5 Jul 2010

Daily Echo - What happened to the fluoride debate pledge?

HAMPSHIRE: Top Tories accused of abandoning fluoride fight after using it to win votes
What happened to the fluoride debate pledge?
By Jon Reeve
jon. reeve @ dailyecho.co.uk
THE Government has been accused of abandoning the campaign to stop the fluoridation of Hampshire water supplies.
High profile Tories had pledged before the election to step in to ensure the controversial scheme is not imposed in the face of public opposition. But they have now admitted they have no plans to change the law on how the chemical is introduced.
Anti-fluoride campaigners say they fear some Conservatives may have been using the subject purely to win votes in hotly-contested Hampshire seats.
The setback comes after Tory New Forest Bast MP Julian Lewis, who has consistently campaigned against fluoridation, asked for confirmation that promises from then shadow health ministers will go ahead.
Almost 200,000 homes in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams are to have fluoridated tap water, under a scheme approved by South Central Strategic Health Authority last year. But during a public consultation, in which 10,000 people gave their views, 72 per cent of those from the affected area said they opposed the plans.
In January, the now health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Daily Echo he believed the SHA's consultation, which is now the subject of a High Court legal challenge, was "not real".
And Prime Minister David Cameron told this paper: "I have always taken the view that this is something that should be decided locally and I don't believe in compulsory fluoridation of water." But responding to Dr Lewis' question in Parliament, leader of the House Sir George Young said there are "no plans at this stage" to change the law surrounding fluoride being added to water supplies.
He said: "I would mislead my honourable friend if I said we were planning to do anything in the short term to change the legislative framework in which the decisions are made."
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman Stephen Peckham said he had been "disappointed" by the coalition's lack of action. He said: "You question whether people have been using the entire fluoridation campaign to garner votes -were they just saying it for that purpose?
"We were looking for a more positive response. "Before the election the shadow minister was very clear that whilst it would not be one of their priorities, it was definitely something that they would look at. "I think we would expect to see some movement, and that the department should be looking at this." Dr Lewis also said he was disappointed, but added that he has continued to press Mr Lansley to take action.
He said: "I shall be reminding the secretary of state for health of the excellent pledge from his spokesman that it's vital the people would have to agree before any decision is taken. "I expect that to be upheld, regardless of the outcome of the judicial review. "I think there's a loophole in the law that needs to be closed. I hope that what we're doing in Southampton will, ultimately, lead to the closure of that loophole that allows unelected and undemocratic organisations like strategic health authorities to say they've taken account that everyone disagrees with them, but they're going to carry on regardless.".

The scheme is on hold for legal challenge

THE scheme to fluoridate tap-water supplies in Hampshire is currently on hold because of a legal challenge against the plans.
A High Court judge will examine claims South Central Strategic Health Authority should not have ignored public opinion when it decided to approve fluoridation last year.
In November the court will hear an appeal from lawyers for Southampton
resident Geraldine Milner, fighting a decision not to allow a secondary argument that the SHA didnt properly look at all the evidence surrounding the process. Once the appeal has been completed, the full judicial review itself can then be held. But because of a backlog in the legal system that might not happen until next year, so even if the SHA wins the legal case it's unlikely the scheme , would be in place before the summer Of 2012.
And the legal bid is just one of the attempts to stop fluoridation.
Hampshire Against Fluoridation last year delivered a 15,300-name petition to then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, urging him to force the SHA to change its mind. Earlier this month, Hampshire County Council leader Ken Thornber wrote new Health Secretary Andrew L asking him to intervene.
Several Hampshire MPs have said fluoridation should be scrapped or postponed because of public opposition, while there have also calls, backed by this paper, that legally-binding referendum should be held as the only way of giving people the final say.

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