HC Deb 23 January 1991 vol 184 c318
13. Mr. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on progress in liberalising the telecommunications market.

Mr. Lilley

The Government have taken steps to introduce competition in all sectors of telecommunications. We now have the two largest cellular telephone networks in the world, the first telepoint services, and we are leading the world in the introduction of personal communications networks. Since British Telecom was privatised, quality of service has increased dramatically, prices have fallen by over 20 per cent. in real terms, and Mercury Communications has become established as a serious competitor. I made further proposals in the duopoly review for liberalisation to increase competition and choice for the consumer.

Mr. Butler

I welcome the additional competition and liberalisation in this country. Will my right hon. Friend now apply himself to overcoming the trade barriers to our manufacturers in Europe and Japan?

Mr. Lilley

I have just visited Japan, where I had talks with the trade Minister, aimed at liberalising trade. In particular, I encouraged him to take the big ticket items where Japan has a tendency to favour American rather than British imports.

We have sought liberalisation in other markets. We believe that one of the fruits of the liberalisation of our markets is that our manufacturers and telecommunications companies will be better placed to participate in those markets when they catch up with us, as they are beginning to do.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the liberalisation of the telecommunications market that he proposes, and which I welcome, will nevertheless have a substantial—perhaps dramatic—impact on some existing and future players in that market? In that context, is he considering the use of techniques such as computer modelling to ascertain what the effect is likely to be? Such an exercise would help us to judge what his proposals should be.

Mr. Lilley

The duopoly review that I presented was a joint initiative with Sir Bryan Carsberg, Director-General of Oftel. His organisation has carried out the sort of modelling that my hon. Friend suggested to consider the impact of various regulatory and deregulatory proposals. We have endeavoured to take into account that line of reasoning.