§ 27. Mr. Henderson
asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to issue a licence to the Mercury consortium to establish an additional network in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
I am pleased to announce that following wide ranging consultations including with British Telecom a licence under section 15 of the British Telecommunications Act 1981 has been issued to enable the Mercury Consortium of Cable and Wireless, British Petroleum, and Barclays Merchant Bank to run an independent telecommunications system within the United Kingdom.
In discussion with the Government, BT has accepted the principle of connection between Mercury and the public switched networks and of Mercury's access to 272W separate international circuits. Negotiations between BT and the consortium will now take place to establish the appropriate terms.
The terms of the licence are commercially confidential but the licence is valid up to 25 years with provisions for review. In the interests of fair competition and in the public interest generally, the Government have reserved powers in the licence to place the same obligations on Cable and Wireless as on BT and to require royalty payments.
The Government are conscious that the establishment of a second network with access to separate international outlet provides the United Kingdom with a virtually unique position in world communications. The BT Act 1981 and the licence have been structured in a way to enable the Government to ensure that both BT and the licensee co-exist and compete to generate new service and job opportunities and to enhance customer choice within the United Kingdom while increasing the national share of the expanding world communications market.
I particularly welcome the partnership between the public sector and private capital which is represented in the Mercury Consortium. The combination of the resources of a British oil company, a leading British merchant bank and Cable and Wireless represents a vindication of the policy of new opportunity created by the BT Act 1981.