Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


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

  I am pleased to enclose a copy of my written statement to Parliament outlining the agenda items for the forthcoming Telecoms Council on 8 June which is taking place in Luxembourg.

5 June 2006

Annex A


  I will be representing the UK at the Telecoms Council in Luxembourg on the afternoon of 8 June 2006. This is the only Telecoms Council under the Austrian Presidency of the EU.

  The first item on the agenda will focus on EU eGovernment policy. In response to a recently published Commission eGovernment Action Plan, the Presidency have prepared a set of Council Conclusions looking at the priorities that need to considered in the area of eGovernment policy. I intend to endorse these Council Conclusions which are compatible with the UK Government's Transformational Government Strategy.

  The Presidency will then introduce a policy debate on the future challenges for the electronic communications regulatory framework. This anticipates the Commission's forthcoming review of the regulatory framework for Electronic Communications markets. A Communication on this issue is expected in July and negotiation will formally begin under the German Presidency. I will highlight some of the specific challenges that the UK would like to see addressed in the review of the Framework. In particular, I plan to stress the need for effective implementation of the existing regulations and the importance of striking the right balance between maintaining competition, encouraging investment and protecting consumers.

  The Austrian Presidency may also informally ask for the views of Ministers on the Commission's forthcoming International Mobile Roaming Regulation. If they do, I will present the UK's initial views on this dossier, that we support the objective of reducing charges to consumers but have reservations about the Commission's approach on the regulation of retail prices.

  There will then be a short exchange of views on network and information security issues. If time allows, I may intervene under this agenda item to highlight the importance of discussions on this key issue and the need to consider carefully the most effective and proportionate way to address security concerns.

  Finally, under Any Other Business, the Commission will provide some information on the first annual report on the 12010 Strategy and on their recently published Communication on the World Summit on the Information Society. I do not expect to intervene under either of these items.

Letter from Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP to the Chairman

  I am pleased to enclose a copy of my written statement to Parliament providing a summary of the Telecoms Council which took place in Luxembourg on 8 June.

16 June 2006

Annex A


  I represented the United Kingdom at the Telecoms part of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council on 8 June 2006.

  The Council began with a presentation by the Commission on their recently published Communication—the "i2010 eGovemment Action Plan"; which was largely based on a Ministerial Declaration agreed at a Conference in Manchester during our Presidency. The Action Plan highlights the social and financial benefits that can be gained through the implementation of an array of different eGovemment initiatives in helping to bridge the gap between citizens and administrators.

  Ministers were asked to endorse a set of Council Conclusions responding to the eGovemment Action Plan. These focused on five major objectives: the need to promote einclusion through national eGovemment strategies; the importance of user satisfaction in accessing eGovemment services; Government public procurement contracts which should be available in electronic format in all cases; convenient and secure authenticated access to public services in the EU; and the promotion of public debate and participation in democratic decision-making. As the substance of the above is compatible with the UK Government's Transformational Government Strategy, I leant my support to them.

  The Presidency then introduced a policy debate on the future challenges for the EU's electronic communications regulatory framework which the Commission are currently reviewing, with a major Communication expected in July to be followed by legislative changes in December. In their presentation they highlighted the need to promote investment and innovation in the telecommunications sector and to ensure the framework met the needs of an ever evolving and converging technology and business environment. In my intervention I stressed the necessity for full implementation of the current framework by all Member States and the importance of maintaining the complementary goals of investment, consumer protection and competition.

  On the issue of wireless spectrum, I agreed with the Commission on the need to make the best use of this finite resource primarily through market-based management, which will hopefully create a favourable environment for the introduction in the market of new information communication technologies.

  In the interventions from (nearly all) Member States there was a wide range of views though with the majority welcoming the approach of the Commission on both the maintenance of the regulatory framework, which was thought to be sound, and on introducing market based mechanisms into spectrum allocation.

  There was then a short exchange of views on the Commission's recent Communication on network and information security. The Presidency noted the overall problems that exist with regards to information security and the need to gain the confidence of citizens and enterprise by assuring them that ICTs and information systems are able to handle information in an accurate, confidential and reliable manner. Those Member States that intervened generally supported the Commission approach.

  Due to a shortage of time it was not appropriate to comment on Commission Communications on the i2010 First Annual Report and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) both of which were under Any Other Business. On the i2010 Annual Report the Commission highlighted the need for more work to prevent the EU falling further behind our main competitors; while on WSIS the Commission reported on development since the Tunis Conferenceand looked forward to the first Internet Governance Forum in Greece in November.

  Finally the Austrian Presidency thanked the UK for the strong foundations that we laid during our Presidency.

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