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Mr. Wray: Many early-day motions are tabled. Some get hundreds of signatures, but they never go anywhere. Neither will that one.

The jewel in the crown was Birmingham, which has been fluoridated for 30 years—[Hon. Members: "For 40 years."] That is even worse. The Government never reported back on the professor who went into five primary schools and found that 34 per cent. of the children had dental fluorosis—caused by chronic fluorine poisoning. That is where the disease comes from—a poisonous waste. No one from the medical profession ever discovered that fluoride was attracted to bones and teeth; they knew nothing about it. Cattle were found down in England with skeletal fluorosis, which came from people dumping fluoride, which was very expensive to dump. People wanted to find a cheap way of getting rid of that, so they sent an agent to have a look. It was him who discovered that it was attracted to bones and teeth. That is where chronic fluorine poisoning and skeletal fluorosis came from. I think that the company at the time may have been Fisons.

7.45 pm

Under the 1926 food and drugs legislation, it is a crime to add any kind of fluoride to foodstuffs. The Medicines Act 1968 clearly states what is a medicinal product. Why would a Government who believe in democracy want to transfer a non-medicinal product to a health authority and take away the democratic right of a local authority?

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): I am interested in amendment No. 8, but I would be grateful if my hon. Friend could clarify one point. I understand entirely that he recommends that the requirement should come from a democratically elected local authority. What would be the basis on which such an authority would make such a request?

Mr. Wray: The reason for wanting to take the decision away from local authorities is that local

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authorities up and down the country refused to fluoridate. It was then put in the hand of water authorities, but they cannot do it because of the Water (Scotland) Act 1946, so the Government have to try to persuade the water authorities. Because of indemnification, the water authorities will not like that because they have heard public complaints about the fluoridation of public water supplies and dental fluorosis. They will not implement fluoridation. In fact, an attempt was made to force authorities in the north of England, and that case was lost because the judge said that the water authority had a responsibility to its shareholders and customers.

Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston): In the event of fluoridated water being eventually proven harmful to the health of human beings, who does my hon. Friend think will be liable if the victims sue? Would it be the manufacturers of fluoride, the water companies, the strategic health authorities or even the Government?

Mr. Wray: If any of my children get dental fluorosis or chronic fluorine poisoning, I will sue everybody until I get the right one—the Government, the fluoride company, whoever. One reason why fluoride is said not to be a medicinal product is that a product licence would be needed to procure the fluoride. That licence would state clearly what the product is—a fluorosilicate, under European Union directives, and something that is certainly not on the approved medicines list. I have heard Ministers speak about fluorspar and natural fluoride. Natural fluoride comes from fluorspar. It is insoluble. With fluorosilicates, as soon as they hit the water, they dissolve. With fluorspar, the actual fluoride comes from the fluorspar and is insoluble. There is a very big difference.

I do not care who takes fluoride. Give it to your sons, give it to your daughters—in toothpaste or in tablets, as long as it is self-administered. Once we start to use water as a panacea, as mass medication for the whole population, half of whom do not even have teeth, we might as well put the fluoride into buckets.

We have a socialist Government and they should never medicate people against their will. It is illegal in English law to medicate someone against their will. It is as though a doctor diagnosed all his patients and prescribed them fluoride without seeing them. We have never done that in this country. That is what bothers me—the fact that a Labour Government who believe in democracy want such demagoguery and want to fluoridate public water supplies.

The Government know the moral aspects and the medical aspects; they certainly know the legal aspects. Why are fluorides forbidden and criminal under the Poisons Act 1972? Why are the human rights of the individual being taken away by a few Members of Parliament who are not even taking the time to read exactly what will be going into our water? Why do they not find out what fluoride is and where it comes from?

Out in the commercial world somebody will be making big bucks. That is what this is all about. If the whole UK water supply is fluoridated, somebody will get their palm greased. They will be ready when the Government decide to put fluoride in the water.

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There will be no way of really measuring one part per million. How will the Government know how many children are already taking fluoride tablets at school? How will they know how many people already brush their teeth with fluoridated toothpaste? If a baby ate a tube of toothpaste she would die. There is enough fluoride in a tube of toothpaste to kill a child.

Mr. Etherington: Earlier my hon. Friend was asked about the democratic processes that might be used by local authorities to ascertain the wishes of the public. Does he share my view that whatever the system is I would have more confidence in it than if the matter were left to a strategic health authority?

Mr. Wray: I certainly do.

What worries me is that the Minister is misleading the House. The chairman of the York university review committee, Professor Trevor Sheldon, sent a letter to the press about the statements—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Did I hear the hon. Gentleman accuse the Minister of misleading the House? If I did, I hope that he will very quickly withdraw that statement.

Mr. Wray: Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it.

Trevor Sheldon wrote an open letter that stated:

Why does the Minister not promote the comments of the director of the Medical Research Council, Dr. Paul Harrison? He said:

Everybody else is worried, so why does the Minister say that it is safe to take fluoride? All those bodies have looked at the evidence and considered the studies.

In 1997, Wolverhampton fluoridated its water supply, so why did dental costs rise by 112 per cent? Should not those costs have been lower after fluoridation? We are not getting the right facts in this case.

I hope that hon. Members will vote for the democratic right of local authorities to retain control under amendment No. 8 and that they will vote against the fluoridation of public water supplies. That is a criminal act and it is illegal under various Acts passed by the Government.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I appeal to the House? It is obvious that only a short time is left for this debate so I hope that in future contributions, including those from the Front Benches, Members will bear in mind the fact that there is a great deal of interest in taking part.

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Mr. Wiggin: I shall try to keep my comments as brief as possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I want to address a large number of amendments.

Members on both sides of the House feel very strongly about amendment No. 8, which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Baillieston (Mr. Wray) has just discussed. We shall certainly press it to a vote and on the Opposition Benches it will be a free vote.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire): Some time ago when we held a debate on the composition of the other place there was a series of genuine free votes. To indicate that they were genuinely free votes, the Government Whips Office put in Tellers for both sides. Has my hon. Friend received any notification from the Treasury Bench that Government Whips will be telling on both sides when we vote on this group?

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire) indicated assent.

Mr. Wiggin: I see that the Government Whip is nodding. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) for making that vital point; if we are to have a free vote, free it must be.

Currently, the Bill gives strategic health authorities the role of consultation with local communities to determine whether fluoride should be added to their water supply. We want that to be undertaken by local authorities. The Minister has insisted that any decision to fluoridate water will be determined by "local" people after "local" consultation. Strategic health authorities are not local. The SHA for my constituency is in Coventry, which is a long way from Herefordshire so it is not local in any sense of the word.

Strategic health authorities are neither democratically elected nor accountable. Their accountability comes only through the Secretary of State, which is not a direct local mechanism. They do not match up with the Government's insistence on local consultation and I should prefer an element of democratic decision making with elected and accountable local authorities having that power.

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