Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Douglas Alexander MP, Minister for e-Commerce and Competitiveness, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated May 2002 which was submitted in response to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee's request. Sub-Committee B considered this document at their meeting on 13 May.

  While it is difficult to quarrel with the objectives of the eEurope action plan, I have to say that we are sceptical about the extent to which progress is being made. In particular, you will note that much of this programme depends on the rapid introduction of broadband. We have already commented elsewhere that in the United Kingdom the introduction of broadband has been unnecessarily delayed, we believe, by deliberate foot-dragging by the dominant operator. Hand in hand with this is the failure to push through local loop unbundling (LLU) as quickly as we think it should have been.

  As this is only a draft document, there can be no question of lifting the Scrutiny reserve. We look forward to receiving the agreed text in due course.

Letter from the Chairman to Mr Stephen Timms MP, Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated June 2002 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 17 June.

  As I am sure you will be aware, Sub-Committee had earlier considered the draft text of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan at their meeting on 13 May and I wrote to your predecessor on 15 May.

  We do not disagree, in general, with the Action Plan and what it seeks to achieve and, therefore, lift the Scrutiny reserve on this document. We are concerned about the Commission's eagerness to move into new territory such as eLearning which has potential cost implications for Member States. We would welcome your views on this.

  However, we are also worried that the eEurope Action Plan itself may be difficult to carry out unless there is considerable change in the market place. We should, therefore, welcome your view on the pace of future roll-out of broadband, and also on the arguments advance by the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) that the European Commission ought to develop a common cost account methodology that would enable national regulatory authorities to establish cost-orientated prices across the EU.

19 June 2002

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