PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has been accused of making empty promises to the people of Southampton over plans to fluoridate their tap water.
Campaigners spoke out after Baroness Thornton, Labour’s health spokesman in the House of Lords, said the Government “continues to support” the controversial scheme.
During a visit to Southampton last year Mr Brown said the people of Southampton should decide if fluoride should be added to drinking water.
The city’s two MPs, John Denham and Dr Alan Whitehead, have called for the project to be shelved in the face of massive opposition.
But Baroness Thornton told the Lords that the number of children who needed general anaesthetic for tooth extractions remained unacceptably high.
She added: “We continue to support South Central Strategic Health Authority’s decision to fluoridate a large part of Southampton and parts of southwest Hampshire.”
New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis, a leading anti-fluoride campaigner, said: “The Government has once again shown its true colours.
“The statement made by Gordon Brown in Southampton last year was a meaningless pledge.
“The Government has got a completely closed mind on this.
They’re hell-bent on fluoridation and always have been. They’re not listening to the people – or their elected representatives.”
But Mr Denham attempted to play down the remarks made by Baroness Thornton, describing them as “not particularly significant”.
He added: “The Government supports in principle the fluoridation of water but believes decisions should be taken at a local level.
“I don’t believe that fluoridation should go ahead unless there is public support for doing so.”
Plans to add fluoride to tap water in two-thirds of Southampton, plus parts of Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams are the subject of a judicial review.
Later this year the High Court is expected to consider a complaint that the health authority should not have approved the scheme last February because of public opposition.
More than 10,000 people took part in a public consultation exercise, with nearly three-quarters of those living in the areas to be fluoridated saying they were against the project.
In a separate phone poll 38 per cent opposed fluoridation compared to 32 per cent who voiced their backing.
However, the majority of Southampton city councillors supported the scheme when the authority held a free vote on the issue.
Pressure group Hampshire Against Fluoride is encouraging voters to support only anti-fluoride candidates in this year’s local and Parliamentary elections.
The Daily Echo has backed calls for a referendum on the fluoride issue.