I am sure that when the Government finish their consideration of the reports under review, the hon. Gentleman's comments will be covered.
In respect of health issues and planning, many people would like councils to be able to take health concerns into account more when making decisions about telecommunications developments. As has been mentioned, on
The Court of Appeal gave consideration to the policy guidance, and found the policy to mean that where a certificate of compliance with exposure guidelines exists, only in exceptional circumstances would it be legitimate for a local planning authority to take public fears about health risks into account. The First Secretary of State decided not to petition the House of Lords for leave to appeal, because the decision raises policy issues rather than significant points of law. Therefore, as part of the wider review of planning arrangements for telecommunications masts, we are carefully considering the judgment.
However, it is clear that local planning authorities cannot simply be allowed to adopt their own precautionary policies, as that would be a recipe for confusion. Indeed, the NRPB's recent report supports the Government's view that although planning is necessarily a local issue, the assessment of evidence related to possible health concerns associated with exposures to radio frequency fields from base stations is best dealt with nationally. The role of the planning system is to assist local communities in determining the best location for telecommunications developments. We believe that that can be achieved only through effective local consultation processes. That is why the Government will continue to consider local consultation as being of the utmost importance.
In conclusion, I reassure hon. Members that the Government remain committed to ensuring that the essential infrastructure for modern telecommunications systems is developed sensitively, with environmental impact kept to a minimum, and with proper discussion with local communities. Therefore, we continue to listen to public and parliamentary concerns, and to consider the way forward.