Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Raynsford: I hear and understand the point made by the hon. Gentleman. He will accept that the operator has to ensure that the location of the mast ensures that it is an appropriate complement to the rest of the network. Therefore, I would not wish to encourage too many initiatives of that nature from individuals who may be keen to have a mast in a location where they would probably receive some income for it, but where it is of no great benefit to the extension of the network or may not be ideal on amenity or health grounds. The hon. Gentleman has made a valid point, but there are limitations on how far the initiative can be taken for bodies other than the operators, who understand what is required to achieve the most efficient network.

As I mentioned earlier, we take very seriously public concerns about the possibility of health effects. The Stewart group published its report on 11 May last year. It concluded that

The group also said, however, that it is not possible to say that exposure to radio-frequency radiation, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects. It therefore recommended that a precautionary approach, comprising a series of specific measures, to the use of mobile-telephone technologies be adopted until more detailed and scientifically robust information on any health effects becomes available.

On mobile telephone base stations, the group's report concluded that

The Stewart report suggested that public consultation under the prior approval arrangement was not working satisfactorily, notwithstanding the improvements made in 1999. It also suggested that lack of public consultation was a major cause of grievance in people who suffered from loss of amenity when base stations were erected. It suggested that many people felt excluded and disempowered by the existing planning arrangements and that resulting frustration could also have a negative effect on people's health and well-being.

For those reasons, the group recommended that changes to the planning arrangements were necessary. Specifically, it recommended that

In their initial response, published on 11 May, the Government welcomed the group's report and accepted many of its recommendations. In particular, the Government accepted the recommended precautionary approach as advised by the report.

24 Jan 2001 : Column 1041

I wrote to council leaders, in June 2000, setting out what is being done to take forward the planning recommendations, and reiterating how local planning authorities should continue to treat applications for mobile telephone development. Local planning authorities should continue to deal with planning applications for telecommunications on the basis of the current legislative arrangements and policy guidance.

The letter explained that, as part of its precautionary approach, the group's report did not recommend a ban or moratorium on the construction of mobile telephone masts and that we had no plans to introduce one. It made it clear that the Government's acceptance of a precautionary approach was limited to the specific recommendations in the group's report and the Government's response to them. The letter clearly stated that health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. It also said that it is for the decision maker--usually the local planning authority--to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case.

It is the Government's view that if a proposed development meets the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines--commonly known as the ICNIRP guidelines--as recommended by Stewart on a precautionary basis, it should not be necessary for a planning authority, in processing an application, to consider the health effects further. It does not mean that individual local authorities should introduce their own precautionary policies for determining applications for mobile telephone base stations. That would be a recipe for confusion and uncertainty.

Following preliminary discussions with the Local Government Association, other Departments and the mobile telephone industry, we issued a consultation paper, on 31 July, which sought views on whether any changes to planning legislation were necessary, and what those changes should be. In addition to asking questions about possible changes to the legislation, the consultation paper contained draft revised planning guidance.

24 Jan 2001 : Column 1042

Currently, guidance to local planning authorities is to be found in four separate places: PPG8; Circular 4/99--"Planning for Telecommunications"; the code of best practice on telecommunications prior approval procedures; and the draft circular on "Land Use Planning and Electromagnetic Fields", which was issued for consultation in December 1998.

The revised draft PPG8 is intended to rationalise, consolidate and update that range of guidance. A separate code of practice will be retained, but revised so that it reflects any changes to the planning arrangements for masts. The revised code will, we hope, be a joint document agreed by Government, local authorities and the industry, as the present one is.

As part of the revised PPG8, we will give advice on how to take into account health concerns, including the advice that health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications, as explained earlier. Our draft revised guidance suggests, among other things, that operators should include with their applications a statement that the apparatus will meet the ICNIRP guidelines if and when it is up and running.

The consultation period ended on 31 October. Approximately 365 responses were received--rather more than the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam heard about. We are currently analysing them and will announce any changes as soon as is practicable. I will arrange for the responses to be placed in the Library as soon as possible. I noted his comment on that. I cannot give him a date when the conclusions will be announced, but we are working on this as a matter of priority.

We are also working on an audit of base stations--the hon. Gentleman asked about that--and have in hand a number of other measures. As my time is running out, I will write to him on the other issues that he has raised, and I assure him of our commitment to finding a way forward that meets our twin objectives of allowing the system to roll out satisfactorily so as to ensure the extension of telecommunications while at the same time taking into account the environmental and health concerns that have been expressed by the public.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Eleven o'clock.

24 Jan 2001 : Column 1041

24 Jan 2001 : Column 1043

Deferred Divisions


The House divided: Ayes 318, Noes 5.

Division No. 79


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Burden, Richard
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hunter, Andrew
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McCrea, Dr William
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGrady, Eddie
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Spicer, Sir Michael
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek


Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Shepherd, Richard
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Question accordingly agreed to.

24 Jan 2001 : Column 1045

Legal Aid and Advice

The House divided: Ayes 427, Noes 4.

Next Section

IndexHome Page