My Questions in the debate on the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Will my hon. Friend confirm that operators still need to get the agreement of the landowner or someone else who is empowered to grant that right, so that there is no muddle or confusion?

Julia Lopez, Minister of State for Cabinet Office: Yes. They will be allowed to take out a new agreements, but they still have to be under the existing regime.

To be clear, this will not let an operator unilaterally change, or ask the court to impose a change to, the terms or duration of their current agreement. It allows an additional code right to be conferred on the operator via a new, separate code agreement.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): I certainly support the MinisterĀ in the belief that the more competitive the industry, the better the results that we will get. Has she had representations from people who would like to enter the market about whether the change would make them more likely to do so?

Julia Lopez, Minister of State for Cabinet Office: Most of the people I have spoken to are already in the market and believe that the change will make a big difference to how they roll out. It is a very competitive market with many new entrants. I am not aware of anybody who is just dipping their toe in the water; because it is so competitive, people are already aggressively in the market. We think that the change will really help to accelerate the roll-out to our constituents of fantastic digital infrastructure of the kind that we all understand is fundamental to driving productivity gains, and to reducing the divide between areas that do and do not have that connectivity.

From the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member forĀ New Forest WestĀ onĀ Second Reading, I understand that his concern relates to the effect of clauses 61 and 62 on landowners who already host telecoms apparatus on their land. I recognise that, ultimately, these changes are likely to lead to reductions in the rent received by landowners with a tenancy protected by theĀ Landlord and Tenant Act 1954Ā or the Business Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. I appreciate that that might not have been expected by those entering into such tenancies at the time they were created, but it is also fair to say that market values change over time, and there is never any guarantee that rents received by a landlord will remain constant or increase.

We have also given careful consideration to the effect of clauses 61 and 62, and have balanced the impact that they might have on landowners with the wider, substantial public benefits that we are pursuing. It is also important to recognise that the changes will not happen until any ongoing agreement expires and comes to be renewed. Furthermore, clauses 63 and 64 introduce separate provisions allowing the landowner to recover compensation for any damage to their land, reduction in its value or reasonable expenses resulting from an operator exercising their code rights.

Clauses 61 to 64 ensure that the 2017 framework will apply to all future agreements. It must be remembered that the code has an underlying purpose, which is to support the delivery of robust digital networks. Our constituents increasingly rely on those networks for critical digital services. Only recently, theĀ National Farmers Unionā€™s digital technology survey found that poor mobile signal and unreliable internet access are hampering farming businesses. We know that rural connectivity is a problem for many organisations, and addressing it is one of our priorities as a Government. The Bill, including clauses 61 and 62, aims to address those issues.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend had only noble intentions when tabling his amendments, but although they may benefit some landowners, they have the potential to penalise entire communities by keeping network costs unacceptably high. Clauses 61 and 62 will help to reduce the digital divide between different parts of the country, as they will help to prevent deployment being cheaper in one area than another.

Finally, I turn to amendments 9 to 11 tabled by my right hon. Friend, which would require a party to use alternative dispute resolution processes before making certain applications to a court under the electronic communications code, including where an agreement granting rights under the code is being sought. The provisions onĀ ADRĀ processes in the Bill aim to create more collaborative discussions between landowners and telecoms operators to ensure that litigation is used only as a last resort. I suspect that that is what the amendments seek to ensure as well. Although I sympathise with the intention behind these amendments, the Government oppose themā€”first, because they are unnecessary; secondly, because ADR is not appropriate in every situation; and thirdly, because they would be counterproductive to the amendmentsā€™ overall intentions.

The Bill requires operators, when requesting rights under the code, to inform the landowners of the availability of ADR. Crucially, it also creates a requirement that if an application is made to a court, the court will be required to take into account any unreasonable refusal to engage in ADR when awarding costs. Those requirements strongly incentivise the use of ADR without the need to make it mandatory. The Government therefore believe the amendments to be unnecessary.

It is also important to note that ADR may not be suitable in certain cases, such as where a disagreement is based on differing interpretations of the law. Such points of law must be resolved in the courts, and mandatory ADR would add cost and time to that process without offering any benefit.

The Government also believe that the amendments would be counterproductive to their own goals. If ADR were compulsory, some parties would be compelled to participate in an ADR process they do not want to be involved in, and so would be less inclined to actively engage in the process. That would increase the risk that ADR would fail, which would mean that parties would have to go to court anyway. If that were the case, all that compulsory ADR would have achieved is to add an additional layer of time and costs for landowners, such as charities, sports clubs and farmers. It should also be noted that, when consulted, a clearĀ majorityĀ of stakeholders were not in favour of compulsory ADR. I hope that I have given my right hon. Friend assurance that the provisions regarding ADR in the Bill already represent the most effective way of encouraging its use, and I hope that he will not press his amendments to aĀ Division.



  1. agricola
    May 26, 2022

    The publication of all these questions and answers does two things. One, it indicates that you as an MP are active, two it draws a smoke screen over the fundamental unasked and unanswered question. Why do we as a nation, sitting on huge stocks of oil gas and coal, have to pay world inflated prices to be able to use it. Why cannot the domestic gas suppliers, the electricity generating companies pay a cost plus reasonable profit to extraction companies. Why are we paying crisis inflated world prices for our own gas.

    The current situation has resulted in the extraction companies making vast profits, now to be windfall taxed by government, to enable government to give handouts to those they deem to be most under financial pressure. A crazy roundabout and totally unnecessary were the fuel sold to the generating companies and distribution companies at cost plus a reasonable profit in the first place.

    Is it all being done to make so called green wind energy look acceptably cheap, while remaining unreliable. If I believe the media today, there is no shortage of domestic gas today in the UK because we are selling it in record amounts to the EU.

    Finally remember this, apart from the extraction companies, one of the greatest beneficiaries of this fuel crisis is government itself with all their inflated duties, taxes, and VAT, so question Chancellors bearing gifts.

  2. Jumeirah
    May 26, 2022

    Whilst many of us genuinely have from the very start sympathised with Ukraine and have and continue to be appalled by the rape of their Country by Russia and have backed (100%) our Government’s support for Ukraine and it’s people by leading the world (from the very outset) with dedication, strength and purpose in THAT support and DONE what others, ashamedly NOT done what is expected of them which they will regret as it will remain a stain on their Countries probably for many years to come and rightly so. However there does come a time where events overtake us, as they have now done, which places great strain on us to maintain that level of support that we are presently giving with regard to financial guarantees underwritten etc. We now find ourselves in the unenviable position whereby our own citizens are finding it very hard to make ends meet and that is difficult to ignore and should not be ignored. Regrettably therefore the time has come where financially we need the reserves (billions in military aid being given to Ukraine) to be channelled towards our own citizens. Champion Ukraine by all means and continue our robust support in as many ways as possible but with regard to financial aid we need OTHERS in Europe to take up the slack together because THAT is what the EU does ROBUSTLY ‘working together without conflict between Nation States.’

  3. Mike Wilson
    May 26, 2022

    When the national grid was set up – and electricity pylons covered the land – and they had, by definition, to cover long distances in straight lines – what happened then? Did landowners object? Was compulsion used?

  4. Nottingham Lad Himself
    May 26, 2022

    I take it that this boils down to the apparent fact that the State empowers private telecoms operators to demand access as easements-in-gross across private property for their apparatus, rather than a market in such rights determining the rates for them.

    Conservative principles don’t seem to be very consistent if so.

    1. Mike Wilson
      May 26, 2022

      The alternative ā€˜marketā€™ system would be absurd for only truly national infrastructure.

      1. Nottingham Lad Himself
        May 26, 2022

        My devil’s advocacy has brought you out.

        Yes, the market is an absurd way of doing a fair few things.

        1. Peter2
          May 26, 2022

          Best to have a State that controls everything then NHL
          Absurd as you say.

          1. Nottingham Lad Himself
            May 27, 2022

            Thanks again, binary brain.

  5. oldwulf
    May 26, 2022

    Outside my knowledge but a straight forward and detailed answer is welcomed.

  6. Bloke
    May 26, 2022

    The dynamics pull in 3 directions: between service provider, landowner and end-using consumer. Consumers decide what is or not worth paying for. If a service provider and landowner agree on well-balanced terms, enabling end users cost-efficient access in harmony, disputes might not arise.

  7. Butties
    May 26, 2022

    Obviously an exchange that has previously seen the light of day!

  8. Colin B
    May 27, 2022

    Dear Sir John
    The current rate of charge for my electricity is 28p per kw and if I want to fix a guaranteed rate over 12 months it would increase to 35p per kw.

    Where is the incentive for me to install solar panels where I believe the average rate obtained for surplus electricity going into the national grid is circa 3 – 5p per kw now that the various Govt schemes have come to an end. If my figures are correct then the rates obtainable are anything but a fair deal. Rip off Britain. Perhaps you could encourage the Govt to quickly review what appears to be a cartel hiding in plain sight. A fairer rate of return for householders would encourage more solar panels to be installed on roof tops.

  9. Atlas
    May 27, 2022

    Hmm, the reply to your questions shows that yet again the Government is in hock to large vested interests who are using that access to up their profits. Adam Smith (the early economist – 1776) warned us about such activities as being to the detriment of the country.

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