Radio Frequencies: Licensing:Written question - 69559

Asked by Chi Onwurah
(Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 06 July 2020
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Radio Frequencies: Licensing
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, for what reasons Ofcom is responsible for the inclusion of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection Guidelines in its wireless telephony licences; and what discussions Ofcom has had with the Health and Safety Executive on those guidelines.
Answered by: Matt Warman
Answered on: 09 July 2020

Public Health England (PHE) independently advises the government on public health matters. PHE has been clear that exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) is not new and that research on the topic anticipates no negative effects on public health. Central to PHE’s advice are the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP is formally recognised by the World Health Organisation and its guidelines underpin health protection policies at UK and European levels.

Ofcom is the authority responsible for authorising spectrum use, and recognises that people have health concerns relating to the impact of EMF emissions. Ofcom has expertise in measuring EMF emissions and currently has the power under Section 9ZA(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to impose licence conditions to protect the public from EMF and legal powers to hold spectrum users to account if issues are identified. Compliance with the ICNIRP Guidelines is already built into the mobile network operators’ Code of Best Practice on Mobile Network Development, and the operators must provide certificates confirming their compliance when applying for planning permission.

On 21 February 2020, Ofcom issued a consultation on “Proposed measures to require compliance with international guidelines for limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF)”. This consultation proposes to introduce a new condition in spectrum licences that will require licensees to ensure that EMF emissions from radio equipment complies with the relevant levels for general public exposure from the ICNIRP guidelines. This would ensure that Ofcom is in a position to take enforcement action in the event of non-compliance with the ICNIRP guidelines.

Ofcom has not held discussions with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). HSE has responsibilities in relation to occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields, whereas Ofcom’s proposals relate to general public exposure to EMF. As noted above, PHE is the relevant health authority which leads on public health matters related to EMF emissions and Ofcom have discussed their proposals with PHE.

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