A TORY Government would insist on public backing for fluoride being added to Hampshire water supplies, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Conservative health chiefs have confirmed the public should have to give their approval for any compulsory fluoridation scheme to be implemented.
They plan to hold of review of the much criticised existing consultation process in which health chiefs gave the go ahead for fluoride to be added to the tap water of almost 200,000 homes in and around Southampton. It could result in a change in the law, possibly requiring a local vote.
The Daily Echo has backed calls for a referendum on the plans, after 72 per cent of the 10,000 respondents to last year’s consultation who live in the affected areas said they did not want fluoride in their water.
Since unelected bosses of the South Central Strategic Health Authority approved the scheme in a bid to improve poor dental health among children, a High Court judge has granted permission for judicial review into whether they ignored public opinion.
The Conservative announcement comes as the party gathers in Manchester for its final conference before a general election, which must be held by June 3 next year.
In a letter to New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, a leading opponent of the fluoridation plan, shadow health minister Mike Penning says “serious questions” have been raised the consultation.
He said: “I believe that public consent is vital to the implementation of any compulsory fluoridation scheme.
“Communities should have to give their approval for any proposal before it is permitted to go ahead, and that fluoridation should not be enforced against the will of a population.”
Mr Penning added: “We intend to hold a review of the existing consultation processes in a Conservative Government, to give a far better measure of public engagement where fluorida-tion is proposed.”
Mr Lewis said he was “delighted” as he said it meant a “local referendum or something similar” would be needed to test pub lie opinion.
“I take this to mean that if there is a change of Government fluoridation will not be imposed in our areas without our consent,” he said.
“This is, of course, what Gordon Brown promised on his visit to Southampton, but in Mike Penning’s case, we can be sure the promise will be kept.”
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman John Spottiswoode welcomed the move but demanded Tories go further.
“They should instruct the SHA not to proceed without full public backing. It’s immoral to force people to take something without their consent. And even if a referendum came out in favour there should be provision for those that strongly object.”
Mr Spottiswoode, who is standing as Green Party parliamentary candidate in Southampton and wants to turn the general election vote into the referendum on fluoridation, said his party was totally opposed to adding a “dangerous toxin” to tap water.
Premier Gordon Brown last week restated his view that decisions on fluoride should be made locally, but refused to step in.
Southampton’s two Labour MPs are in personally in favour of flupridation, although communities secretary and Itchen MP John Denham has called for the scheme to be put on hold until it can be shown that the public agrees with adding fluoride to tap water.
Mr Denham said the Tories were not backing local Conservative demands for a referendum.
Mr Denham said: “The truth is that the Conservative party position is not very different from the Government position.”
Campaigners are still awaiting •an official response to a 15,000-name petition they delivered to Downing Street in June, calling on the PM to force the SHA to rethink its decision.