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Telecommunications Masts

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons) 9:30 am, 28th June 2005

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having managed to give advance notice of his meeting. I have no doubt that many hon. Members present will wish to attend. He raises the important matter of Tetra masts, which have all sorts of issues associated with them, and which worry many local communities that have such big masts near them. Peter Jones from Actix, which developed new wireless technology for mobile companies, has warned that the number of masts could increase by three or four times. That means that we are slipping into a situation in which people can choose whether to have a mobile phone, but not whether to live by a mobile phone mast.

Many cases that have arisen around the country suggest that that state of affairs needs to be corrected. I draw the Minister's attention to one in particular. It is a sad case. The Merseyside Society for Deaf People in West Derby has found it impossible to overcome the problem of a mast that interferes with hearing aids, because the mast has been given an ICNIRP certificate—that stands for the international commission on non-ionising radiation protection. However, local campaigners are convinced that when such problems occur, such certificates are not worth the paper that they are written on. People feel that they have no control or influence over the masts that affect their environment; communities clearly do not have a large enough role in the consultation process.

I would be grateful to the Minister if he told me how he proposes to remedy the situation. Will the Government establish a national database of masts, as recommended in the Stewart report? When will they make a commitment to publish in full the reports by Reading university and Arup, and by Micro Consultants Limited, so that communities have access to the relevant information? Will they publish the report by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory on epileptiform activity and cognitive performance, so that people's fears about health issues can be addressed?

Health concerns relating to telecommunications masts are not limited to Merseyside. I do not intend to dwell on health issues—that is not the purpose of the debate—but they are important, and must be mentioned. Many of my constituents in the Cotswolds are not only concerned about protecting the beautiful countryside that surrounds them, important as that is, but worried about the risks to schools lying in the radiation of the beam of greatest intensity from masts. They have limited confidence in the precautionary principle laid down in planning regulations and are aware that, as I said, the Government have not published all the reports that they have received on the potential health risks.