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Lord Warner: My Lords, I hope I can be forgiven for saying that in my short time in office I have not read every Select Committee report, including the one to which the noble Lord has referred. It is on my list of homework to be undertaken as quickly as possible.

In terms of IT, the noble Lord will know that the Government have an ambitious strategy for improving IT in the NHS and have strengthened considerably its strategic and project management capability in that area. He is right to identify the risks. There are considerable risks in this area and they will need to be taken forward in taking forward the Government's IT strategy.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, the report will be welcomed by the genetics community. I have to express an interest as chairman of the panel that advised the Government on the background to the report, so I would say that, wouldn't I? I hope that the wider public will welcome the report which will undoubtedly help to prepare the NHS to take advantage of the enormous advances in medical genetics that will come about. One of the keys to

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success in this area will be more and better education for all doctors, especially GPs, for nurses, for genetic counsellors and for a range of other healthcare workers and above all for the public. Is my noble friend aware of how much the report's emphasis on education is welcomed by everyone involved?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I want to put on record the Government's appreciation for the work undertaken by the noble Lord in chairing the advisory panel that contributed so much to the White Paper and for his support in this area. He is right that we need to work hard to put in place the training, to give people working in the NHS the confidence to grapple with the new agenda and to feel competent and confident about handling the issues.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, will the Minister say how the Government intend to ensure that genetics knowledge is not concealed by those who seek commercially to exploit it from those who may further advance medical research by its use on the spurious grounds of seeking to protect intellectual property? That concern has been expressed at senior levels in the scientific community, not so much about practices in this country as in the United States. Will he and the Government engage in discussions internationally about ensuring the continuing availability of such genetics knowledge?

Lord Warner: My Lords, that is an issue, but it is important to remember that patents provide an incentive to innovation. Without them industry and other inventors would be less likely to undertake some significant risks involved in investment and research to bring new healthcare products to market. There is a balance to be struck. There are safeguards in the patent system—many noble Lords will know about that in the area of Crown use—which enable the NHS to use patented inventions for an appropriate fee if the patent holder is unwilling to agree a reasonable deal. There are safeguards in the provision. The noble Lord is right to identify that as an issue, but equally there are strong protections for the Government to enable knowledge to be used for the benefits of patients in the NHS.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, as a previous chairman of a local research ethics committee, I would like to make a serious point. The Statement began, presumably to warm the cockles of the hearts of some of the Members of Parliament sitting behind his right honourable friend in another place, with a highly political point about the NHS. It went on to be serious about what the Government are going to do, and I welcome everything that was said.

I suggest to the noble Lord, and through him his right honourable friends, that it seems important to concentrate, in trying to persuade the public—considering all the policy issues involved—to keep clear of controversial politics. This should be talked about as a scientific matter and as a matter of public policy in a way that everyone can accept and

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understand. It should not be linked to what we now call political spinning. If that is attempted, it will put people off the whole notion.

The Government are entering a minefield of difficulty both in policy and in creating public understanding. I am sure that if they could avoid party politics, and stick to the science, they would get on much better. It is a serious point, as I experienced at local level some years ago.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am always willing to act as a conduit between this House and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. I shall of course do so in this case. It is worth bearing in mind that my noble friend was trying to make the point that people are often concerned about these issues and whether they will be left behind. It is important to stress that the characteristics of the NHS provide reassurances that there will not be a genetic underclass as we take forward this exciting but still difficult and complex area of development in healthcare and medicine.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will be glad of this positive government statement. It coincides with the celebration of 50 years of DNA at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute next week. It is a good time to make the announcement. It is a good announcement among the many negative comments that one hears about genetic research. I hope that the Statement will put to flight many of the people who speak against it. I hope that the Minister will adumbrate further statements on behalf of Her Majesty's Government for support of genetic research and the use of genetics in medical treatment and development.

Perhaps this is not the most appropriate question for the Minister, given the medical side. Is this an indication of the Government's general support of an intention to foster genetic research in general across medicine, agriculture and horticulture, where so many of us appreciate the great value of genetic knowledge and the application of this knowledge across the whole field of life on earth?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support in this area. I do not want to stray into agriculture and horticulture, but noble Lords can assume from what we have said today that the Government fully support taking the benefits of genetic knowledge as far as possible in the interests of patients through medicine.

Water Bill [HL]

4.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report. In doing so, with the leave of the House, I draw attention to the Motion on the Order Paper, which we will take at the end of

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the Report stage, that deals with recommitment of this Bill on one particular subject, namely that of fluoridation.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 36:

    Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause—

"General provisions with respect to water
In section 6(2)(b) of the Environment Act 1995 (c. 25), at end insert "in particular the efficient use of water by all abstractors"."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of three amendments, two of ours and one of the Government's, shows how we are struggling to find the most appropriate way of enabling the Environment Agency to have a firm empowerment to require the efficient use of water. The difference between the three amendments is small, but it will perhaps help the House if I explain. The Government may then be interested to consider the best way forward. The Government seem to prefer their wording, "including the efficient use". I am worried that unless we say "in particular the efficient use", we will have watered down the spirit of what we are all trying to achieve.

Earlier, in Committee and at Report stage, noble Lords time and again came back to the importance of ensuring that the Environment Agency has this power. For the benefit of those noble Lords who have not been able to attend, I remind the House that the National Water Demand Management Centre points out that world water availability is 6,918 cubic metres per capita in general in the world. In Europe it is 8,547 cubic metres, and in Ethiopia 1,771 cubic metres. In the UK it goes down to 1,219 cubic metres and in the Thames basin just 265 cubic metres. Efficient use of water is essential with household growth and population growth. There is an important need to get this small clause absolutely right in the Bill and enable the Environment Agency to have exactly the right power.

The government amendment could lead to some confusion. It talks of "including the efficient use of those resources". It would be better to say "in particular the efficient use of resources", to emphasise that the Environment Agency has an existing duty. "Including" might imply that the duty relating to the efficient use of resources was a new one. My Amendment No. 36 is probably weaker than what the Government have come back with in that it refers to all use of water and not just abstractors' use of water. Of this group, my preferred amendment now is Amendment No. 160A, but I welcome the views of other noble Lords, and of course the Government, on the best way to proceed. I beg to move.

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