THE continuing battle over the future of fluoridation in Hampshire will go before Parliament in a bid to force a decision on the controversial scheme once and for all.
At a public meeting in Southampton, county MP Julian Lewis said he would speak on the issue in the House of Commons, and call on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene.
As well as Mr Lewis, the meeting heard from county council leader Roy Perry, city council health chief Dave Shields, county councillor David Harrison and South East MEP Keith Taylor, as well as a number of residents and anti-fluoride campaigners.
As revealed in the Daily Echo last week, the fate of the scheme to add chemical to the tap water of 200,000 households in Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Rownhams and Netley, is currently the subject of a complex legal wrangle.
Addressing the meeting, Cllr Perry reiterated that the county council stood by the result of a vote in 2008, in which councillors vowed to reject fluoridation.
He said the fate of the scheme was still in the balance, with county lawyers believing it does not even exist due to a mix-up before the Strategic Health Authority was abolished last year, but added: “The moment Public Health England say they intend to proceed, that is when I call all of the county council lawyers into my office and ask them how we prevent this by law.”
Conservative MP for New Forest East Mr Lewis joined Cllr Perry said in airing his frustration at PHE, saying the body’s actions in trying to force through the scheme against the will of residents was “despicable” accusing them of “scrabbling around” trying to find “legal trickery” to enable them to push ahead with the scheme.
Cllr Shields said Southampton City Council’s current position was one of opposition, although he was personally convinced of the benefits of fluoridation.
Calling for a “more measured debate” on the subject, he said organisations such as the British Medical Organisation and local NHS trusts supported the use of fluoride in tap water.
He told the meeting: “The proposal to put fluoride into the water does not constitute poisoning.
“We need to look at the right scheme which is safe. I haven’t seen anything credible saying there is anything detrimental in putting fluoride in the water.”
Cllr Shields supports city council leader and party colleague Simon Letts, who said the public should decide on whether fluoride was added to water in the city, while fellow Labour city councillor Andrew Pope told the meeting: “It’s the peoples’ water – so the people should decide”, suggesting a “citizens’ jury” of a representative group of residents could be used.
However Green Party MP Mr Taylor called for more “leadership” from the city council about the issue, saying “Now is the time for some definite action”.
Cllr Shields was heckled several times by campaigners who claimed the chemical is a “poison” and could lead to cancer – adding that toxicology tests into the effects of fluoride have never taken place.