Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:52 pm, 25th June 2019

I agree. My hon. Friend’s work on air quality is very important. Politicians in general are at last beginning to understand the threats. It seems lamentable that, now that we understand the threats to air quality through pollution from cars, incineration and other things, another technology is coming in that could be as damaging. Maybe we will not see its effects for years, but will in decades unless we understand what it can do to people. It may not affect everybody—it may be down to genetic susceptibility—but we ought to listen to what is happening to those people.

It would be useful for the Government to put the studies, and their responses to them, on the record. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gower says, one problem is that, now we are into 5G, there is a view that existing masts can be added to or that additional technology can be used. I put it to the Minister that the biggest worry is that there is a view, certainly in Stroud, that lamp posts will be seen as a perfectly acceptable substitute and that, instead of putting up new masts, the technology could be added to existing infrastructure.

It would be useful to know what powers exist, because I understand that the electronic communications code has granted virtually unlimited powers to companies to construct, maintain or develop the current infrastructure without any planning permission. It is all done under delegated responsibility, which means that the general public do not even know what is going on, because normally these things are not publicised. There is little recourse unless the public take court action to stop it, but the means of doing so are limited. Even a private landowner has little authority to stop it. The matter needs to be looked into and properly investigated.

I ask the Government to look at how they can consult the public, because the public are getting worried. The scare stories may not have the full scientific rigour that they should have, but the public know no more than what they have been told by various experts in the field, and there are always experts on either side of the argument. Our case is that, at the very least, there should be an open, honest and transparent investigation of the health and biological impact of the new technology.

Driving forward 5G is about financial interests. It is not being done for altruistic reasons, but because an awful lot of money stands to be made in a very short time. We need to look at that. It exacerbates the digital divide. As I have said, I would be satisfied with 3G in constituency.

Having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower, I hope the Minister will be able to say what plans the Government have to investigate the impact on the ecosystem, which is as important as human beings. We need to keep our bugs, birds and other fauna in the state they are in, given that they are under enormous attack. We talked about that yesterday in relation to the climate change statutory instrument that we passed. We are not just talking about our own survival but the survival of other species. It would be a tragedy if we have done things to protect them and yet we let 5G come in. There are allegations that 5G has an impact on other species, particularly in rural areas where we see many living creatures.

My final point is that part of the problem is that the new technology is coming through without much questioning, or even recourse for people to question it. The biggest problem is the speed at which it is being introduced. There is no way that communities that are at best uncertain about the impact of that technology on their children, their schools and their wider community can do anything.

I ask the Government to look at this carefully, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gower said, so that we consider the implications both for individuals’ health and the wider ecosystem, and that we also take time and recognise that the precautionary principle is as important in this area as it is in general about air quality.