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Terrestrial Trunked Radio System

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of the health implications of the terrestrial trunked radio system; and what plans he has for an investigation into a health and safety study; [115069](2) what advice is given to local planning authorities about the distance that TETRA masts should be sited from residential properties; if he will list locations where TETRA masts are sited; and if he will make a statement; [115071](3) if he will make a statement on the safety aspects of the TETRA communication system used by the police, and if he will make a statement. [115070]

The advanced features and flexibility offered by the new digital radio communications service for the police will contribute significantly to officer and public safety. The service will provide high quality fully encrypted communications to prevent eavesdropping, and for the first time will allow officers to call for assistance in emergencies by the operation of a single key.

Following the Stewart Report on mobile phones and health, we asked the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) to look at the health and safety aspects of the TETRA technology used by Airwave. Their report, prepared by the NRPB's independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, was published in July 2001. It concluded that, "Although areas of uncertainty remain about the biological effects of low level Radio Frequency radiation in general, including modulated signals, current evidence suggests that it is unlikely that the special features of the signals from TETRA mobile terminals and repeaters pose a hazard to health".

The report recommended further research to address remaining areas of uncertainty. We are taking this forward with a comprehensive programme of work, which has found no adverse health effects so far. As part of this programme, the Home Office has commissioned a national health monitoring study of Airwave police users. Regular updates are available on the Home Office website http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs/tetra.html.

Advice to planning authorities about radio masts is contained in Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and is supported by the ODPM Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development. No minimal distance from TETRA masts residential properties is recommended. The rule is that international guidelines on energy levels received from the mast should be met in areas accessible to the public. Independent checks of Airwave base stations have shown that these energy levels are hundreds of times less than the guidelines. As the service rolls out the location of TETRA masts within the Airwave service will be available on the "Sitefinder" database managed by the Radiocommunications Agency.