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Religiously Motivated Attacks

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): Statistics at national level for religiously motivated attacks are currently not kept centrally. The Metropolitan Police Force has begun to keep its own statistics on such attacks, following the introduction of new religiously aggravated offences in December 2001 as part of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. All police services now keep records of racist incidents in their areas, and the Home Office will be looking to encourage all forces similarly to record instances of religiously motivated incidents.

Since January 2002 the Crown Prosecution Service has had 37 cases of religiously aggravated offences referred to it for prosecution by the police.

A number of forces have dedicated liaison officers at management level (inspector or chief inspector) with a borough or local authority wide remit. These play a pivotal role, which is likely to include responsibility for reducing crimes against groups identified by, among other characteristics, ethnic, racial or religious status.

The Metropolitan Police Service holds regular meetings with representatives from many of faith groups in order to record and react, where necessary, to community concerns. In the aftermath of the events of September 11 2001 and more recently the war in Iraq, high visibility uniformed patrols were assigned to potentially vulnerable religious premises. Dialogue has been encouraged between police and faith groups at a local level, and these together with local initiatives have assisted in keeping faith crimes at a low level in what have been tense times for many faith groups.

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Military Service: Compensation Arrangements

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal and the Lord Bach on 9 April (WA 26 and WA 40–44), whether their proposal to introduce an across the board balance of probabilities standard of proof in Armed forces compensation arrangements will decrease the number of awards made under those arrangements; and, if so, whether unsuccessful claimants will be forced to apply for assistance through the civil benefits systems.[HL2730]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The first objective set for the review of Armed Forces compensation arrangements was to provide a fair deal for all who are injured or killed as a result of service, rather than to look at the particular numbers that might be eligible for compensation. The review team has proposed a balance of probabilities standard of proof—as used in the civil courts—as the best measure of whether an injury or illness was due to service in the Armed Forces. They have included provision for exceptional review where, for example, a condition emerges late or where there is a relevant change in the medical understanding of the causation of an illness. It has also recommended a completely independent channel of appeal to the Pensions Appeals Tribunal where a claimant considers that his or her case has not been properly considered by the department. Ministers are giving careful consideration to whether these proposals will address properly the particular demands of service life and we expect to announce a decision shortly.

For the current scheme and for any new scheme, there will be the normal entitlements to claim state benefits where the department decides that a condition is not due to service and where any appeal is not upheld. Under proposals for the new scheme, welfare support would be provided and could assist any unsuccessful claimant with applying for state benefits.

Iraq: Water Supply to Civilians

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it was the policy or practice of the coalition forces during the recent war in Iraq to pollute or destroy the supply of drinking water for the civilian population in Iraq.[HL3106]

Lord Bach: No.

Iraq: Depleted Uranium

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the official figures will be published of the amount of depleted uranium used in the 2003 Iraq war.[HL3134]

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Lord Bach: A total weight of around 1.92 tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition has been fired in Iraq by United Kingdom forces since the start of recent hostilities. These figures will also be published on the Ministry of Defence website at uranium.

Ordnance expended by US forces is a matter for the US authorities.

RAF Fylingdales: Early Warning Radar System

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made following their agreement to a United States request to upgrade the early warning radar system at RAF Fylingdales as part of the United States missile defence programme.[HL3322]

Lord Bach: In a Written Statement on 5 February by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary (Official Report, Commons; cols 11-12 WS) in another place, he informed the House that the Government had agreed to a US request to upgrade the early warning radar at RAF Fylingdales as part of the US missile defence programme. Since then, we have been engaged in negotiating agreements with the US intended further to develop bilateral co-operation on aspects of the US missile defence programme. The United States Secretary of Defense and my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary have today signed a Framework Memorandum of Understanding on missile defence that facilitates bilateral information exchanges on missile defence matters, establishes a top-level management structure to oversee co-operative work, and prepares the way for fair opportunities to be given to UK industry to participate in the US programme. It also contains general provisions for security, personnel and other administrative matters. Further MOUs are being negotiated covering the detailed arrangements for the upgrade of the Fylingdales radar, and setting up specific UK/US technical co-operative programmes. The details of these bilateral arrangements are confidential between the respective governments at this stage.

None of these agreements commits the UK Government to the acquisition or deployment of a missile defence system. But the Framework MOU is an important step forward that will enable us to improve our understanding of the capabilities of the US system, in order to inform any future decisions on missile defence for the UK or for Europe as a whole.

Water Fluoridation

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the advice reported to have been given recently in a letter by health and environment Ministers to the Deputy Prime Minister, that steps

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    are now necessary to facilitate new fluoridation schemes because these represent the best way of preventing dental decay, was given; whether it represents government policy; and, if so, whether it was given with or without the advice of the Chief Medical Officer; and[HL2876]

    Whether the suggestion reported to have been made recently in a letter by health and environment Ministers to the Deputy Prime Minister, that people who do not wish to receive fluoridated water through the mains supply will be able to use water filters, was made; whether it represents government policy; if so, what the approximate costs of installing and maintaining filters will be; and who will bear those costs.[HL2877]

Baroness Andrews: The Government wish to empower health communities to make well informed choices about improving oral health including the option of deciding whether to fluoridate their water. We are particularly attracted by the potential fluoridation offers for reducing inequalities in oral health. The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Dental Officer are considering the implications of the recent Medical Research Council report Water Fluoridation and Health for the development of government policy on fluoridation.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Medical Research Council took evidence into claims that fluoridated water affects the immune system, the reproductive system, child development, bone cancer and stomach complaints as part of the report released on 5 September 2002.[HL2880]

Baroness Andrews: A review by the University of York found that the evidence showed that fluoridating water helps to reduce tooth decay with no evidence of other adverse effects on general health. The report did, however, identify the need for more good quality research and the Department of Health asked the Medical Research Council (MRC) to suggest where it might be possible to strengthen the evidence base.

In its report, the MRC stated that available evidence does not suggest a link between water fluoridation and either cancer in general or any specific cancer type (including osteosarcoma, primary bone cancer), but recommended that we monitored data collected on the incidence of cancer so that any aberrant trends in populations receiving fluoridated water could be investigated.

Other claims have been made for an association between fluoride ingestion and deficiencies in the immune system, reproductive and developmental (birth) defects, and effects on the kidney and gastrointestinal tract. The MRC considered the evidence for any significant health effects to be weak and did not recommend any specific research, although it recommended we keep research in these areas under review.

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