Open Channel Radio

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 May 1981.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham 12:00, 7 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his latest estimate of the number of 27 MHz AM transmitters in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

It is not possible to esitmate the number of 27 MHz AM citizens' band sets in this country, but information recently provided by the Post Office radio interference service indicates that illicit use has increased significantly. Estimates must necessarily be imprecise but we would now put the number of illicit users at about 160,000.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Does my hon. Friend accept that there are enormous discrepancies between the figures available to him and those used by the radio enthusiasts, which range from 250,000 to 1 million sets? Many of us believe that there is as much chance of the radio enthusiasts being right as of the Home Office being right. If the radio enthusiasts are right, is there not a danger that the Minister will now introduce new regulations and rules which will not be enforceable and which will be widely flouted? Will he give further consideration to the idea of legalising AM transmitters?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Estimates are difficult to make. Ours have been raised substantially. The estimates of enthusiasts are liable to some exaggeration, but I recognise that many AM sets are in use now. However, I remind my hon. Friend that the sets in use are causing much interference to people who have legitimate entitlements to television, radio, hi-fi and emergency services. We cannot permit a service which causes such interference. The alternative which we are offering should prove completely acceptable.

Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax

Will the hon. Gentleman bear it in mind that last year only 457 people were convicted for importing, using or installing sets, yet that compares with his estimated number of 160,000 using illegal sets? How will his new specifications be any more legally enforceable than the old ones?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I do not deny that there is an enforcement problem, but a thoroughly acceptable service on FM will now be available, which should help us to overcome that problem. If necessary, however, we may have to bring in new legislative measures to cope with that.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham

How does the Minister reconcile what he has said with the answers given to me by the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew)? The Minister has now told the House that interference is taking place and that there may be a need for legislation to prevent it. Interference is denying people good radio reception in certain parts of London, yet the hon. and learned Gentleman has assured the House that there is no such interference.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

My hon. and learned Friend's remarks went wider than the specific problem of citizens band interference. That is a serious problem which we recognise and which we believe must be defeated.