MPs set to debate private Bill on mobile phone mast safeguards

Simon McGee
Political Editor

EXTRA safeguards for schools, homes, and hospitals near mobile telephone masts, proposed in a Yorkshire backbencher's private Bill, are finally set to be discussed.

Skipton and Ripon MP David Curry has confirmed his Telecommunication Masts Bill, which he hopes will put renewed pressure on the Government to give the public additional protection, will have its second reading in the Commons in March,

It calls for mobile phone companies to carry out full health checks on every new mast and make the potential harm from electromagnetic radiation a key feature in the consideration of planning applications.
Campaigners and residents' groups are hoping it will be third time lucky for Mr Curry's Bill, which was put before the Commons as Private Members' Bills twice before but was unable to even get debated on the floor of the House.

Mr Curry, a former Tory Local Government Minister, himself admitted that without the support of Ministers – which it does not have – the Bill will not get enough Parliamentary time to stand a chance of becoming law, but he insisted it was still worth raising.
It has gained support from protest groups and some members, including Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Phil Willis.

"The Government is clearly not in support of this bill," Mr Curry said. "But that doesn't mean it's wasted. What we're really trying to do is put the issue on the table again and try to coax the Government into a sensible discussion.

"No one is out to demolish the mobile phone industry, we just want some safeguards."

Masts campaigning group Planning Sanity's director Chris Maile said: "This bill will do much to even the playing field in order that local residents forced to live with the consequences of telecoms developments will have a better say in the permission process. That can only be for the general good of the country."

On the announcement of a day being named for the second reading, he added: "This is important because we now know with certainty that the bill does have a place in the parliamentary agenda."

A spokesman for Mast Sanity, a branch of the Planning Sanity group, added: "It has long been our view that a marked imbalance exists in planning law between the commercial interests of the mobile phone operators and the public's genuinely held fear of health risks associated with emissions from masts situated close to residential properties, schools, nurseries and the like."

19 January 2006


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