HC Deb 24 June 2002 vol 387 cc685-6W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Telecommunications Council held on 18 June; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including their voting record; and if she will make a statement. [63600]

Mr. Timms

I represented the UK at the Telecommunications Council in Luxembourg on 18 June.

There was a policy debate on the Commission's eEurope 2005 Action Plan. The presidency forwarded conclusions to the Seville European Council on 21–22 June. The Commission emphasised the potential economic and social benefits of widespread access to interactive information society services, and the adaptability of the Action Plan to the needs of an enlarged EU in due course. The Commission also stressed the importance of content development, and parallel work to make the information society accessible to the disabled. I spoke in support of the Action Plan's dual focus on markets for broadband access, as well as on the demand for applications, content and service provision, and asked the council to signal its full commitment to the Action Plan.

On the reform of ICANN, the private sector company based in the United States that manages the internet domain name system, there was unanimous agreement among member states that ICANN's role should be limited to core technical functions and that the role of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) should be strengthened and internationalised to ensure that public policy issues remain the concern primarily of the GAC rather than ICANN. The negotiating remit agreed by member states earlier this month under COREPER's mandate from the March Telecommunications Council will be used by the Commission in the continuing ICANN reform negotiations at Bucharest later this month and in Shanghai in October.

The council reached political agreements on two proposed Decisions on the Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) and adopted a Decision on telecoms Trans European Networks (TENs) without the need for a vote. There was also an agreement on a general approach to the extension of the Safer Internet Action Plan, now known as eSafe, on which the presidency will now try to pursue a first reading deal with the European Parliament. The council also agreed conclusions on the new internet protocol IPv6.

The Commission gave a presentation on the state of play on the Commission instruments needed to complete the new communications package: significant market power (SMP) guidelines are likely to be adopted in June; a public consultation on the Commission's recommendation on relevant markets has been launched, and is expected to be adopted in September; decisions establishing a European Regulators Group and Radio Spectrum Policy Group are expected in June; a Commission directive on competition in telecoms markets is expected before the summer.

There were presentations from the Commission on its proposal for a directive on the re-use and commercial exploitation of public sector information, and on its 11 June 2002 communication on the roll-out of third generation mobile access and services. The Commission also gave short presentations on the Eutelsat privatisation process, and on open platforms for digital television and 3G mobile on which a Communication is expected at the end of this year.