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Mr. Redwood rose—

Mr. Thomas: Here is a man who was partly responsible for that.

Mr. Redwood: I was going to say nice things about the hon. Gentleman, but not after that calumny. Does he agree that it is odd that the Government want to boss us all around to stop us having tooth decay, but they allow smoking? All their medical advice is that smoking causes awful health problems that then need to be remedied by the NHS, but they have not banned it. The Government are being illogical in allowing us to smoke, but making us have fluoride when we do not want it.

7.30 pm

Mr. Thomas: I agree that that is illogical, but I will not be tempted further down that path as it would be outside the scope of the new clause and amendments.

The British Dental Association has written to all hon. Members to ask them to support fluoridation. It makes no bones about wanting fluoridation, and that is fine, but my children have a drink called Ribena ToothKind, which is approved by the British Dental Association. Is the BDA urging legislators to put fluoride in everyone's drinking water, but at the same time willing to take money from a commercial company to say that a sweet soft drink is good for your teeth?

Mr. Morley: There is no sugar in it.

Mr. Thomas: That is true. I do not know whether the Minister has children—

Mr. Morley indicated assent.

Mr. Thomas: He will know, then, that if one lets children have sweet drinks, they ask for more. When one is out and about, one does not always have access to nice tooth-kind drinks. The children want Coke, lemonade or Fanta. Let us be clear about the facts—the British Dental Association does not have clean hands on the issue. If it is prepared to back sweet drinks, it should not tell us what we should put in our clean, fresh water. We should bear such facts in mind when interest groups tell us how we should legislate.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West): The hon. Gentleman mentioned the cost of fluoridating the public water supply as opposed to the cost of toothbrushes and toothpaste. We are concentrating on the problems of a small minority of children in deprived areas who are not

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getting the necessary dental care. Would it not be better and cheaper to concentrate directly on their needs, rather than do something that would affect the whole country?

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on the heart of the argument. We have in many of our communities a recognised problem of severe tooth decay in young children. That is a feature of poverty, lack of education, culture, bad diet and lack of access to dental services. None of those factors is affected by fluoridation. There is no evidence that a young child in, say, Manchester or Aberystwyth who drinks fluoridated water but continues with those bad health habits will have significantly improved teeth. They might have an improvement of 0.4 per cent. in one tooth, but that is no reason to change our whole water supply. The hon. Gentleman is right—we need to target improvements in dental health directly on those who need it most.

I know that many hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall conclude. Is fluoridation medication? When the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) pressed the Under-Secretary on the issue in Committee, she said that she did not consider fluorosilicic acid—the substance used to fluoridate water—to be a medicine, and she mentioned the guide to medicinal and health care products. I take it that she was referring to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has published a guide to what should be considered a medicinal product. It states, on page 4, that medicines include

According to that, fluoride is a medicine.

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North): The hon. Gentleman will be aware that fluoride is not a registered medicine. It is, however, a registered poison.

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman is right. Under the Poisons Act 1972, it is registered as a part II poison, alongside arsenic and paraquat. I do not think that there are many useful benefits of arsenic.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): Are those people who live in areas that have naturally fluoridated water being poisoned?

Mr. Thomas: Those individuals who live in areas that are naturally high in radon are being poisoned. Many areas have natural features that have an impact on our bodies—such as fluoride and radon. The hon. Gentleman cannot wriggle out of that one. If it is a poison, we should not add it to our water supply.

It is illegal to add fluoride to the water supply as a treatment. In other words, fluoride is not regulated as a water treatment agent. The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 list those substances that may be added to our water, and fluoride is not one of them. It is curious that fluoride is not regulated as a medicine, it has never been tested on the population as a medicine, it cannot be bought over the counter and it is even banned in Belgium as a treatment for teeth, yet we seek to achieve a medicinal effect by putting it in our water. I know that many hon. Members represent

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the 5 million people in England who already have fluoride in their water and they will not be happy to hear that argument, but we have to look at the hard evidence. The York review and other evidence make it clear that insufficient evidence is available to decide to add fluoride to our water. There is insufficient evidence of the effects that the Minister will no doubt claim.

There are better alternatives, such as improving access to NHS dentistry and increasing education on personal dental care—including cutting down on sugar in the diet—which could achieve similar effects to water fluoridation, but without as much controversy or the potential negative health effects, even if those stop at fluorosis. Fluorides are not the way forward for the NHS dental service. Fluorides are not the way forward to treat the population as a whole. I urge the House to reject mass medication and to support the important principle of individual choice in how we look after our own bodies and teeth, how we take medicines and how we interact with the rest of society. This is not a matter for this House.

Mr. James Wray (Glasgow, Baillieston): May I ask, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for a Division on amendment No. 8? There is cross-party support for the amendment. Quite a number of people have added their names to it; I did not table it, but I have added my name.

Stephen Hesford: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Wray: Give me a chance to get started.

I have watched this matter over the years. From 1983, the Water (Scotland) Act 1946 was taken up in the Court of Session, and one of the reasons was that the Government wanted to fluoridate water supplies in my country of Scotland—part of the United Kingdom. The people were against that, and the case ended up taking five years to be settled in the Court of Session. That was the reason for the Water (Fluoridation) Act 1985. The Government produced a Bill in 1983 because they found that it was ultra vires and outwith the remit of a water engineer to "treat" the people who drink water. All the additives that have been mentioned as being in the water are there to make it wholesome. It was important in the early 1980s to keep additions under strict control by local authorities, which are the democratic authorities accountable to the electorate. They consult the people and listen to their views. At that time, they certainly did listen. Lord Jauncey decided the case. Three or four items were put to him, including the medical, moral and legal aspects.

Local authorities all over England and Scotland were not really interested in fluoridating public water supplies, but an organisation called the British Fluoridation Society has spent money to the tune of £185,000 to brainwash the whole of Britain to try to get fluoride into all the waters in all the local authority areas. The Government have been dishonest.

Stephen Hesford: My hon. Friend talks about dishonesty. On representation in the House, is he aware that two early-day motions were tabled and that one, in favour of fluoridation, was signed by more than 150 Members? Of the two EDMs, one was an amendment

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against anti-fluoridation moves and the other was anti-fluoridation in itself. Only 21 Members signed for the anti position.

Mr. Wray: That does not really matter.

Mr. Butterfill: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Wirral, West (Stephen Hesford) is misleading the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his experience, would not wish to use that expression and accuse another hon. Member of misleading the House.

Mr. Butterfill: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not intend to mislead the House, but he certainly had that effect.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has great experience of chairing proceedings in the House, and he should know that he is trying to pursue on a point of order what is really a point of argument.

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