Clause 67 - Arrangements pending determination of certain applications under code

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 17 Mawrth 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), Minister of State 2:30, 17 Mawrth 2022

The clause deals with situations where once an agreement to which part 5 of the code applies has run its initially agreed course, one of the parties wants it to be terminated, modified or replaced by an agreement with different terms. In those circumstances, the matter can be referred to a tribunal if the parties cannot resolve matters themselves. It can take time for such disputes to be dealt with, and paragraph 35 of the code deals with the circumstances in which an interim order can be requested, which will apply until the full dispute is heard.

Our policy intention for interim orders is to allow any specific priority aspect of a dispute to be looked at, so that temporary arrangements can be imposed where appropriate. At present, however, paragraph 35 of the code is restricted, so that only a site provider can ask for an interim order, and they can do so only in relation to the consideration paid by an operator. The clause widens that provision so that either party can ask for an interim order and can do so in relation to any term of the former agreement. That will enable specific issues to be dealt with at a much earlier stage of the dispute. In particular, it will mean that operators are given the same opportunity as site providers have to ask for the financial terms of an agreement to be reviewed on an interim basis. This will help ensure that once an agreement to which part 5 of the code applies has run its initially agreed course, there are no unnecessary delays to the valuation framework of the code being applied to new financial arrangements.

It will also provide the courts with greater flexibility to look at situations where a party needs an urgent change to any term of their agreement. We think that will be particularly helpful where an operator needs urgent changes to terms so that they can upgrade or continue using an existing site. There are likely to be situations where this will also benefit site providers. However, the clause is not to be used as a way of circumventing the usual negotiation process. Parties will be expected to negotiate in the usual way before making an application to the court, and to comply with the ADR requirements that the Bill introduces.

We think the clause will help many operators benefit from the full code framework at a much earlier stage, which will allow them to take advantage of provisions to upgrade and share apparatus and the code valuation framework as introduced in 2017. That will result in more investment in the expansion and upgrading of digital networks, ensuring that consumers receive the best coverage and connectivity possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 67 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.