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in the third session of the fifty-second parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the seventh day of may in the forty-sixth year of the reign of HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II


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House of Lords

Monday, 13th November 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank: Assistance

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are now their priorities for humanitarian and development assistance, both bilateral and multilateral, for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the UK's priority is to continue support for building a Palestinian nation based on economic and social development that benefits the poor. We are providing humanitarian assistance through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In this extremely difficult situation we must be careful not to support terrorist action either directly or indirectly. Nevertheless, does my noble friend agree that any lasting strategic solution in the Middle East will be based upon justice? Justice has the dimension not only of human rights but also of economic and social opportunity. Therefore, if we are serious about a lasting solution we cannot give too much priority to economic and social support for the Palestinian people.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that we must look for a lasting peace in the region. The United Kingdom Government are committed to that. We are indeed committed to

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ensuring that that peace is based on justice, human rights, and economic and social development. We believe that they go hand in hand.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I realise that no development initiatives will have success while there is no ceasefire, but will the Minister say what efforts are being made to bring forward the peace process? Did President Arafat's visit have any positive outcome?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are committed to working towards a lasting peace. In doing so, we are working with our EU partners and the US government, as well as having discussions with those in the region. As the noble Lord said, the Prime Minister recently met with Chairman Arafat. It was agreed that, if possible, the UK would give additional support to the process. It was a positive meeting. A meeting was also held recently in the United States. I do not yet have details of the outcome of that meeting.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, the Minister has already touched on this point. Is not one of the best ways to ensure the resolution of the security concerns of the state of Israel to address the economic disparity between the Israelis and the Palestinians? What specific measures are the Government undertaking to resolve that?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, in our work for the Palestinian poor, we are focusing on a range of issues including health and education. The noble Viscount is right: there is an economic disparity between Palestine and Israel. Clearly, we want to address that through our development assistance programme. We shall continue to make that long-term commitment.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, although I fully support the plea of my noble friend Lord Judd for maximum help to legitimate charities and causes of the Palestinian authority, can the Minister be sure that the money and resources provided are used properly? Is that supervised? In particular, are the allegations

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correct that when schools funded at least partially by us were closed for security reasons, the children went from those schools to be trained in riot tactics--many of them to be in the front line of the riots?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, there was an allegation about these matters in the News of the World on, I think, 5th November. There is no substance in those allegations. There has been no misuse of funds provided by the British Government. The Palestinian authority closed all its schools, colleges and universities from 29th September until 7th October for security reasons. Schools operated by the United Nations Relief Works Agency were closed for the same period. I understand that some establishments remain closed but for operational reasons.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government feel a certain concern about the history of these events, in that the Jewish state welcomed millions of immigrants from Morocco, Iraq and Egypt? One can see the synagogue in Alexandria which is now empty whereas the Arab states kept them as a running sore. Have the Government given thought to that matter?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord's question is somewhat wide of the Question that we are debating. However, it is important that we look forward. In seeking to bring about a long-term peace in the region, it is important that we do not speak in intemperate terms but try to work together as much as possible for a lasting peace.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, does the Minister believe that development assistance is feasible as long as the violence continues? Is my noble friend aware that the very industrial zones set up to provide economic growth and development have been attacked? Surely those acts will put off inward investment.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have continued to provide development assistance to Palestine and West Gaza principally for health and education projects. However, given some of the recent troubles, we have also had to provide humanitarian assistance to the region. The economic impact on the region of the recent crises reinforces the importance of supporting the current peace process.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, one problem in areas of conflict throughout the world is the tragic effect on the mental health of many of the inhabitants; USAID and other charities recognise the long-term seriousness and importance of that. How far has the Department for International Development progressed with the requested support for the Gaza community mental health programme?

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Baroness Amos: My Lords, as I have said before, we have supported a number of health and education projects. I shall write to the noble Baroness about her specific question on mental health assistance and I shall put a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

NHS Dental Strategy

2.44 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

What additional resources they are devoting to the implementation of their dental strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the dental strategy commits up to £100 million to improving NHS dental services, as outlined in the strategy.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The intention of providing access to NHS dentists for all by September 2001 is clearly laudable, but will not the bulk of that £100 million come from savings to be made in the existing system? Do we not need another 1,800 dentists before there is even a chance of achieving that objective?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, general dental services expenditure has risen in real terms since 1996-97. A lot of the £100 million will be used specifically to improve access for NHS patients. As the noble Lord has suggested, we are determined to ensure that we meet the access pledge by September next year. There are now 17,700 dentists working in the GDS, which is 2,200 up on the 1992 figure and 1,300 up on the 1997 figure.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, what provision is there for emergency dental treatment on a Sunday in the NHS? On Sunday a week ago, a friend of mine was sent by her doctor to the Acorn dental surgery in Slough for the extraction of one tooth. The surgery said that it would not do it unless she paid £267 in cash. Another friend of mine ended up paying with five cheques, because that was all that the surgery would accept. What does the new dental strategy do for emergency cases?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I hope that we shall do a lot better than that. We recognise that the current availability of emergency dental services is patchy throughout the country. Members of the public have sometimes found it difficult to obtain information about where to go for emergency treatment. One of our key aims is to ensure that health authorities enable the public to have access to effective emergency dental services. We shall ensure that NHS

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Direct has the information for that by next year. We also want to ensure that any charges made are reasonable.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, are the Government satisfied that fluoridation is the most exhaustively tested public health measure that the world has ever known? What additional resources will be devoted to it as part of the strategy?

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