Clause 58 - Rights under the electronic communications code to share apparatus

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 17 March 2022.

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Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), Minister of State 12:15, 17 March 2022

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 58, page 41, line 25, at end insert—

‘(4A) In paragraph 13 (access to land)—

(a) in sub-paragraph (1)(a), for “paragraph 3” substitute “paragraph 3(1)”;

(b) in sub-paragraph (2), for “paragraph 3” substitute “paragraph 3(1)”.

(4B) In paragraph 38 (right of landowner or occupier of neighbouring land to require removal of electronic communications apparatus), in sub-paragraph (3), for “paragraph 3(h)” substitute “paragraph 3(1)(h)”.’

This amendment is consequential on the amendment made by clause 58(2)(a) to paragraph 3 of the electronic communications code.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause stand part.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), Minister of State

Clause 58 deals with the sharing of telecommunications apparatus between operators within the electronic communications code. It inserts a right to share apparatus into paragraph 3 of the code, which sets out a list of rights that are statutory “code rights.” The code rights in paragraph 3 must be conferred on an operator by an occupier or imposed by a tribunal. The 2017 code reforms introduced paragraph 17 automatic rights, allowing operators to upgrade or share their apparatus without the need for an agreement. Those automatic rights are separate from the paragraph 3 code rights and are subject to strict limitations.

Since their introduction, there has been confusion about the interaction between the paragraph 17 automatic rights and the paragraph 3 code rights. In particular, while “upgrading” is a paragraph 3 code right, sharing is not. Clause 58 addresses this by making apparatus sharing a paragraph 3 code right that an operator—the “first operator”—can request to be included in an agreement to which the code applies. Clause 58 also amends the statutory purposes in paragraph 4 of the code to include sharing activities.

Apparatus sharing is a cost-effective way for operators to extend their networks without having to build extensive infrastructure themselves, helping to deliver greater coverage, capacity and consumer choice, while reducing impacts on the environment and disruption caused by installation works. As with the other code rights, if agreement on rights to share cannot be reached consensually, an operator may ask a tribunal to impose the requested rights. In those circumstances, the tribunal will apply the public benefit test and the statutory valuation regime, as it already does for other code rights.

If the right to share is a statutory code right, the factors that a tribunal will consider in deciding whether such a right should be imposed—and if so, on what terms—will be the same as those for all other code rights. Including a right to share apparatus in the paragraph 3 code rights will therefore provide greater certainty for all parties and support smoother negotiations.

Code rights can only be obtained in relation to land. Consequently, the new right to share apparatus can be requested only by the first operator that is keeping apparatus installed on, under or over land. A second operator that wishes to share the use of that apparatus will not be able to request from an occupier a paragraph 3 right permitting them to do so. Instead, once the occupier has conferred such a sharing right on the first operator, the second operator will need to negotiate the sharing of the apparatus with the first operator.

The first operator’s right to share their apparatus will, like other code rights, be exercisable only in accordance with the wider terms of the agreement. It will therefore be important for the first operator to consider carefully any terms that it may need included in its agreement with an occupier, such as additional access rights, to enable any subsequent sharing of the apparatus with other operators. To that end, clause 58 inserts corresponding code rights for the first operator to enter and carry out works on the land for the purpose of such apparatus sharing.

Finally, it should be emphasised that the new right to share introduced by clause 58 is entirely separate from the automatic rights to share that are currently available under paragraph 17 of the code, and to the rights introduced by clauses 59 and 60. Those are automatic rights—subject to specific conditions—that do not need to be agreed with a landowner or imposed by the courts. The rights in clause 58 cover situations where the operator wants rights to share over and above those automatic rights.

Government amendment 1 is a consequential amendment that reflects the restructuring of paragraph 3 provided for by clause 58(2)(a) of the Bill. It replaces cross-references to paragraph 3 of the code with cross-references to sub-paragraph 3(1).

Clause 58 introduces rights to share apparatus to the menu of code rights that is currently set out in paragraph 3 of the code. In doing so, new sub-paragraph 3(2) will be inserted into the code, setting out who can obtain a right to share apparatus. The current paragraph 3 will therefore become sub-paragraph 3(1) of the code. As there are references to paragraph 3 in other parts of the code, consequential amendments are necessary so that anyone reading the code is referred instead to the new sub-paragraph 3(1).

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Clause 58, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.