CAMPAIGNERS have challenged the Prime Minister to make it clear if Hampshire residents should have the final say over plans to fluoridate their water, or admit the public consultation was a farce.
Gordon Brown has restated his belief decisions on fluoride should be made locally, but refused to step into the row over whether the views of people living in the affected area should have been binding.
Anti-fluoride activists have hit out at his comments, saying the Labour leader should say plainly if he thinks health bosses were right to Ignore public opinion in approving the plans, affecting nearly 200,000 people in and around Southampton.
The Daily Echo has backed calls for a referendum on the plans after 72 per cent of respondents to last year’s public consultation who live in the affected areas said they don’t want fluoride in their water
Earlier this year, the PM gave hope to opponents of fluoridation just days before South Central Strategic Health Authority gave the green light to the scheme, when he said the decision should be up to local people.
But speaking to the Daily Echo during his party’s conference in Brighton, he ducked the debate over the decision, which is now to be examined by Britain’s high courts in a judicial review.
“I don’t think you’d expect me to get involved in it,” he said.
“The Government has spelt out the benefits of fluoridation, but we also understand there are local sensitivities and people have got to be able to make their decisions locally.”
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman, John Spottiswoode, who is standing for the Green Party on an anti-fluoridation ticket against Cabinet member and Southampton Itchen MP John Denham at the next general election, said the PM’s words are “inadequate”.
“It’s just too vague,” he said. “The legislation was all passed around the basis it would go ahead only if local people were in favour of it and agreed with it.
“The SHA should never have progressed with the scheme once it was clear a majority of people were against it.
“Gordon Brown has said this sort of thing in the past, that it’s a local decision, but what that actually means isn’t clear.
“The fact is, no one on the SHA board lives in the affected area, so how is that local people making the decision?
“It should be that the results of the local consultation are binding, and that’s what he should say, otherwise the local consultation is pointless.”
Mr Spottiswpode added campaigners have been left angered because they have had no 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. Although he does not want to. step into the row, Mr Brown’s comments to this paper in February form part of the legal case against the decision to approve fluoridation.
Lawyers for Southampton woman Geraldine Milner argue they are just one example of ministers saying the public must be in favour of adding fluoride to the water before it can actually happen.
Speaking to the Daily Echo when he and the Cabinet visited Southampton, Mr Brown said: “It’s up to local people.
“I happen to think it’s been a success in helping people, but everybody has got their views and that’s the purpose of local consultation. It’s important you have a balanced debate.”