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That the Open-Ended Investment Companies (Investment Companies with Variable Capital) (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 (S.I., 2000, No. 3324), which were laid before this House on 19th December 2000, be approved.--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 37, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 46, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 48, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'--[Mr. Mike Hall]

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.

29 Jan 2001 : Column 145


Motion made, That--

1. The matter of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland, being a matter relating exclusively to Northern Ireland, be referred to the Northern Ireland Grand Committee;
2. The Committee shall meet at Westminster on Thursday 8th February at 2.30 p.m.; and
3. At that meeting--
(a) the Committee shall take questions for oral answer; and shall then consider the matter of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland, referred to it under paragraph (1) above;
(b) the Chairman shall interrupt proceedings at 5 p.m.; and
(c) at the conclusion of those proceedings a Motion for the adjournment of the Committee may be moved by a Minister of the Crown pursuant to Standing Order No. 116(5) (Northern Ireland Grand Committee (sittings).--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

Hon. Members: Object.



29 Jan 2001 : Column 146


Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

11.23 pm

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North): I begin by explaining to my hon. Friend the Minister that no discourtesy was intended on my part when I failed to get in touch with her. When I arrived this afternoon, I phoned her office and got an answerphone; I left word that I would be present at 7.15 pm but got no word back. I apologise only when I do things wrong so I am not apologising, but I regret that this has happened, because it puts a person at a disadvantage, and I would not seek to do that.

Since coming to this House in 1992, it has been my opinion that the Department of Health is absolutely paranoic in its support for fluoridation of water on the basis that it goes a long way to help reduce dental caries during the formative years of a child's growth. I am pleased to say that, since my party came to power, two significant moves have alleviated that position to some extent, although there is still a long way to go.

The first big step forward was when the Government agreed that, instead of local health authorities having the power to decide whether water should be fluoridated, it would be left to local councils to consult the people living in the area and to make a recommendation to the local health authority, which the health authority would accept.

The importance of that change is that health authorities do their work as they are told to do it by the Department of Health. There is no independence, and anyone who thinks otherwise does not have much knowledge of the Government or of those whom they appoint to do a job for them. Councils are rather different. They are, to some degree, influenced by the fact they can be removed by the people in their area, if they do not provide what the people want. That change was particularly welcome to me.

When this matter was discussed at great length in my constituency four years ago, there was a phone-in to a local newspaper in which more than 2,000 people took part. More than 90 per cent. of those who responded were against the fluoridation of water supplies. I have no fears about this matter. If we can go out and campaign fairly, I have no doubt that the public will democratically decide that they do not want fluoridation.

There was a second important factor. There must have been some doubt on the matter somewhere in the Department of Health, because last year it set up a review procedure under Professor Sheldon at York university. That review would take note of whatever evidence was available on the advantages and disadvantages of the fluoridation of water, and notice would, of course, be taken of the resulting report.

When the report came out in late autumn last year, I was delighted, as someone who is opposed to fluoridation and the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group against fluoridation. Having read the report, my view was that it in no way endorsed the views that we have been given for many years about the tremendous benefits of fluoridation, about there being no danger involved and about there being no evidence that it could be harmful.

I say to the Minister with all sincerity that I am very disappointed that the Department of Health has joined forces with the British Dental Association, the British

29 Jan 2001 : Column 147

Medical Association and the British Fluoridation Society in a pre-emptive strike to try to undermine the report. I make no apology for reading out a letter that was sent to the Government on 10 September by Professor Sheldon. I shall read it word for word, although I do not like doing that; I like spontaneity rather than chuntering on. Professor Sheldon wrote:

I pay tribute to Lord Baldwin, who has been an inspiration to all those who are worried about water fluoridation. I shall now pick out one or two highlights from a piece by Jerome Burne in the Financial Times on 27 January. The article is headed "Fluoridation findings set teeth gnashing" and says:

I do not have time to read out the whole article, but it also says:

Those are not my words, but I certainly go along with them.

Several statements have been made since the York review. I shall call it that because everyone--not that many are here--will understand it. The BDA said:

29 Jan 2001 : Column 148

John Hunt, chief executive of the BDA, refers to the

but the review says:

The BDA says:

The York review says:

The BDA says:

The York review, in its executive summary conclusions, says:

The BDA says:

The York review says:

The BDA says:

The York review says:

The BDA says:

The York review says:

That is pretty good for the BDA: it was only 25 per cent. out on that issue, whereas on all the others it was nearly 100 per cent. out. I could go on indefinitely with those quotations, but I shall not.

According to a BDA parliamentary newsletter, the York review

The York review replied:

other than dental fluorosis, that is--

29 Jan 2001 : Column 149

I think I have made my point in that regard, but the Department of Health, which commissioned the report, has made statements on one or two issues. It has said:

The York review said:

for effectiveness--

According to the Department of Health,

The York review said:

Perhaps the most surprising aspect involves a statement by the British Fluoridation Society, which compared dental health in fluoridated Sandwell with that in unfluoridated Bolton, to Bolton's disadvantage. According to the York review:

I have quoted quite enough, and I want to give the Minister a chance to reply--after all, she has already suffered one disadvantage--but I think that the present situation is untenable. I want the Department of Health not to try to rubbish reports that it has commissioned, and to ensure that what goes out to the public uses such reports in their proper context. I consider it scandalous for a Government Department to act in such a way: I cannot put it more strongly than that.

This is nothing short of deception. It is not for me to say whether it constitutes a deliberate attempt to mislead people--I leave others to judge that--but I know that it does mislead people. Despite all its problems, most of the population have a high regard for the Department of Health; I have myself, but not on this issue. It is about time the Department took another look at the matter.

I should like to know why we are about the only European country that tolerates the poison that is put into our water--for that is what we are talking about: it is a poison, nothing else. The Government themselves have said that fluorosis is a sign of toxicity, although people are saying that it is only cosmetic.

Let me say to the Minister again, in all honesty and sincerity, that if we do not get this matter right there will be a public backlash that will make many other recent events seem fairly small. There has been a bad misjudgment for many years, and it is time that it was corrected.

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