HC Deb 17 December 2001 vol 377 cc109-10W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 6 and 7 December; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [22182]

Mr. Alexander

The Deputy UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, Bill Stow, attended the Council on 6 December on my behalf.

The Presidency reported to the Council on the state of play of negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposed new regulatory framework for electronic communications. The most contentious issues on which agreement is still outstanding are: whether and the extent to which the Commission should be able to override proposed decisions of national regulatory authorities (NRAs) in order to protect the integrity of the single market; the grounds on which undertakings should be able to appeal NRA decisions at the national level; and whether a digital television standard should be mandated.

The March 2000 Lisbon European Council set a target of the end of 2001 to agree this legislative package. Informal discussions between the Presidency, the Commission and the European Parliament will continue during December with a view to finding an agreement as soon as possible and so avoid the need for conciliation under the forthcoming Spanish Presidency.

The Council reached political agreement on the proposed Communications Data Protection Directive by qualified majority; the UK voted in favour. In particular, the Council agreed on: a harmonised "opt-in" solution for unsolicited commercial e-mail, with an exception where there is an existing customer relationship; the introduction of an obligation to provide users with clear and comprehensive advance information about the purposes of cookies and similar devices and to offer them the possibility to refuse; and a clarification of the scope for member states to legislate on data retention for law-enforcement purposes as long as this is in accordance with the agreed principles of Community Law. This was inserted in the body of the Directive itself at the request of the UK.

The Council adopted a Resolution on "a common approach and specific actions in the area of network and information security", and the Commission will now bring forward proposals for setting-up a cyber-security task force to assist member states in developing the capabilities to address network security problems.

The Commission presented a Communication on the exploitation of public sector information which aims to remove many of the barriers that content companies currently face in trying to develop the next generation of cross-border information services and products based on public sector information. The Commission may now propose a Directive to cover the commercial exploitation of public sector information. The Commission also gave a presentation on the seventh implementation report on telecoms regulation.

Forward to