Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
MONDAY 22 APRIL 2002
240. How many policemen have complained that
their radios are making them ill?
(Mr Asque) A number of people have expressed concerns
on the health issues.
241. How many?
(Mr Asque) The numbers are not fed directly to us.
We get representations from the Police Federation, which we have
been in contact with, answering the concerns on behalf of their
members. We have not dealt directly with policemen.
242. I am looking at a letter in the police
magazine from March 2002 from a Mr Nigel Wood from Lancashire
who writes that he knows personally of new cases of skin problems,
sleeplessness, migraines, depression, difficulty in concentrating
and headaches. In the December 2001 issue there is reference to
TETRA causing a variety of things including potentially heart
and blood disorders, affecting the brain electro-chemistry, increasing
the risk of leukaemia and so on. What is the current state of
play on the health research?
(Mr Asque) The current state is that we are addressing
all of the recommendations which were made in the report you referred
to. A list of recommendations was drawn up and we have research
projects going on all of those recommendations, addressing them
in great detail.
243. Do the research projects have people wearing
these things and making them operate and then checking out whether
they get migraine or depression or whether they lose concentration?
(Mr Asque) Projects are being developed which will
have that sort of aspect. At the moment we do not have a user
base. We are in negotiation with one of the police forces which
has offered to participate in a trial of that order, but it has
not started yet.
244. That was July 2001. It is now April 2002
and you have just said that at the moment you do not have a user
base. Do you not have people you can test this on?
(Mr Asque) The issue is that there is no proof that
there are any of these effects.
245. I did not say there was. Nine months after
that July 2001 report and a more recent report you say you do
not have a user base, you do not have a bunch of people on whom
you can test it specifically not relating to operability or interoperability
but specifically relating to health. Is that correct? You do not
have a user base of such people?
(Mr Asque) The Airwave service is only now being rolled
out. We have done work in the laboratory, we have done a lot of
experimental work in the laboratory prior to the final trial which
we are doing as part of a health programme which is not directly
led by the Home Office. It is part of the mobile phone research.
246. Are you responsible for the Home Office's
input into health and safety on these issues?
(Mr Asque) Yes, we are and we are feeding into the
wider programmes because we have more users involved and a wider
base of information.
247. But you do not have a user base at the
(Mr Asque) We have had discussions with one police
force who are going to collaborate with us.
248. You have had discussions. I am just amazed.
It was 1998 when you had the first review on effectiveness. Three
years later you had a review on health safety specifically because
of these concerns. Not quite a year later, but nearly a year later,
you still do not have people to testify. Why not?
(Mr Asque) There are two issues here. We have to have
people using the system. At the moment we have a trial system
and now we are starting operational use. We also have to have
a research programme in which we have to agree how we measure
this. This is very subjective. People will have concerns about
this; it is a very emotive topic
249. These policemen are complaining about headaches
and so on. You are in charge of health and safety. Have you thought
of going along, getting on a train, going up to Manchester, participating,
using it yourself and seeing whether you get headaches? It would
be a quick way to move the thing forward, would it not?
(Mr Asque) It would, but I suffer from headaches for
all sorts of reasons and I cannot say whether it is due to using
that handset or not. We need proper scientific trials to analyse
these things because a lot of these things are so subjective.
250. I am just amazed you have not started yet.
(Mr Gieve) Vaughan is referring to a particular monitoring
programme we are setting up with the forces which are starting
to use Airwave. We actually have a whole programme of research,
most of which has started, on the effects on rat brains and lots
of biological stuff to try to find out whether, as has been alleged,
features of this technology do have effects on animals and on
biology. So far there is no reason to think they do.
(Mr Parris) We take health and safety very, very seriously.
The Airwave service operates within national and international
guidelines which are laid down after years of research. Sure,
more research is going on and it is absolutely right and proper
that it should go on.
251. If you want to send us a note on safety,
I should be very pleased to see it.
Are TETRA and TETRAPOL interoperable?
(Mr Webb) No, they are not fully interoperable.
252. Are they interoperable to a degree? Presumably
the answer to that is yes.
(Mr Webb) If you provided an adequate interface, there
is a degree of functionality which would be possible.
253. But you do not have an interface at the
(Mr Webb) Right.
254. Mr Alistair Philips was giving advice to
PITO, is that right?
(Mr Webb) No, he is not giving advice.
255. Was he not giving advice to PITO?
(Mr Webb) No.
256. Perhaps he was giving you advice in the
sense that any person is entitled to give you advice rather than
that you were paying for it.
(Mr Webb) I am sure he could have sent us an unsolicited
257. Do you think he was giving you free advice?
Mr Philips' free advice says that he advised PITO to reconsider
its backing for TETRA. He argues that TETRA carries proven health
risks while the rival TETRAPOL technology is close to harmless.
He also said that the proprietary nature of TETRA could have a
detrimental effect on competition: suppliers do not like an open
system, so this way the TETRA clique can set prices. Would you
like to comment on that?
(Mr Webb) The TETRAPOL technology operates in the
same sort of frequency band as TETRA does, therefore one would
suspect it would have very similar health effects. In terms of
the ability to interoperate with it, we have had no requirement
to do so as at the moment. We have looked at the technology. It
is not as functionally rich as TETRA and therefore there are large
amounts of functionality which would not interoperate. There are
also problems in the way it handles signals to enable it to operate
at all. The level of functionality which we could actually share
would be very low.
258. Are calls still dropping off?
(Mr Parris) No, the call dropping which was referred
to in an earlier question has been cleared.
259. Call dropping is not happening any more.
(Mr Parris) Correct.
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