§ Mr. Temple-Morris
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to ensure in the interests of fair competition that all suppliers of subscribers' apparatus, including British Telecommunications, have equal opportunities of access to procedures for the type approval of such apparatus.
§ Mr. Butcher
Responsibility for the type appro' al of subscriber's apparatus is being transferred in stages to the independent approval authority, the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications. Where the BABT has been empowered to approve a particular category of subscriber's apparatus it is required, under the terms of its appointment, to treat all applications on an equal footing.
Meanwhile, British Telecom retains its power of approval under section 16(2) of the British Telecommunications Act 1981 for the categories of apparatus for which the BABT has not yet assumed approval responsibility. Within BT, the approval power is exercised by the regulatory affairs directorate which is strictly separate from BT's competitive operations. BT and the Department of Trade and Industry have developed informal consultative procedures to ensure fair treatment in any cases where this might he in doubt.
I have decided to place these informal procedures on a formal basis, and with effect from 1 December I am going to amend the general authorisation to approve subscriber's apparatus so that BT will no longer be empowered to approve by itself any apparatus that BT itself supplies. Approvals in such cases will in future be subject to consent by the Secretary of State who will first satisfy himself that, having regard to all the circumstances, they may be fairly given. I am giving particular attention to ensuring that these new arrangements do not slow up existing approval arrangements, nor interfere with the ability of any supplier, including BT, to obtain approval of innovative products.