THE long-running battle over the future of fluoridation in Hampshire will go before Parliament in a bid to decide the fate of the controversial scheme once and for all.
At a public meeting in Southampton on Saturday, New Forest East MP Dr 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, Southampton 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.
The fate of the scheme to add fluoride to the tap water of 200,000 households in Southampton, Rownhams, Eastleigh, Totton, and Netley, is currently the subject of a complex legal wrangle.
Addressing the meeting, Roy Perry reiterated that the county council stood by the result of a 2008 vote in 2008, in which councillors rejected 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.
However, he added: “The moment Public Health England (PHE) 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 Mrr Perry in airing his frustration with PHE, saying the body’s bid to force through the scheme against the will of residents was “despicable”, and he accused them of “scrabbling around” trying to find “legal trickery” to to push ahead with the scheme.
Mr 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.”
Labour city councillor Andrew Pope told the meeting: “It’s the people’s water – so the people should decide”, suggesting a “citizens’ jury” of a representative group of residents could be used.