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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I am not sure how long the processes and so forth that we spoke about earlier would take, but there will be plenty of time for all that happen. In no way should we accept the amendment.

10 p.m.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I wish to make a couple of comments on the hot copy—as I think it was described—of the amendments that have been put down by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and the noble Countess, Lady Mar.

I seek clarification from the Government. We had a good debate in our earlier discussions about whether the research that has been carried out to date was adequate. Several people made the point that the amount of research was not adequate, so I have some sympathy with this amendment.

In his contribution earlier, the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, said that a lack of evidence was not an excuse. I accept that and think that research should be undertaken. Noble Lords know that, although I spoke to the amendment moved by the Minister earlier, my question is still whether we should push ahead or not. I hope that he agrees that getting up-to-date and accurate scientific research is in everybody's interests. I hope that, even if he cannot accept this amendment, the Minister will view it in a constructive way. There are outstanding questions relating to fluoridation and I would be grateful for some explanation.

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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches certainly have sympathy with this amendment, especially with the fact that it will be difficult to conduct a proper public consultation and debate on whether people want their water to be fluoridated without receiving the evidence. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the spirit of this amendment and be as positive as they can.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, I agree entirely that the research would be very helpful and we should ensure that it goes ahead. However, I am not sure that we should delay any longer, because I suspect that such research would take rather a long time to complete. Furthermore, we will never have enough research to convince everybody. That is one of the problems. The question is whether we have enough research evidence to go ahead now, and I believe that we do.

Lord Warner: My Lords, we are certainly not anti-science, as I hoped I indicated in earlier stages of our debate. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary. As I thought I had made clear earlier, we have asked the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer to consider the implications for government policy on fluoridation of the MRC report mentioned in the scientific briefing paper. In fact, on their recommendation, we have already commissioned a research study on the absorption of fluoride and expect the CMO and the CDO to recommend further research. However, there is a lot in what my noble friend Lord Turnberg has just said.

I repeat the assurances that I have already given to the House. We will not enable strategic health authorities to engage in any consultation before we have the reports from the CMO and the CDO and the results of the research on absorption that I mentioned.

I remind noble Lords that we cannot lay any regulations on the consultation process before the Water Bill has completed its passage in November at the earliest—and at the rate at which we are proceeding today, who knows? As I said, we expect the CMO's report and the research report on absorption by then. I hope that noble Lords will accept the assurances that I have given. We do not believe that this amendment is necessary.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Noble Lords will know that I have every reason to be sceptical about the results of scientific reports. I have had enough experience over the past 10 years with organophosphates not to believe everything that I am told. On organophosphates, I was proved right. I sincerely hope that that is not the case with fluoride.

In view of the assurances that the noble Lord gave me about the length of time—I hope that my noble friend will agree with me—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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10.5 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Water Bill [HL], have consented to place their prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 1:


    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

"Water conservation

WATER CONSERVATION DUTY FOR ALL PUBLIC BODIES
It is the duty of—
(a) any Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (c. 26);
(b) any government department;
(c) the National Assembly for Wales;
(d) a person holding office—
(i) under the Crown;
(ii) created or continued in existence by a public general Act of Parliament; or
(iii) the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament;
(iv) a statutory undertaker (meaning the persons referred to in section 262(1), (3) and (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8)); and
(v) any other public body of any description;
in carrying out his or its functions, to have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of furthering the conservation of water."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I note that Amendment No. 1, which would place a water conservation duty on all public bodies, has been met almost totally, I think, by the government amendment that is grouped with it, Amendment No. 41. For that, I thank the Minister warmly. I am sure that it was hard work getting the agreement of all departments to it. It fulfils Defra's role of getting sustainability throughout government departments. It furthers that purpose.

I warmly welcome the government amendment, but I have one slight concern that, I am sure, the Minister will answer. In Amendment No. 41, what does the phrase "where relevant" mean? I presume that, wherever water is supplied, conservation will be relevant. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I welcome what the noble Baroness said. The phrase "where relevant" relates to some of the other activities of public bodies that are not particularly relevant to the issue of resources and conservation. In all areas—administrative effort and so on—in which it is relevant, Amendment No. 41 will cover it.

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The amendment will place an obligation on all public authorities, not only in their own activities but in activities relating to other people—for example, planning, which we will come to later. The amendment meets the objectives that the noble Baroness and others identified in previous debates. I hope that, when we come to it, we will get support for Amendment No. 41.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. It gives me great pleasure to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Existing impounding works]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 5, line 32, leave out "otherwise" and insert "in relation to England"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we return to the issue that I raised earlier. The amendment was tabled to draw to the Minister's attention the statement that he made on Report, when he said:


    "while considering the totality of the territorial definitions, we have found that we may need to table our own amendments on other issues, including, for example, the fact that the Scilly Isles have been left out".—[Official Report, 12/6/03; col. 363.]

Will the Minister tell us what is happening on that front and why there does not seem to be a relevant government amendment? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right. I must hold up my hands. The discussions with the devolved administrations and others, to which I referred, on how we should put it in the Bill have not yet been completed. As the main point of the previous discussion is raised in the amendment, I am prepared to accept the amendment, on the strict understanding that we have to tidy it up in another place.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. It seems such a small point, but it is important. With that assurance, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Rights to abstract small quantities]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 3:


    Page 8, leave out lines 16 to 35.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. They all relate to the system of protected rights and are technical or consequential in nature. A protected right is a device that operates to protect existing abstractors against later licensed abstractors and is touched on in a number of other amendments. Essentially, they are clarification or consequences thereof. I shall happily respond to any questions on the individual amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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