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Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: There is no assay capable of measuring long-term exposure to fluoride, although bone fluoride levels are the most relevant measure of accumulation in the target organ. Studies of

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bone structure, bone fluoride content, radiographic findings, and musculoskeletal symptoms, in relation to indices of occupational and dietary exposure to fluoride, are summarised in the 1976 report Fluoride, Teeth and Health from the Royal College of Physicians of London, copies of which are available in the Library. In the United Kingdom, there has been only one report of probable non-occupational clinical skeletal fluorosis (in 1966); the source of this man's fluoride exposure could not be established.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Jay of Paddington on 23 March (WA 234), whether their assumption that crippling skeletal fluorosis is typically associated with fluoride intakes of 20-80 mg daily for 10-20 years implies that a daily intake from all sources of 3 mg will constitute a probable health risk within a period of 70 years.[HL1362]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: No. Studies of the fluoride content and structure of bone, and radiological surveys, in communities in the United Kingdom and United States of America have not demonstrated clinical skeletal fluorosis even when fluoride levels occurring naturally in drinking-water were several times that used in optimal fluoridation of the water supply.

Cadet Units

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy to encourage the development of new cadet force detachments.[HL1391]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): In recognising the contribution made by the cadet organisations to both our military and our civilian communities, the Government's policy remains that all requests to establish new Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force or Air Training Corps units will be met positively. The military authorities have in place effective mechanisms for encouraging and assisting those within the civilian communities who wish to open new units. Similarly, in respect of the Combined Cadet Force, requests from heads to establish contingents within schools, whether in the private, state or independent sectors, will invariably receive the maximum encouragement and support.

Cadet Force strengths at 31 March 1997 were as follows:

    Sea Cadet Corps

    15,161 cadets in 399 units

    Army Cadet Force

    39,827 cadets in 1,696 detachments

    Air Training Corps

    33,000 cadets in 1,006 squadrons

    Combined Cadet Force

    39,386 cadets in 241 schools

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Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have made on the future of the former Royal Yacht "Britannia".[HL1473]

Lord Gilbert: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has decided that "Britannia" should be preserved in Edinburgh, in the Port of Leith. Subject to a satisfactory conclusion to negotiations, the former Royal Yacht will be sold to an independent charitable trust being promoted by Forth Ports plc. The trust will take responsibility for the preservation of "Britannia", and for running the yacht as a visitor attraction and as a venue for conferences and other functions. Both Forth Ports and the Manchester Ship Canal Company offered very good ideas; either would have allowed "Britannia" to be preserved successfully and with dignity. It has been a difficult choice, but a good outcome for "Britannia". We are grateful to both for having put forward such excellent proposals.

"Britannia" is expected to leave Portsmouth in the next few weeks, and, following essential work to adapt her to her new role, will be open to the public later this year.

NATO: Public Information

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make available further information on NATO and NATO enlargement.[HL1474]

Lord Gilbert: The Government have undertaken to provide time for debates in both Houses on the proposed accession to NATO of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland before they ratify the accession protocols, which have today been laid before the House, together with explanatory memoranda. The Government have, as always, co-operated fully with the Defence Select Committee in another place in its enquiry on NATO enlargement and given it access to appropriate documents. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made a statement on 9 July 1997 on the outcome of the Madrid NATO Summit and the Government have responded regularly to questions on this topic. In addition, a briefing note on the studies of the costs of NATO enlargement was placed in the Library of the House last month, and the Ministry of Defence is today publishing documents and information on NATO and NATO enlargement on its World Wide Web site at Copies of these Internet pages are also available from today in the Library of the House.

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Reservists: Call-out Order

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to continue to call out reservists to support military operations.[HL1475]

Lord Gilbert: A new call-out order has been made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996. This will allow us to continue calling out members of the reserve forces in support of operations in Yugoslavia and in the region of Iraq. The order will cease to have effect on 31 March 1999. All reservists called out are volunteers.

Art Market: VAT and Droit de Suite

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the debate on 10 December 1997 (H.L. Deb., col. 196) and in the light of the European Union's forthcoming framework proposal to boost job creation in the arts sector, what progress they are making to prevent the European Union's imposition of increased VAT and droit de suite tax on the British international art market; and what is their estimate of British jobs and prosperity which may be lost if those taxes are imposed.[HL1310]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The European Commission has recently begun the process of reviewing the effects of the Seventh VAT Directive on the international competitiveness of the Community art markets. Customs and Excise have already met Commission officials to discuss the handling and scope of that review, and will be closely involved with it to ensure that the position of the UK's fine art market is properly represented. They will be maintaining close liaison with the British Art Market Federation and with other government departments over its progress.

So far as droit de suite is concerned, the Government consider the Commission's proposal for a directive to be ill-considered and damaging to international competitiveness, and will continue to argue robustly against it in negotiations.

There are no estimates of the combined effect. However, Department of Trade and Industry studies of droite de suite estimate that if all UK sales of works of art to which the right would apply were to be diverted elsewhere, British auctioneers and dealers would lose up to £68 million per annum in fees and up to 5,000 jobs.

Internal Market Council, 30 March

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What topics were discussed at the EU Ministerial Council on the Internal Market on 30 March and what matters were voted upon.[HL1472]

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Lord Simon of Highbury: I chaired the Internal Market Council in Brussels on 30 March. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs occupied the UK seat.

The Council held a debate on three key issues of the Single Market Action Plan; implementation of the plan, the state of transposition, application and effective implementation of internal market legislation, and the functioning of the principle of mutual recognition, on which it agreed formal conclusions. The Council also assessed progress on the initiative "Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market" (SLIM) and endorsed Commission proposals to establish Business Test Panels through which business will be consulted about selected new EU draft legislation.

The Council held an extensive exchange of views on the proposal for a regulation creating a Commission intervention mechanism for the elimination of certain obstacles to trade. The Council expressed its resolve to find, urgently, an effective solution to the problem.

The Council took note of the progress achieved on the draft regulation on the statute for a European Company and gave its support to continuing work along the present lines.

The Council heard presentations from the Commission on the proposed directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society, the Communication on Public Procurement, the Communication on Commercial Communications, and The Year 2000 Computer Problem.

The Council took note of the Memorandum Creating a European Community and international environment to develop electronic commerce presented by the French delegation.

No voting took place at this Council.

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