Leaving the Eu: Mobile Roaming Charges

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:47 am on 7th February 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 10:47 am, 7th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman expressed a commendable interest in my diary for yesterday. Let me remind him that I was having meetings on the subject of online harms, which he and I had discussed on what I thought was a cross-party basis some time before he made his speech yesterday. I was also spending some time discussing problem gambling with the banks and with the all-party parliamentary group on gambling related harm, which is led by his hon. Friend Carolyn Harris.

I know that the hon. Gentleman cares about both those subjects and would wish me to spend time on them, but he need not worry, because I have also been spending some time on this subject. Having done so, I can tell him that it will be discussed by this House because this is an affirmative statutory instrument. The Government have set out their view that it should be an affirmative statutory instrument, which will give the House an opportunity to debate this subject, so the hon. Gentleman or one of his colleagues will be able to discuss the matter in some detail when that debate is reached.

The hon. Gentleman says that we are caving in to the mobile phone operators, but the reality is that when we leave the European Union—that is what is going to happen, because the Government and the Opposition, if I understand their current position correctly, intend to respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum—it will not be possible for the UK Government to force our rules and expectations upon EU mobile phone operating companies. So if those companies choose to charge British mobile network operating companies at a wholesale level, one of two things will happen: either that cost will be passed on to those who are using their mobile phone abroad, or it will be spread across all mobile phone users on that network. That is the choice.

The decision we have made is to ensure that consumers are given the best possible protection in the event of departing from the EU with no deal. I have made it quite clear that that is not the Government’s intention, however. We worked very hard to get a deal, and we would be grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s help on that, but it is important to recognise what we can do and what we are doing. We are making sure that those elements of the current EU regime that can be transferred into domestic law are transferred into domestic law. Making sure that consumers cannot spend more than the amount that is currently provided for in EU law without understanding that they are doing so is an important consumer protection, as is letting people know how much of their data they have already used. That is what we can do, and that is what we should do in the event of no deal.

If the hon. Gentleman is concerned, as I am sure that we all are, to avoid some of the unpleasant consequences of no deal, the good news is that he can help. He and his colleagues can vote for a deal. We are still waiting for the Opposition to take a responsible position on avoiding the no-deal consequences that they come to the House to complain about.