The Director General of Telecommunications, who has responsibility for numbering issues within the UK, announced a major review of numbering in October. It will cover many issues, including the question of the numbering range for mobile services, noting that there is not yet a complete Europe-wide database listing the proposed use of different numbering prefixes.
Is the Minister aware that the current proposal appears to be that the UK will adopt the digit 4, whereas France and the Netherlands have adopted 6, and Germany is likely to do the same? Is not this one area in which, notwithstanding Conservative difficulties over European issues, everyone would agree that there should be a common European approach? Is the Minister also aware of the possibility that if the UK, uniquely, adopts the digit 4, a 6 will have to be added on to the front of all the numbers at some point, causing immense disturbance and nuisance to everybody? Should we not stick with the European solution, on this issue at least?
I am aware that the hon. Gentleman had experience in this area before he joined the House. The Director General of Telecommunications obviously wishes to maintain control over the national numbering plan. He is, however, well aware of the implications of what is happening in the rest of the European Union. There is absolutely no doubt that the common spread of standards in mobile telephony throughout the European Union, now that we are moving into the digital age and one can move from country to country with the same phone, is vital. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.