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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, fluoridation is one of the elements of an effective oral health strategy. We have made it clear in our strategy that we expect health authorities to be proactive in combating issues of access and dental disease. Your Lordships may be aware that a report from York University commissioned by the Government concluded in October that fluoridation helps to reduce tooth decay. It also found no evidence to support the concerns that had been expressed about the health effects. We have told health authorities, particularly those with a high incidence of dental disease, that we expect them to consider fluoridation as one way of tackling those problems.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, following on from the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, about savings already made, how much of the £100 million is new money rather than resources that have already been announced?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is all new money in the sense that the bulk of it is going into dentists' pockets. The £100 million includes £35 million of new money to help modernise equipment and premises, £4 million of new money for a dental care development fund and £20 million of new money for PDS pilots, including dental access. We had already announced that we accepted in principle the recommendation of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration on dentists' commitments, but we did not give details until the strategy announcement. The £100 million includes £28 million for that. In the end, this money will go to dentists and will improve access. It is in addition to money that was announced previously as being available.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, in view of the fact that a large notice appears in today's newspapers stating that if a person fraudulently claims free treatment under the National Health Service he will be prosecuted, will the Minister tell me whether the forms have been simplified? It used to be possible simply to sign a form if one was claiming, for example, housing benefit. However, if one needed help for one-off dental treatment, one had to complete multiple pages covering prison visits and so on. Has the form been simplified, making it clearer to dentists and patients how claims are to be made?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we are examining the forms. Examples of new forms that we should like to develop are to be found in the dental

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strategy. In particular, they show when patients receive NHS and private treatment. In addition, where large-scale treatment is to take place, they encourage dentists to set out the estimated cost. We are very keen to ensure that patients receive as much information as possible. Equally, the launch of "Combating Fraud in Dentistry" is designed to ensure that only people who are eligible for discounts on their treatment receive it.

Wales: Japanese Investment

2.52 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the prospects for Japanese-owned firms in Wales.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, since devolution, attracting and retaining inward investment in Wales has been the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales. The Welsh Development Agency works in partnership with other members of Team Wales and with Invest UK. Through Invest UK, the UK Government are responsible for promoting the whole of the UK as a location for inward investment. We regret recent announcements of job losses at Sony and Panasonic. However, we recognise that, where companies operate on a global scale in such a competitive sector, they must reassess and restructure their operations. This Government will continue to maintain the long-term economic stability which Britain enjoys today and which, in turn, will allow businesses to invest and plan ahead with confidence.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, given the assurances from Japanese companies, it would be wrong to panic in the face of those job losses. However, will the Government recognise that they should take seriously the warnings by leaders of Japanese business, and, indeed, business leaders elsewhere, about the longer-term consequences of our staying outside the eurozone? Although such developments take time, will the Minister recognise that continuing to stay outside the zone is likely to have an adverse effect on foreign investment and, indeed, on jobs in Wales and in the rest of Britain?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, is of course right to say that we should not panic. There is no reason to panic. We continue to do well in attracting investment from Japan and from other countries. Indeed, of the total investment from Japan in the whole of Europe, 46 per cent comes to this country. I have read what some Japanese business leaders have said. However, JETRO, the Japanese External Trade Research Organisation, carried out a survey in April this year of the views of Japanese firms in Britain. Those firms did not have anything like the same fears about our present policies with regard to the euro as those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne.

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Lord Islwyn: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is always a tendency for firms to drift towards areas where labour is cheap? That is certainly the case at present in Czechoslovakia and Poland. However, is it not rather interesting that Toyota in Flint in North Wales is about to recruit another 300 workers for its engine plant?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Islwyn is right. In policy terms, it is important that we continue to encourage investment at a high level of skill and to encourage investment in research and development activities. We are particularly good at that and it will counteract any tendency for lower-cost activities to go to lower-cost countries.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that all multi-national companies have in common a total determination to obtain ever-increasing sums of money from host governments? Does he also agree that the threat to leave a country is taken seriously only by the naive?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course multi-national companies will try it on when they can. However, effective policies are in place across the United Kingdom to ensure that competitive bidding for more and more public subsidy does not occur within the United Kingdom. In the end, the European Commission has a part to play in that.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is it not true that, measured by earnings, less than 1 per cent of our inward investment comes from Japan, whereas 66 per cent comes from the United States of America? Is it not also true that the pound is now standing at an eight-year low against the dollar and that 60 per cent of our foreign trade is dollar related? Does that not put a new perspective on the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, given that the noble Lord's Question is about Japanese investment in Wales rather than about the United States, I do not have the figures with which to challenge those put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. They sound implausible. However, if they are correct, I shall write to him about it.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, as we are talking about Wales, is not the recent news that the Government have obtained Objective 1 status for Wales of great importance to the valleys and, indeed, the people of Wales?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Brookman is not only right, he is too modest. Not only have we obtained Objective 1 status for west Wales and the valleys, but in the 2000 spending review the Government also announced that they will provide full funding for that purpose.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the low euro is not the only factor

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taken into account by Japanese companies in deciding the future location of their production facilities? High fuel costs and higher taxes in the United Kingdom have been referred to by Sony as detracting from their competitiveness. Therefore, will the noble Lord urge the Chancellor to act in those areas to boost the competitiveness of British-based companies and to help to maintain the prosperity on which his strategy depends?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I made it clear in an earlier answer that I agree that the weakness of the euro is not the only reason for difficulties arising for inward investors in this country vis-a-vis Europe. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, talks about taxation levels, I hope that he will recognise that, as has become clear, our levels of corporate taxation are among the lowest in G7 countries.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I declare an interest as President of BREMA, the electronic manufacturers' association, of which both Panasonic and Sony are members. Is the Minister aware that those companies paid tribute to the high quality of both the Welsh workforce and the research and development (to which the Minister referred) in the television industry in particular in Wales? Therefore, does he agree that there is ample opportunity for joined-up government in a vigorous campaign for an early switch-over to digital technology, which would provide a market for high value-added electrical goods built in Wales?


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