Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


EU SPECTRUM POLICY (12393/05, 12817/05)

Letter from Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, Department of Trade and Industry to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 9 November 2005,[27] requesting further information on EM 12817/05. I am sorry that it has taken some time to assemble the authoritative response that your queries deserve.

  I had made it clear that the proposal raises no new issues of subsidiarity, and you responded by asking whether the communication raises any existing issues of subsidiarity. I think it is inevitable that some familiar issues of subsidiarity will arise in relation to any proposal to harmonise the use of spectrum, including what the communication refers to as the "spectrum dividend". This concerns the balance between national spectrum management and European coordination. The way in which this balance is struck involves consideration of whether the objectives of the proposed harmonisation measure can be sufficiently achieved by the Member States or whether they can only be achieved by the Community, for example because of the desirability of avoiding distortions in markets that are underpinned by spectrum availability. Our approach is to argue for such matters to be left to the individual nation state unless it is clear that there are manifest benefits to be gained from a community-wide approach. I hope that this explanation fully clarifies the statement in the Explanatory Memorandum.

19 April 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Alun Michael MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 26 October 2005[28] requesting further information on EM 12393/05. I am sorry that it has taken some time to assemble the authoritative response that your queries deserve.

  The UK supports the market-based approach to spectrum management and in your letter you indicated that your committee both shares that approach and share our concerns to avoid stifling national innovation. Those players directly engaged in the market have the best understanding of the benefit and development of competing technologies. In general, market mechanisms are more likely to lead to dynamic adjustment of spectrum assignments than regulation. The accelerating pace of convergence makes this especially important for European competitiveness.

  You asked me about Ofcom's views on such matters. These were set out in Ofcom's Spectrum Framework Review, published on 28 June 2005. In addition, Ofcom's response to the European Commission's request for comment on proposed harmonisation in the 2.6 GHz band, published on 15 September 2005, sets out in detail Ofcom's view of these issues in relation to a specific harmonisation proposal. Both documents are available on Ofcom's website, www.ofcom.org.uk.

  As you will appreciate, Ofcom is accountable to Parliament rather than to Ministers, but at DTI we do take the views of Ofcom as the independent regulator very seriously indeed in seeking to develop our approach.

  In my Explanatory Memorandum I said the communication did not raise any new issues of subsidiarity and you also ask whether the communication raises any existing issues of subsidiarity. Certainly there are existing issues, and I believe there will always be a tension to be resolved, so the Commission's communication describes the balance between national spectrum management and international coordination including European coordination. The way in which this balance is struck at the European level involves consideration of whether the objectives of a proposed spectrum harmonisation measure can be sufficiently achieved by the Member States or whether they need to be coordinated by the Community, for example because of the desirability of promoting international roaming or securing economies of scale. As stated by the communication, harmonisation can be achieved through market mechanisms on a de facto basis where spectrum markets have been introduced. Our approach is to press for subsidiarity except where it is clear that there is manifest benefit from an EC wide approach.

19 April 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Alun Michael MP

  Thank you for your letters of 19 April 2006, replying to my letters of 26 October 2005 and 9 November 2005. Sub-Committee B considered both letters at its meeting on 3 May 2006.

  We were reassured to learn that the Government will be pressing the case for subsidiarity except where there is "manifest benefit" to Community coordination of market harmonisation. We are content to lift scrutiny on the two documents at this stage, but because of the potential importance of these measures for the UK market, we will return to it as concrete proposals emerge. In the meantime we would be grateful for news of any developments in the important area of EU Spectrum Policy.

4 May 2006




27   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, p 125. Back

28   Correspondence with Ministers 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 195. Back


 
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