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Bridge Street/Whitehall Bus Service

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): These are matters for Westminster City Council and Transport for London.

Oil Spillages at Sea

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

30 Jan 2001 : Column WA55

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The international forum for achieving agreement on these issues is the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and, indeed, a number of international conventions have been put in place through negotiation in the IMO, notably: the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 (MARPOL), which restricts discharges from ships, including oil; the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC), which aims to provide a global framework for international co-operation in combating actual or threatened oil pollution at sea; there is an International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, established within the framework of the International Convention of Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1969 (CLC) and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1971 (IOPC Fund Convention), and the Protocols of 1992 to both of these conventions. This regime provides compensation where oil pollution damage from tankers affects states which are parties to the CLC and the IOPC Fund Convention. The United Kingdom has ratified each of these agreements and we actively encourage others to do so too.

There will be a diplomatic conference to adopt an international convention on civil liability for pollution damage caused by bunker oil (mainly, but not exclusively, the oil which is used to fuel the ships' own engines) in London on 19 to 23 March 2001, and the UK has played a positive role in the preparation of the draft agreement.

Water Fluoridation

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the findings of the systematic scientific review of water fluoridation which they commissioned from the National Health Service Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York and which were reported on 6 October 2000.[HL449]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government accept the findings of the review and have asked the Medical Research Council to give advice on how existing evidence can be strengthened.

30 Jan 2001 : Column WA56

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 17 January (WA 136), in what section of the report of the systematic scientific review of water fluoridation by the National Health Service Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York is evidence to be found relating to areas where "overall health is poor", and to adults in such areas or in areas of social deprivation.[HL450]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: On page 33 of the York report reference is made to a study which showed people in lower social classes had higher levels of dental caries. There are also studies which show that overall health is poor among people in lower social classes. On page 16, there is a reference to a study (Pot 1974) which "found the porportion of adults with false teeth to be statistically significantly greater in the control (low fluoride) area compared with the fluoridated areas".

We asked the Medical Research Council to set up a working group to give advice on what further research might be required.

War Widows and Benefit Fraud

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In how many cases benefit fraud was proven against war widows in each of the last two years; how the total in each year compared with that for mainstream benefits; and whether the numbers of proven cases justify legislation on social security fraud by war widows.[HL395]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Due to the methods used to collect information, it is not possible separately to identify all cases of benefit fraud by war widows. However, since April 2000 the War Pensions Agency has recorded five cases where a war widow failed to declare that she was living with a man as his wife. No prosecutions resulted but in each case payment of war widows pension was stopped. During the last two years there were approximately 10,000 successful prosecutions per annum for mainsteam social security benefit fraud.

The Social Security Fraud Bill proposes that benefit would be sanctioned only if a person had twice been convicted by the courts for benefit fraud. War pensions have been included in the loss of benefits provisions in Clauses 6 to 12 of the Sociel Security Fraud Bill in order to protect the integrity of the Scheme.

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