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As Members will know, a security screen has been erected in front of the main part of the Strangers Gallery. Members sponsoring guests or visitors for admission to the unscreened Galleries are required to certify that their guests are known to them. They are also required to vouch for their good behaviour. Members whose guests disrupt the Chamber will be required to apologise to the House; it will be for the House to decide what further action to take.
I expect the relevant member of the House of Lords to provide me with a full explanation before this day is out. I am directing the Serjeant at Arms that the right of members of the House of Lords to sponsor visitors for admission to this Chamber is suspended with immediate effect.
I am pleased to inform the House that, after detailed examination, the substance has been found not to be harmful. I and the authorities in the House will review the way in which this incident has been dealt with to ensure that all appropriate procedures are followed, if necessary, in the future.
Mr. Speaker: I am obliged to take points of order, but I must say to the hon. Gentleman that the House has been disrupted, Prime Minister's Question Time has been stopped and the best thing we can do is to get back to business as usual.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish need and safety tests before telecommunications masts can be erected; to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the General Permitted Development Order 1995; and for connected purposes.
When mobile phones were invented, I had no idea of their ramifications for all our lives. They seem to dominate our very existence. Every MP I talk to has anxieties about mobile phones and mobile phone masts, so why did Parliament not seize the opportunity offered by the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) to legislate on the matter? I hope that it is not because Parliament is afraid of the power of the five large mobile phone operators.
Everywhere I go, people have mobile phones fixed to their ears, engaged in all sorts of conversations. We cannot help hearing what the conversations are about. Most of them are trivial nonsensefor instance, "I'll be home, dear, in 10 minutes", or "Would you like tomato ketchup with your meal this evening?" Who wants to know what those people are doing? I do not know, but everyone now seems to be talking on mobile phones.
As far as I am concerned, this new technology comes at a cost. The health risks from mobile phonespeople cannot have mobile phones without mobile phone mastsare absolutely clear from what Sir William Stewart said. When it suits those who want to defend mobile phone masts, they quote Sir William Stewart, but what they do not say is that he amplified his personal concerns about phones to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in September 2001. He called for the cost of handsets to be increased to restrict their use by children. Sir Williamthe great expert in this fieldsaid that he would not allow his grandchildren to use a mobile phone. That says it all.
I am concerned not only about the potential health risks of brain tumours caused by mobile phones, but about the mental health risks. Anyone with children must see how our children have been polluted by the way in which they use mobile phones and send texts and video pictures to one another. That is very serious. Given that many Members of Parliament are endlessly presenting petitions and saying how concerned their constituents are about the situation, the House should have no difficulty in giving full approval to my ten-minute Bill, without any need for a debate. I expect my Bill to be nodded through its various stages.
Mobile telecommunications masts are being erected all over the United Kingdom, and they are certainly being put up in large numbers in Southend, West. Mobile telephone users expect to have a reception at all times, but with that comes a price to local residents. My goodness, the people who put up those masts are clever in beating the rules and regulations. The masts might look like trees or flagpoles. They make them look
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beautiful, but those masts emit levels of radiation that can damage the thin skulls of our childrenand perhaps some adults who have thin skulls as wellso the House should take seriously people's genuine concerns about the health risks.
The Bill that I am seeking to persuade the House to accept would amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Furthermore, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 amends the 1990 Act, but does not replace it. My Bill seeks to redress that anomaly. The 1990 Act does not deal with separate categories of planning permission according to the type of development involved. Mobile telecommunications masts are therefore included with all other types of development, despite the fact that mobile telecommunications masts are a different type of development.
"(1) Where an application is made to a local planning authority for planning permission
(a) subject to sections 91 and 92, they may grant planning permission, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as they think fit; or
(b) they may refuse planning permission.
(2) In dealing with such an application the authority shall have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations.
(3) Subsection (1) has effect subject to sections 65, 66 and 67 and to the following provisions of this Act, to sections 66, 67, 72 and 73 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and to section 15 of the Health Services Act 1976."
Those measures are outdated. Furthermore, the 2004 Act does not attempt to address the problem. The siting of a mobile telecommunications mast that is under 15 m is a very different type of development. My Bill would update that legislation and bring it into the 21st century. Rather than allow the telecommunications companies to get around the regulations and laws that the House passes, my Bill would put the onus on operators to prove to the local authority planning committee that the masts
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are necessary. They would also have to prove to the planning committee that the masts posed no health risks whatsoever.
Last week, as a prelude to my Bill, I called a public meeting through the Mobile Operators Association. The nonsense involved in trying to arrange such a meeting at which the operators could meet the general public went on for two years. To cut a long story short, in spite of complying with the advice from the Mobile Operators Association, I was told eventually that
"it is not an area that we wish to engage in."
No wonder, because they do not want to face the general public; they want Members of Parliament to take the flak instead. Of the five operators, the only two that turned up were O2 and Orange, and the general public's comments gave them considerable food for thought.
Members of the public constantly tell all Members of Parliament that a mast is too near a school or that it is in the middle of a built-up area. The problem is serious and safety should be of paramount importance. That is why I was very glad that the noble Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked for further clarification on the matter in the other place from the noble Lord Warner, who is, I believe, about to report shortly.
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