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I understand what the hon. Gentleman says about fines, but where there is a link to other illegal activity, significant sentences can be imposed. The issue is not for Ofcom alone, but for a number of agencies. I spoke today to the head of spectrum enforcement at Ofcom in advance of the debate. He told me that the Governments introduction of safer neighbourhood policing teams has helped significantly in co-ordinating the work between the police and Ofcom on the issue. So developments have taken place since the hon. Gentlemans debate three years ago, which make it easier for the agencies to work together. Ofcom has developed close relationships with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, regional asset recovery teams and other agencies. Following the hon. Gentlemans previous debate, one of my predecessors
in the Department held a specially convened meeting with a number of agencies to help to co-ordinate that activity, too. Ofcom has also negotiated service level agreements in a variety of police sectors throughout London, enabling staff to purchase police support.
In the past, pirate radio stations may have had a role in nurturing talent and in ensuring that minority tastes were properly catered for but, for the reasons that I have set out, it is much more difficult to argue that case today. Now, such stations are much more harmful. They can even be dangerous and, critically, as technology changes and the digital revolution unfolds, there is less need for them than ever before. My Department is working on its Digital Britain report, a key part of
which will involve extending access to legitimate creative people who want to establish radio stations. The question that will be asked much more frequently in the future is: why is there a need for such stations, unless it is for some motive far less high-minded than musical creativity and choice? That is why the Government and Ofcom will continue to take enforcement seriously.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate tonight, and I am sure that those Departments other than my own to which he referred, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will take account of his comments. He is absolutely right to say that we must work together throughout Government to tackle what is a serious issue.