Parliamentary Questions and Answers

One main way in which the view of the UK Government on EMFs is expressed is through answers to Parliamentary Questions. From 2000 to 2011 there were approximately 40 Parliamentary Questions and Written Answers relating either directly or indirectly to EMFs. But the last such question we are aware of was in 2011.

The complete set of questions and answers is available here.

See also the  Hansard Search Engine if you want to find further questions and answers.

Question on particular topics

We give a link above to a complete listing of all PQs on EMFs.  Here, we give extracts of the PQs on specific issues.  But please note that these all predate the 2009 statement of Government policy.

Q&A on airborne particles

On 20 July 2001, Mr Wilson, the Energy Minister, answered a question from Anne McIntosh MP specifically relating to the suggestion that the electric fields from high-voltage overhead power lines might influence the behaviour of airborne particles in such a way as to be harmful to human health. He stated, in part:

“Some evidence has been suggested that the electric fields associated with the higher-voltage power lines are responsible via indirect effects for a range of illnesses including skin cancer. These effects have been considered to arise from changes in the concentration and deposition of particles and other environmental pollutants in the presence of corona ions found in the vicinity of power lines. The physical principle for particle deposition in large electric fields is well understood. However, the NRPB has concluded that it has not been sufficiently demonstrated whether any such enhanced deposition will increase human exposure in a way that will result in adverse health effects. The difficulties with this hypothesis in relation to naturally occurring radiation have been examined in detail earlier by the NRPB and others in peer-reviewed journals.”


On 6 November 2001, Jacqui Smith, Minister of State, Health Department, answered a question from Anne McIntosh MP which included the following statement concerning the IARC classification of EMFs:

“In June, the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) based in Lyon, France, brought together an international team of experts to review the evidence for the possible carcinogenic effects of exposure to static and ELF electric and magnetic fields. It concluded that magnetic fields are "possibly carcinogenic" to humans based on a statistical association between higher level magnetic field exposure and the risk of childhood leukaemia. This conclusion is consistent with the views expressed by AGNIR.”

Q&A on California

On 9 November 2001, Jacqui Smith, Minister of State, Health Department, answered a question from Mr Stevenson MP concerning the California Department of Health Services Review of EMFs. The answer included the following:

“The advisory group [on non-ionising radiation of the NRPB] discussed the report from the California Department of Health Sciences on possible risks from exposure to power frequency electromagnetic fields at its meeting on 30 October 2001. The group has commented that they know of no further scientific evidence published since their most recent report that would alter their opinion regarding evidence concerning exposure to power frequency electromagnetic fields and the risks of cancer as set out in their published reviews.”

Q&A on building homes near lines

On 20 November 2007, Iain Wright, Undersecretary, DCLG  answered a question from Mr Swire MP on building near power lines:

“No planning guidance on this subject has been issued to local authorities. At present, there are no planning restrictions on development close to power lines other than the need to observe safe clearance distances.”

Q&A on the “Draper Report”

Following publication of the Draper study in June 2005, Caroline Flint, Minster for Public Health has answered several questions, for example stating:

“The Department commissioned the work by Dr. Draper and colleagues on childhood cancer and distance from power lines, recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ Vol. 330, 4 June 2005). The study found higher rates of childhood leukaemia among those born within 600 metres of a power line compared with those born further away. The rate was higher for those born within 200 metres than those between 200 and 600 metres. The authors have no satisfactory explanations for the results in terms of causation by magnetic fields…”
for all the answers on the Draper study see the full set of questions and answers above

Q&A on precautionary approaches

On 17 November 2004, Melanie Johnson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, answered a question from Ann McIntosh MP about precautionary measures:

“The Department and National Grid Transco have instigated a programme of stakeholder discussions in order to develop appropriate practical policies.

The possible application of precautionary measures are currently being considered by departmental officials in association with a large number of stakeholders, including other Government Departments, the devolved Administrations, the electricity supply industry, the electricity supply regulators and a number of non-governmental organisations and public concern groups.” 


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