Cross-Party Inquiry

thumbnail of cover of cross party inquiryThe Cross-Party Inquiry sat during 2006 and 2007 and published its report in July 2007.  It consisted of five MPs: Dr Howard Stoate MP (Chair), Michael Connarty MP, Dr Ian Gibson MP, Sandra Gidley MP and Nick Hurd MP.

The Inquiry was set up at the instigation of the charity Children with Leukaemia, who also funded it and provided the secretariat.  A "cross-party inquiry" has no formal status within the Parliamentary system and does not represent the views of Government.

Its purpose was to consider taking precautionary action on EMFs.  It therefore covered similar ground to SAGE, the stakeholder process run under the auspices of the Department of Health to give advice to Government on precautionary measures for EMFs.

Conclusions

The Executive Summary reads as follows:

"The Cross-Party Inquiry into Childhood Leukaemia and EMF was set up to allow the five Members (Dr Howard Stoate MP, Michael Connarty MP, Dr Ian Gibson MP, Sandra Gidley MP and Nick Hurd MP) to consider in detail the evidence for an association between Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) from High Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines (HVOTL) and an increased risk of childhood leukaemia and determine what should be done. The members of the Inquiry held 5 meetings during 2006 and 2007, taking oral and written evidence from a broad range of witnesses.

Having examined the case for taking precautionary action on exposure to EMF, we make the following recommendations for Government to consider. We recommend that Government:-

  1. Recognise the potential risks to children’s health caused by exposure to EMF and introduce a moratorium on the building of new homes and schools within at least 60 metres of existing High Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines (HVOTL) of 275 kV and 400 kV and on the building of new HVOTL within 60 metres of existing homes and schools and the same within 30 metres from 132 kV, 110 kV and 66 kV lines. The Inquiry also recommends that the Government consider the case for extending this distance to 200 metres for the highest voltage lines and pro-rata for lower voltages.
  2. Channel increased funds into research into the association between childhood leukaemia and EMF, to elucidate possible biological mechanisms by increasing the budget of the Department of Health’s Radiation Research Programme (managed by the Health Protection Agency).
  3. Immediately implement SAGE's recommendation to provide more information to the public on the potential risks of EMF exposure, disseminate the SAGE report and the findings of the Cross-Party Inquiry widely in Parliament, enabling the relevant Select Committees (Health, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry) to decide whether to examine in detail Government policy on EMF exposure and public health. Communicate the findings and recommendations of SAGE and this Inquiry to devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to help inform debate and policy making across the UK.
  4. Protect homeowners by allowing them access to information on either i) the proximity of a property (of 60 metres or less) to HVOTL or planned HVOTL or ii) EMF levels inside a property for sale and to implement the measures recommended by the SAGE Report to reduce EMF in the home from household wiring and appliances.
  5. Consider the potential health risks of EMF exposure as part of the Government's Energy Review and give full consideration to alternative options, such as local generation, which could contribute to a reduced future need for new HVOTL.
  6. Introduce new conditions on licences for electricity transmission and distribution, (granted by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, GEMA) requiring new and current licence holders to take steps to protect the public from possible adverse health effects caused by EMF exposure."

Comparison with SAGE

SAGE was a stakeholder group, with a broad range of over 40 stakeholders, under the official auspices of Government through the Department of Health, with funding from a balance of sources.  The Cross-Party Inquiry was a group of just 5 selected MPs, with no formal status in the UK Governmental system, and funded by just one sources, the charity Children with Leukaemia.  They looked at overlapping areas, specifically the question of possible precautionary measures for high-voltage overhead power lines.

The main difference in their conclusions was the question of building homes near power lines.  SAGE considered an option of "corridors" along power lines where new homes would not be allowed (and conversely where new power lines would not be allowed near existing homes).  It analysed the pros and cons, including performing a cost-benefit analysis.  In the light of the cost-benefit analysis, it did not recommend such corridors, but presented them as an "option for consideration" to Government.  Government subsequently decided it would be disproportionate to introduce such corridors and that it would not do so.

The Cross-Party Inquiry, by contrast, recommended that these corridors be introduced, and that Government consider widening them from the 60 m (for the highest-voltage lines) considered by SAGE to 200 m.  See more on the different widths proposed for corridors and where they come from.