HC Deb 14 July 1980 vol 988 cc357-8W
Mr. Wheeler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he considers it necessary for all low-power radio devices to be licensed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Whitelaw

While licensing must remain the main regulatory control over the use of radio equipment, I have concluded that a simpler system would be appropriate in the case of certain low-powered devices. As a first step, I propose to bring forward in the next few months regulations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 exempting model control equipment and metal detectors from licensing. Broadly speaking, it is my intention that the conditions of exemption will reflect the simple licensing conditions at present in force in respect of these devices, with the result that existing licence holders will be able to pursue their hobbies exactly as now. I would emphasise that exemption of metal detectors from the licensing requirement under the Wireless Telegraphy Act in no way affects the requirement that users should obtain permission to enter, search and dig land, and should keep off protected archaeological and other sites.

Fees paid before exemption comes into force will not be refunded, since these are set to cover the existing costs of issuing licences. I propose at the appropriate time to revoke the licences of model control operators; this can be achieved within the terms of the licences by means of notice published in the Gazettes. Metal detector licences were however drafted at a time when only a handful of such devices existed, and provide only for revocation to be effected by notifications served on the individual licensees. There are now nearly 150,000 such licences in issue, and it would not be sensible to commit public resources to a major exercise to inform licence holders individually that in practical terms their operations will be able to continue as before, but without payment of a fee. I shall, however, take all reasonable steps to ensure that licence holders will be alerted to the change by such means as notices in the Gazettes and in the specialist magazines which cater for this particular hobby.

My proposals will help reduce the work of my Department, and will lead to less bureaucratic control and to greater freedom for individuals. At a later stage I hope to identify other limited categories of radio device which can be dealt with similarly.