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Iraq: Treatment of Prisoners

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The practice of temporarily obscuring the vision of an apprehended person is used for security reasons, for example, to prevent those persons who have been apprehended from recognising locations. The MoD does not believe that using hoods in such circumstances is illegal. None the less direction was given in September 2003 that UK forces should completely cease the practice and that blindfolds should be used instead.

Army Recruitment

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: There is no ban on recruitment and no one expressing a wish to join the Army is turned away. Some individuals who have successfully passed through the recruit selection process may be given a date to commence their phase one (basic) training later in the year. This practice, which has been introduced as an expedient to help to maintain balance in Army manpower numbers, is likely to continue until October.

Water Fluoridation

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The School of Dental Sciences at the University of Newcastle has today announced the results of a study comparing the bioavailability (absorption) of fluoride in water in which fluoride occurs naturally with artificially fluoridated water. The report of the study, copies of which have been placed in the Library, shows that the researchers found no evidence for any differences between the absorption of fluoride ingested in artificially fluoridated drinking water and in drinking water in which the fluoride is present naturally at fluoride concentrations close to one part per million. Nor did they find any evidence for difference between the absorption of fluoride from hard and soft waters at these fluoride concentrations.

These findings provide further reassurance of the safety of fluoridated water. All water contains some fluoride and about half a million people in an area stretching from Hartlepool in the north-east to Essex receive naturally fluoridated water at concentrations close to the one part per million level at which water is artificially fluoridated. No health effects, other than enhanced resistance to tooth decay, have been detected in residents of this naturally fluoridated area.

In the report Water Fluoridation and Health, published in September 2002, the Medical Research Council made the investigation of the bioavailability of fluoride its first priority for further research. With the favourable outcome of this study the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Dental Officer have been able to complete their advice on the implications of the MRC report for policy on fluoridation.

The advice confirms that government should continue to support research to strengthen the evidence base on the benefits to oral health and safety of fluoridation. In this connection CMO/CDO recommend that the research community is consulted about:

Further research on fluoridation would need to be considered against other priority calls on the Department of Health's research and development budget.

The favourable outcome to the research on bioavailability has also enabled us to take decisions on the management of research information on fluoridation. The department already funds the National Primary Care Research and Development
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Centre at Manchester University. The oral health unit, which has been established within the centre, will be responsible for maintaining a national information base on research studies on fluoridation taking account of the report of the systematic review of water fluoridation carried out by York University. The unit is associated with the Cochrane Oral Health Centre which is also sited at the University of Manchester.

The function of the British Fluoridation Society is now to promote the benefits of the fluoridation of water in reducing tooth decay. To this end we have allocated £85,000 to the society in 2003–04 and have committed £87,000 for 2004–05.

Permanent Vegetative State

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Warner: The term permanent vegetative state (PVS) is a well established medical diagnostic term with clear criteria and definitions set out in guidance from the Royal College of Physicians and internationally recognised bodies. When PVS was first described, there was some uncertainty on how to diagnose the condition. There were some cases of people who it was thought could be in PVS and who did recover. Following analysis of people who have and who have not recovered, diagnosis of PVS is more certain.

Union Flag: Armagh Courthouse

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The flying of flags on courthouses in Northern Ireland is regulated by Flags Regulations (NI) 2000 as amended by the Flags Regulations (NI) Amendment 2002. The Northern Ireland Court Service issues instructions to court security officers when the Union flag should be flown. The Union flag was not flown at Armagh courthouse on 12 June 2004 due to an administrative oversight.

Hyde Park

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The area that has been fenced off covers 14.7 hectares.

The enclosed area will not be completely closed to the public except on concert days. From 28 June until 5 July the fencing at the Marble Arch end of the site will be removed, opening half the site to the public. From 5 July the site will return to its current size until 13 July, when it will be reduced by one-third until the final concert on 15 July and it is expected to have been completely removed by 21 July. One footpath across the site will be kept throughout that period open except on concert days.

The Royal Parks will receive in excess of £1.1 million from concerts in Hyde Park this summer.

Contractors building the concert site come from all over the country. They are allowed to park on North Carriage Drive because it is close to the site they work on and there is nowhere else they can park within reasonable distance. Allowing them to park close to the site reduces the site construction period and consequently disruption to park users and avoids the need to take parking spaces out of public use.

No alternative route has been signposted and cyclists travelling from east to west will be able to continue on the Marble Arch gyratory system, leaving at the next exit and travelling along Bayswater Road, which runs parallel to North Carriage Drive.

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