Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Home Office

  I understand that the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Bill has asked for details of the functions and powers of the Home Office in connection with matters covered by the Bill, ie telecommunications, broadcasting and the Internet. Policy responsibility for the majority of these issues transferred from the Home Office to DCMS several years ago. The only residual responsibility is in the area of telecommunications.

  The Home Office has no statutory powers in relations to telecommunications. There have been major changes over the years to the management of the radio spectrum used by the emergency services. The most significant was the setting up of the Public Safety Spectrum Management Group (PSSMG), to manage the 380-400 MHz band. As a result of a review of radio spectrum management, carried out by Professor Cave, the work of this group is being expanded to include all of the frequency bands used by the emergency services. The membership has also been expanded and DTLR now has direct representation on this group, now called the Public Safety Spectrum Policy Group (PSSPG).

  Technological developments and policy changes have also significantly reduced the Home Office's spectrum management role because the responsibility for system planning and detailed channel assignment now rests with the network operator. The Home Office does have the residual task of undertaking the detailed spectrum management of the legacy systems (Police and Fire) and will continue to undertake this task until the equipment is phased out, or the management of the band is taken over by the PSSPG.

  Standardisation and certification procedures have also undergone significant changes in recent years and are now handled at the European level. Home Office radio specifications are no longer produced because we now refer to standards produced by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). Although we participate in ETSI, the Home Office role is to steer developments. The in-depth technical knowledge resides with the ETSI industrial representatives. The certification process, in compliance with EC Directives, is no longer based on type approval but relies on a manufacturer's declaration of conformance to a technical standard.

May 2002

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