HL Deb 10 April 1984 vol 450 cc1141-2WA
Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will supplement the assurances given by the Lord Advocate as to the proposed safeguards against anti-competitive practices by British Telecom set out in his letter of 7th March to the Lord Mottistone (H.L. Deb., 22nd March, cols. 1468–72) by stating what additional safeguards, if any, the Government propose to take directly or indirectly to prevent or dilute anti-competitive practices by British Telecom which are or may be contrary to Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome or to the Anti-Trust Laws of the United States of America.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Cockfield)

The Government believe that the Telecommunications Bill and the provisions of the licence which will be granted to British Tele-communications (BT) under the Bill will provide effective safeguards against anti-competitive practices. The licence itself will contain the conditions intended to promote effective competition which were described in the Lord Advocate's letter to which the noble Lord refers. These conditions as drafted will be amended and expanded as necessary in the light of comments received.

The licence will not contain any conditions specifically to deal with practices which may be contrary to the Treaty of Rome and the anti-trust laws of the United States since it is not appropriate to include such provisions in the licence. As a private sector undertaking, BT plc will be subject to Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome in the same way as other commercial companies. It is up to BT to ensure that it acts in accordance with these articles. Similarly, when BT plc trades in the United States it, in common with all United Kingdom companies trading in the United States, will be subject to the United States law, not the law applying in the United Kingdom. The licence cannot regulate how BT conducts its affairs in the United States, just as United States law cannot regulate how BT plc behaves in this country.