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Ec Communications Directives

Volume 408: debated on Thursday 3 July 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

As indicated in my statement on 24 March, Official Report, column 1WS, it is the Government's intention to implement the four EC Communications Directives by the required deadline of 25 July 2003 through the legislation contained in the Communications Bill (particularly Part 2 of the Bill) and the orders and regulations to be made under that legislation. Subject to the remaining parliamentary processes being completed satisfactorily the Government believe that it is still possible for the Bill to receive Royal Assent before Parliament rises for the summer recess and for the necessary orders and regulations to be made in time to ensure that the Directives are implemented by the required date.

The time between Royal Assent and 25 July will however mean that the normal 21-day delay between the making of certain orders and regulations and their coming into effect cannot be observed. The Government regret this, but consider inevitable in order to ensure that there is a smooth transition to the new regulatory regime (which is founded on the EC Directives which have to be implemented on 25 July). To alleviate problems which might arise from the short interval between the making of the orders and regulations and 25 July, the Government are today publishing the draft of the Electronic Communications (Universal Service) Order that will need to be made as soon as the Bill has been passed. This draft takes account of comments received during consultations earlier this year, and in parallel with the revised drafts, my Department is publishing a response document summarising the way in which the issues raised in the consultations have been dealt with. As soon as the Order has been made following the passing of the Communications Bill, my Department will inform all those thought to be interested in the matter and will draw attention to any significant changes from the texts being published today.

My Department is also publishing today revised drafts of the Numbering Exclusion Order and the Electronic Communications (Networks and Services) (Penalties) (Rules for Calculation of Turnover) Order together with response documents describing how the responses to the consultations on those documents have been dealt with. As these orders require affirmative resolution of both Houses, the formal drafts will be laid once the Bill has been passed, and affirmative resolutions sought as soon as Parliamentary time permits.

My Department will also publish within the next week a response to the consultation on the draft Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations, on which consultation closed on 19 June, together with a revised draft of the regulations. Like the Universal Service Order, these regulations will need to be made between Royal Assent to the Bill and the commencement of the relevant provisions, and my Department will therefore also inform interested parties as soon as these regulations have been made.

At least two other orders will also need to be made in the interval between Royal Assent and 25 July—the First Commencement Order, and the Wireless Telegraphy (Limitation of Number of Licences) Order. The Radiocommunications Agency is currently consulting on the latter draft Order, and the text is available on the Radiocommunications Agency website.

The timetable to achieve Royal Assent before 25 July does however remain very tight and, as previously announced, since it would not be an option to fail to implement the directives by 25 July, if the Bill has not been passed in time the Government would need to bring forward regulations under the European Communities Act 1972 to ensure that our obligations were met. My Department consulted on drafts of these regulations in March, and within the next few days will republish the revised texts of the draft regulations together with a response document summarising how issues raised in that consultation have been dealt with. If the Bill does not receive Royal Assent before the summer recess, the regulations will be made so as to be effective by 25 July. The interval between the making of the Regulations and their coming into force would also be very short, and accordingly my Department would contact all those thought to be interested in the issue to inform them of the making of the regulations.

Copies of all the documents published today have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on the internet: http://www.communicationsbill.gov.uk/. Copies of the further documents will be published in a similar manner as soon as they are available. My Department is also informing all those thought to be interested in these issues of the publication of the documents. Anyone who has not received personal notification of the publication of the drafts and who wishes to be informed of the further action should contact the Department (at mailto:communications.billconsultation@dti.gsi.gove.uk to ensure they are added to the list of interested parties.