Open Channel

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Warren Mr Kenneth Warren , Hastings 12:00 am, 5th February 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about progress towards citizens band radio.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet in a position to make a statement of Government policy on open channel citizens band radio following the replies received to the consultation document.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

In the light of the response to the discussion document, we have been reviewing the possibility of introducing a service on a lower frequency, in addition to one around 930 MHz. We hope to be able to announce our conclusions shortly.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Warren Mr Kenneth Warren , Hastings

I welcome my hon. Friend's willingness to support my belief that everyone should be able to communicate freely in a free society. May I ask what is his best estimate of when he will authorise CB radio in order to give British industry the best chance of getting into the market and remove the stamp of illegality that is now upon tens of thousands of people who wish to communicate with one another?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I have said that we hope to announce our conclusions shortly and I mean what I say. However, I cannot give my hon. Friend a precise date".

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

Is the Minister aware that there appears to be a tidal wave of opinion in favour of CB radio and that the Government still have the chance to play the part of a surf rider rather than King Canute? What does he mean by "shortly"? Is it not possible to legalise immediately the 930 MH3 band?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am well aware that there is a strong body of opinion in favour of legalising CB radio, but there is also widespread concern about interference, especially with television. We are giving the matter careful attention. I repeat my assurance that we shall make an announcement as soon as possible. May I add that my hon. Friend has misinterpreted the role of King Canute.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the paper which I sent him and which he kindly commented on represents my views? Will he remember that he has to strike a balance between making CB radio too cheap and easy so that any Tom, Dick or Harry can use it and interfere with other services and not making it too expensive so that it cannot be used by people who will use it responsibly?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am only too well aware that in this, as in most matters affecting the Home Office, there is need for balanced consideration.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

When he makes his announcement shortly, will the Minister bear in mind that it is crucial to the radio industry to be able to manufacture equipment which would not have been possible had the very high frequency wavelength been determined?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I believe that there would be argument about the hon. Gentleman's comment about whether particular types of equipment could be manufactured here. However, one consideration is the capability of the radio industry.

Photo of Mr John Gorst Mr John Gorst , Barnet Hendon North

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that there are a large number of illegal users of the CB frequencies that he says will be considered? Will he immediately announce an amnesty, or at least say that there will be no further investigation and waste of Post Office engineers' time in seeking out illegal users until he has made his statement?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am not in a position to announce an immediate amnesty.

Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that his statement gives some hope to over 70,000 users of illegal sets? From what the hon. Gentleman has said, in addition to a lower frequency, there will be a frequency of about 930 MHz. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that will be welcomed by those illegally operating who might otherwise persist in defying the Government and continue to use the 27 MHz frequency against their wishes?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am delighted that the hon. Lady has come round to a proposal that her Government did nothing to support.