the Commission's paper on costs the Government will seek to identify possible groups of users of the PRS in the UK;
  • in the meantime, it is working closely with the Commission and the Hungarian Presidency to ensure that the provisions in the draft Decision relating to the manufacture of PRS receivers and associated security modules are not overly restrictive;
  • UK industry is regarded as an expert in the field of PRS technology and the Government is keen to facilitate industrial return; and
  • its aim is to negotiate a suitable form of wording which balances the need for appropriate security controls of manufacturers against favourable conditions in which a market for PRS receivers can grow.


4.6 We are grateful to the Minister for this interim account of where matters stand on this draft Decision. However we shall continue to hold the document under scrutiny whilst awaiting further information on the Commission's paper on costs and the Government's position in relation to the Public Regulated Service and security-related use of the service.

20   See and  Back

21   (30902) 13066/09: see HC 19-xxix (2008-09), chapter 8 (28 October 2009). Back

22   See Gen Co Debs, European Standing Committee, cols. 3-40. Back

23   See HC Deb, 2 July 2007, cols. 763-87. Back

24   (31718) 11137/10 + ADDs 1-2: see HC 428-ii (2010-11), chapter 19 (15 September 2010).  Back

25   See headnote. Back

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