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12 May 1999 : Column WA147

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12 May 1999.

Refugee Assistance

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the expenditure so far on sustaining refugees from the Government for International Development budget.[HL2319]

Baroness Amos: Since 24 March this year, the Government have allocated £40 million for humanitarian assistance to the Kosovo refugees for disbursement by the Department for International Development. Of this, some £30 million has already been committed, mostly to UN agencies, the Red Cross and NGOs.

Relief Supplies: Local Purchase

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Department for International Development will purchase relief supplies, medicines and food, to the maximum extent possible, from countries adjacent to and affected by war in Kosovo; and whether they will make a similar recommendation to voluntary organisations working in the Balkans.[HL2321]

Baroness Amos: My department supports the procurement of local goods and services where this is possible, cost effective, and does not harm the local economy or reduce access of the local host population to essentials. We recommend that other organisations follow the same principle.

Fluoridation of Water

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the following arguments in the Opinion of Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle in the case of McColl v. Strathclyde Regional Council (Sessions Cases, No. 23, June 29, 1983):


    (a) "Section 130 (of the Medicines Act 1968) defines 'medicinal product' and I am satisfied that fluoride in whatever form it is ultimately purchased by the respondents falls within the definition";


    (b) "there is no evidence that water with a natural fluoride content of 1ppm is normal by world standards";


    (c) "to suggest as do the respondents that they are merely replicating nature by increasing the fluoride content of surface water is inaccurate"; and


    (d) fluoridation involves "using water as a means of passing into consumers' bodies substances which could be obtained aliunde";

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    and, if they dissent from any of these arguments, on what grounds.[HL2320]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): While some products containing fluoride are classified as medicinal products in accordance with the definition in Section 130 of the Medicines Act 1968 and the relevant definition in Directive 65/65/EEC, we confirm that fluoridated water has not been classified as a medicinal product by the United Kingdom's competent authority. Water intended for human consumption falls within the definition of food and is thus regulated partly under the Food Safety Act 1990 and partly under water legislation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Jauncey, included these opinions in a judgment in which he found the fluoridation water at 1 part per million to be a safe and effective means of reducing dental decay. We will shortly be announcing our position in a policy statement on oral health to be included in a White Paper on Public Health.

E.Coli: Survival on Grassland

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the results of the research conducted by scientists at the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, and in particular by Dr. A Maule, on the survivability of E.coli 0157 on grassland.[HL2371]

Baroness Hayman: The potential for survival of E.coli 0157 on grassland was studied at the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research during April 1994 to March 1997. It was demonstrated that E.coli 0157 could survive for more than 150 days in rooted grass soil cores and 90 days in cattle faeces. Survival was much reduced in cattle slurry (20 days) and river water (15 days).

Israel: Actions against Palestinians

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations, and whether they will ask other member states of the European Union to make representations, to the Israeli Government about:


    (a) the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli authorities;


    (b) the confiscation of Jerusalem identity cards from Palestinian residents; and


    (c) the placing of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank before and after the Wye Plantation Agreement.[HL2185]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK, both bilaterally and through the EU, has consistently made clear our opposition to the demolition of Palestinian homes, the

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confiscation of ID cards and continuing Israeli settlement activity both before and after the Wye Plantation Agreement. These activities are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an obstacle to peace and worsen the climate for final status negotiations. We have registered our concern both publicly and privately with the Israeli authorities and will continue to keep the matter under review with our EU partners.

Sudan: Political Prisoners

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about the current numbers of political detainees in Sudan.[HL2199]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In his report following his visit to Sudan in February 1999, the UN Special Rapporteur, Leonardo Franco, noted the Sudanese authorities' announcement of the release of 41 political prisoners and that there were no political prisoners left in Sudan. He also said that, in his opinion, some detainees whom the Government of Sudan considers or describes as common offenders could, in reality, be political prisoners.

Sudan: Aid Workers' Security

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 14 December 1998 (WA 134), and the recent killing of workers assisting with International Committee of the Red Cross activities, what action they are taking to protect aid workers in Sudan.[HL2241]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The security of aid workers is, of course, an issue of great importance. Her Majesty's Government do not employ aid workers directly in Sudan; they work through agencies. The security of those working for agencies is high on the agenda of the Technical Committee for Humanitarian Affairs (a joint UN, Government of Sudan, Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement Committee), with whom we are in regular contact and whose work we encourage.

Sudan: Slavery

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any evidence to support the claim (H.L. Deb., col. 902) that the Sudanese Government has as a policy the use of slavery on a widespread, systematic scale.[HL2243]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The statement was not made by a member of the Government.

The recent Commission on Human Rights consensus resolution on Sudan expressed deep concern at the abduction of women and children to be subjected to forced labour or similar conditions. It therefore called on the Government of Sudan to investigate reports of abduction of women and children taking place in the framework of the conflict in southern Sudan and to accept a multilateral investigation.

Sudan: Alleged Terrorist Bombing Involvement

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that the Sudanese Government was involved in the bombing of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.[HL2244]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have never claimed that the Sudanese Government was involved in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

Colonel Robert Stewart: Blaskic Case

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have ordered Colonel Robert Stewart to comply with a summons issued by Trial Chamber 1 of the International Criminal Tribunal in the former Yugoslavia in the case of Blaskic; and what information they have about the compliance by the countries whose nationals are mentioned in the summons with their obligation to assist the tribunal.[HL2249]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As Colonel Stewart has now retired from HM forces, we have no power to order him to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the course of his duties. We understand that he has nevertheless agreed to give evidence in the Blaskic case. We have no information as to whether or not nationals of other states summoned by the tribunal at the same time will appear before it.

Romania: Assistance to Mining Industry

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can confirm the accuracy of the statement by the Romanian Miners' Leader (Mr. Miron Cozna) that the 35 per cent. rise in miners' wages will be financed by the European Union; and, if so, whether such use of European Union funds is legal.[HL2252]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The statement attributed to Mr. Cozna is inaccurate. The European Union is providing assistance to Romania to support economic and institutional reform, as it is doing to all the candidates in the EU Accession Process. Some of this assistance is directed at mitigating the impact of restructuring the loss-making mining sector, for example by helping miners prepare for re-employment outside the mining industry. Separately, the Romanian Government has reached an agreement with leaders of the mining unions on measures to improve the industry's performance. Pay increases associated with productivity increases form part of this agreement, but there will also be job losses. There is no question of pay increases being financed by the European Union.


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