Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440
MONDAY 17 JUNE 2002
440. Change the treaties?
(Mr Forrest) Yes.
441. So if, in order to implement this, you
have to change the treaties, how are you going to implement this
in the satellite area, without changing the treaties?
(Mr Forrest) My Lord Chairman, the proposal, for which
we have not yet seen the details, is for this scheme of recognised
spectrum access. The understanding of the way that this operates
is that it is a kind of protection to those using that spectrum
against interference if they join the scheme and indeed pay to
become members of the scheme. The big question is whether that
would be challenged in European law or international law. I am
not a lawyer and I cannot really comment on that. I think the
danger perhaps of immediately saying that this is a proposal that
can be taken forward is as to whether that will come up against
an international legal challenge.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
442. Do you envisage OFCOM being the government
agency for negotiating these treaties? Do you think that we ought
to put in this Bill that OFCOM has this role? Or can we even dictate
to the Government? Obviously this emerges as a very complex issue.
(Mr Langsdale) My Lord, I think the Bill already does
give the authority to OFCOM to negotiate the ITU treaties on behalf
of the UK Government.
443. Is it subject to the permission of the
Secretary of State? I cannot remember.
(Mr Forrest) From memory, according to a clause in
the Bill, I think it is, as directed by him.
(Mr Susman) Clause 9, duties of OFCOM, when required
by the Secretary of State to "provide representation"
or to "serve as a member of any international or other body",
things like that.
444. Could I rephrase my question. Would you
urge the Secretary of State to allow OFCOM to do this and stop
interfering? Would your idea be that OFCOM, with the technicalities
my colleague raised, would be best fitted to negotiate? In other
words, should our advice as a pre-legislative scrutiny committee
be to say, "Leave it to OFCOM" and not allow all the
negotiations with the Foreign Office, etcetera, etcetera? What
would your view be?
(Mr Langsdale) My Lord Chairman, I think we have said
give the power to OFCOM to provide the leadership on that negotiation.
445. I have one final question on this whole
area . What are the implications if OFCOM wanted to put the RSA
into licence conditions rather than simply allowing it to emerge?
(Mr Sleigh) I am not sure what you mean by "RSA".
446. Recognised spectrum access.
(Mr Forrest) It is described in the Bill, my Lord
Chairman, as I understand it, in a very similar way to a licence.
My understanding is that it is a kind of agreement, as I was saying,
which gives a certain degree of protection, in a similar way to
a licence, to a satellite broadcaster against terrestrial interference;
they are given some kind of guarantee for the usage of that spectrum,
for paying a price and for being documented in that particular
way as a spectrum user.
447. Before we move on, can I ask the Bill team
if they would like to make any points or ask any questions by
way of clarification on anything we have heard?
(Mr Susman) I have three points it might be worth
mentioning. The first point is about technical expertise. The
Office of Communications Act, enacted this year, provides for
OFCOM to have such advisory committees as it thinks fit, so the
provision will not be expected to be in this Bill. The second
point is that one of the first points that was made was about
the distinction between the Secretary of State's policy role and
OFCOM's executive role. The distinction is not drawn in the Bill
in quite that way. Clause 112 provides for the Secretary of State
to give directions, so the Secretary of State does have a policy
role, but subject to the giving of those directions OFCOM has
the function of an inspector of policy, and if no directions are
given then OFCOM decides on policy. So the sharp distinction does
not exist as was suggested. The third matter which might be worth
clarifying is on resolution of interference disputes. There is
nothing in the Bill which would cause OFCOM to operate differently
from the way in which the Radiocommunications Agency operates
already. The existing regime would continue.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Thank