Select Committee on European Communities Twelfth Report

14. TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICES (12194/96, 12883/96)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Ian Taylor, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry

12194/96 - Green Paper on a numbering policy for telecommunication services in Europe 12883/96 - Commission Communication on Assessment Criteria for National Schemes for costing and financing of universal service in telecommunications

  These documents, together with your Explanatory Memoranda of 19 December and 3 February respectively, were sifted to Sub-Committee B for scrutiny and considered at the Sub-Committee's meeting on Thursday 27 February. At that meeting the Sub-Committee held an informal briefing session to which Mr Don Cruiskshank, Director General of the Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL), was invited. The Sub-Committee is grateful to Mr Cruiskshank and the colleagues who accompanied him for the assistance they were able to give at that meeting.

  The Sub-Committee is concerned about the extent to which telephone numbers have already been subject to change in recent years, particularly in London, and would be reluctant to endorse further such changes unless a convincing case could be made that the benefits would outweigh the considerable cost and inconvience such changes impose. Any new numbering system should have an anticipated life span of many years.

  A related factor to which the Sub-Committee attaches some importance is the ability of customers to retain the same numbers whichever operator they choose and it was interested to learn from OFTEL of the progress that had been made in overcoming the technical obstacles to number portability. On this basis, the Sub-Committee endorses the Government's view that the timescale proposed by the Commission for Member States to introduce number portability could and should be reduced.

  This letter lifts the scrutiny reserve and I would be grateful you could keep me informed of developments in these important areas of Community policy.

6 March 1997

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