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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we agree with my noble friend that fluoridation is a very cost-effective and

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clinically effective way of preventing tooth decay. That is especially true in children, but it also has long-term effects in adults. We also believe that it is a matter for local decision. Legislation is already in place to enable water companies to fluoridate at the request of health authorities once they have consulted with the general public. We encourage water companies to consider such requests very carefully.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, before the water authority took this action were the people in the area receiving fluoridation? If so, is it not high-handed for the water authority to withdraw such a measure, which is a proven health guard for children's teeth on a massive scale?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I understand that Northumbrian Water is an amalgamation of previous water boards and that parts of the area which it now covers were receiving and continue to receive fluoridated water. However, the areas which were not previously fluoridated remain that way, which is a decision of the water company.

Lord Elliott of Morpeth: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the three water companies in north- east England, which are now joined together as Northumbrian Water, have consistently over many years accepted the guidance of health authorities in this regard and that fluoridation has always been a highly controversial subject? The problem for the companies is that they must make the final decision and, as this is a social rather than a business issue, they strongly believe that legislation needs to be altered. Is my noble friend aware of the recent discussions between the Water Companies Association, the Fluoridation Society and the British Dental Association, all of which agreed that there should be legislative change?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for clarifying the situation as regards Northumbrian Water. We believe that the legislation is adequate. We understand that between water authorities there is some difference in regard to its interpretation and the department has prepared guidance which is almost ready to be circulated. It is still in draft form and we have consulted widely on it. We hope to circulate it in the spring.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal: My Lords, as honorary president of the Fluoridation Society--I receive no emoluments--I am disturbed by the Minister's interpretation of the Water Act. Is the Minister aware that the Act was amended to make it perfectly clear that if the health authorities do their work correctly--that is, get in touch with all the persons concerned, have a public meeting at which fluoridation is agreed, and then ask the water authorities for that to be done--fluoridation can be put into operation and the water companies cannot say, "No, we are not playing the game"? It seems strange that the Government do not know whether they are coming or going.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that the Government are definitely

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coming. She has clearly stated the situation as she sees it as honorary president of the Fluoridation Society. It is a matter for local decision-making and we believe that Northumbrian Water has acted within its powers. However, we believe that there is room for further clarification and that is why we shall be publishing a circular in the spring.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, her time being limited, did not of course mention that Birmingham has had fluoridated water for longer than any other area of the country and has by far the best dental health in the country. Has my noble friend seen the press release on this subject which was put out by Northumbrian Water? In that it gives its doubt about the legality as its reason for refusal. Following the lengthy Strathclyde case, it was made plain that there was no clear right to put fluoride in the water. For that reason, in 1985 the Fluoride Act was passed by Parliament. Therefore, is it not wrong for the water authority to make a commercial decision--it is quite entitled to make a decision on such grounds--but then to hide behind the test of possible legal doubt when Parliament has passed an Act to permit the measure?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I understand that Northumbrian Water acted within its powers. It also acknowledged that fluoridation improves dental health. However, if the health authorities are concerned that the decision was unreasonable they have recourse to the courts.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, it is good news that the Department of Health will be issuing further guidance on the matter. However, can the noble Baroness today give a little more clarification to local health authorities? Are the Government prepared to allow the situation which appears to have developed in Northumbria and elsewhere throughout the country, in which local health authorities are spending hard-pressed, much valued NHS resources on local consultation as regards fluoridation, only then to be told by privatised water companies that that cannot go ahead? There appears to be a strange balance of priorities.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the situation is clear with regard to the Act. As I have said, as with a lot of legislation, people choose to interpret it differently. The guidance which will be issued in the spring will set the matter clear once and for all.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that all the water from natural sources in this country contains fluoride--it is a natural ingredient--and that the optimum percentage already exists in certain areas? Does she agree that if the matter is left to individuals to ingest fluoride they can take far too much, resulting in, for example, discolouration of the teeth?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, as my noble friend said, fluoride is a natural product in some water. However, the intention of the Act is to ensure that where

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there is not sufficient to prevent dental caries more can be added. Mottling occurs when fluoride is at a much higher level. Although that is not harmful it is certainly found to be unattractive. I believe there is nothing further to say.

Architects Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

It consolidates the law relating to architects which dates back to two pre-war Acts which established a system of registration of architects and prohibited use of the title "architect" by unregistered persons. Those Acts have since been amended both by primary legislation and by Orders in Council implementing the EC directive on architects, providing for the recognition of architects qualified in other EC states.

Most recently, a number of reforms were carried into law last Session as Part III of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. The main purpose of the changes to the law relating to architects made by that Act was to rename and revise the composition of the Architects' Registration Council of the United Kingdom, the body responsible for the registration of architects, and to modernise the arrangements for disciplining registered architects. The changes were effected by large-scale textual amendment of the pre-war Acts, adding to the desirability of the present consolidation. The relevant professional bodies have been consulted about the Bill, and it has been welcomed by the Architects' Registration Council of the United Kingdom and by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In common with the two following consolidation Bills, this Bill will be referred in the usual way to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills if your Lordships are content to give it a Second Reading. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in thanking the draftsmen of all three Bills for continuing their important work in preparing consolidation Bills. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Lieutenancies Bill [H.L.]

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Your Lordships will be aware that Her Majesty appoints a lord lieutenant for each county in England and Wales or area in Scotland. The lord lieutenant appoints deputy lieutenants. Her Majesty may also appoint one or more "lieutenants" for each county or area. The lord lieutenant, lieutenant and deputy lieutenants of a county or area perform a number of statutory and non-statutory functions in the area for

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which they are appointed. The system is slightly different in the City of London and in certain cities in Scotland.

This Bill consolidates provisions in the Reserve Forces Act 1980 relating to the lieutenancies. Those provisions, themselves a consolidation of numerous earlier enactments dating back to 1662, have been heavily amended since 1994 in relation to local government reorganisation. Further amendments to the 1980 Act are made by Schedule 6 to the Reserve Forces Act 1996, and this consolidation is therefore a timely one.

As lords lieutenants now have relatively few functions relating to defence, it is thought more appropriate for the law relating to them to be separated out from the legislation governing the reserve forces. The Bill contains all the general statutory provisions relating to the appointment, jurisdiction and functions of lord lieutenants, lieutenants and deputy lieutenants in Great Britain. It does not include a few remaining provisions conferring specific functions on lord lieutenants or deputy lieutenants; these are best left in their existing statutory context. Most of the functions of lord lieutenants and deputy lieutenants are now non-statutory.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. (The Lord Chancellor.)

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