11 Jun 2009

Daily Echo Westminster View

Fluoride issue is now about democracy
By Romsey MP Sandra Giddley
Earlier this week I joined campaigners from Hampshire Against Fluoridation to present a petition to 10 Downing Street. The petition had been signed by approximately 15,000 people. I collected some of the signatures and what was interesting was that some people who signed were not necessarily anti fluoridation but strongly objected to the way that the decision makers rode roughshod over the wishes of the local people.
So, I am pleased to witness the late conversion to the cause of John Denham and Alan Whitehead. John outlined his position earlier this week in the Echo and Alan attended the Westminster meeting which followed the presentation of the petition. He was clear that he was not opposed to fluoride but supported John Denham's call for a hold on the procedure because of concerns about the consultation.
So we now have a situation in which the majority of people who responded to the consultation objected to fluoridation and all but one of the local councils objected to the proposals. With the latest conversions to the cause we also have a situation in which MPs of all political parties have raised serious concerns about the biased nature of the consultation. Maybe, like me, you are wondering where the democratic processes are in all of this?
National significance
Now, this may seem like a relatively local issue but what is happening in Southampton actually has national significance because Southampton is the first area in which fluoridation has been proposed under relatively new Government legislation. Health Trusts all around the country are carefully watching what is happening in Southampton. If all goes smoothly here then it is only a matter of time before a large number of other areas of the country have fluoride added to their drinking water whether the people want it or not.
The law is clear. It states that there should be due regard to public opinion unless there is overwhelming scientific evidence against that opinion. The trouble is that both sides cherry pick the papers that best suit their argument and it's hard to access unbiased, dispassionate material of high quality.
The review should have been conducted by a neutral third party, such as the authors of the independent York review, and I personally would like to see the consultation rerun in this way. Meanwhile, we are all trying everything we can think of to challenge the decision. This is no longer just about teeth - it's about democracy.

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