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John Major

THE GOVERNMENT IS ALL FOR FLUORIDE, BUT JOHN MAJOR WAS ONCE TOTALLY AGAINST IT

Glasgow Evening Times, 20th April, 1995.

WALL OF SILENCE

The PM refuses to talk about his U-turn

Special report by MALCOLM REID, Glasgow Evening Times, 20th April, 1995.

THE factions within the international pro-fluoridation lobby have always remained united behind a wall of solidarity.

Now that wall has been sensationally breached by a figure they had always regarded as one of their most powerful allies.

The significance of John Major's endorsement of a paper roundly condemning the basic principle of water fluoridation cannot be overstated.

When the Prime Minister signed the National Anti Fluoridation Campaign circular in 1978, he was a younger - possibly mere idealistic - MP.

Clearly he felt at the time the practice - with its implications of mass medication and the "most dangerous precedent" he believed it set - was politically, morally and scientifically indefensible.

Now, after rising through the ranks to reach the pinnacle of British political stardom, that idealism has come back to painfully haunt him.

Establishment

Whether his heart still tells him forcing people to consume the highly toxic chemical, even if they are opposed to it, is wrong, we do not - and may never - know.

For he has refused to give the Evening Times the answer to that searching question.

The wall of solidarity, against which he once so valiantly stood, remains, in 1995, as it did when he personally attacked it in 1978.

Only now Mr Major appears to have leant over it to stand shoulder to shoulder with those whose beliefs he once unequivocally condemned.

He seems to have joined the ranks of the scientific establishment this newspaper has vigorously opposed since Strathclyde's four health boards made their failed 1993 bid to fluoridate the region's tapwater - and whose aspirations were dismissed in a massively crushing vote by councillors.

Now that wall of solidarity seems to have materialised into a wall of silence.

SILENCE from the British Fluoridation Society, the government-funded body that has clearly stated its determination to force all British consumers of tapwater to ingest fluoride, even against their will.

The BFS 1992 chairman Dr John Beal told me that year he believed we should all be forced to drink fluoridated water by law and that he "would not expect the local authority to refuse to implement it."

Promise

We sent Mr Major's signed statement to present chairman Professor Michael Lemon in Liverpool. His office confirmed receipt, but said the professor was too busy to speak to us.

A later promise that BFS information officer Sheila Jones would contact us failed to materialise.

SILENCE from 10 Downing Street, who failed to answer seven of the eight questions we put to the Prime Minister.

Among them were:

  • Whether or not Mr Major has changed his 1978 stance
  • What difficulties he and his Government face, if he has NOT altered his views.
  • His reasons for switching, if he HAS changed his mind.
  • Whether or not the new Scots water quangos represent a complete abandonment of the principles strongly endorsed by the Prime Minister 17 years ago.
  • Whether or not the future of water fluoridation in Britain should be decided by MP's in a free Commons vote.

Words

Only the last question was answered. The Government "believes that decisions about fluoridation should be taken at local level, after appropriate consultation."

The rest of the brief communique supported the practice, claimed health organisations backed it and maintained the subject had already been extensively debated in Parliament.

For Scotland's anti-fluoridationists, two important words leap out of the statement - "appropriate consultation."

Scottish health boards which have followed current practice have 'consulted' the communities they serve.

The BFS-backed consultation in Strathclyde involved the publication of some grossly misleading statements, as revealed by the Evening Times at the time.

Some international scientists even blasted information leaflets printed by the health boards as lies.

However, when Scots boards have asked regional councillors to implement fluoridation, elected representatives have always decisively rejected the idea.

With the reorganisation of local government next year, that democratic safeguard will disappear.

The Government has, in effect, moved the goalposts. After next April, quango health boards, filled with Tory placemen and women, may make fluoridation applications to quango water authorities, also filled with Tory placemen and women.

Many believe the three new authorities represent the first step towards water privatisation, which the Evening Times has also staunchly opposed.

Both Ayrshire and Arran and Lanarkshire Health Boards made their positions clear.

"This document does not alter the fact that water fluoridation is the single, most effective means of reducing dental decay on a population basis, has been consistently shown to be safe and has been in use for a very long period of time. It is also Government policy", said a spokesperson for Lanarkshire Health Board.

Measure

"The board's public health policy is based on the needs of the community, derived from scientific evidence and endorsed by respected national and international health organisations. Any future action will be taken with due regard to these factors."

A spokesman, from Ayrshire and Arran Health Board pointed out that health boards would, by law, have to consult local authorities and the new Water and Sewerage Customers Council about any proposal for fluoridation. The existing legal requirement to conduct full public consultation would continue unchanged.

Greater Glasgow Health Board said it believed fluoridation of the public water supplies remains the single most effective measure to improve the dental health of its residents.

"Following the rejection by Strathclyde Regional Council in October, 1993, of the Board's application to add fluoride to the water supplies the board has continued to develop alternative measures leading to an overall improvement w the oral and dental health of our population."


THE FULL TEXT OF MR MAJOR'S LETTER

THE FULL statement signed by John Major in 1978 reads:

M.Ps' "DUTY" STATEMENT

To whom it may concern

"When as Members of parliament we are asked to make known our position on the fluoridation of public water supplies, we are faced with the choice of saying we will uphold our constituents' right to choose whether or not they, and their children, will consume more fluoride, or of saying we will deny them that right.

Having considered this matter most carefully it is my opinion that I have a duty to uphold and protect my constituents' right to choose. Here are my main reasons for this conclusion - my belief that:

Tooth decay - which it is said will be considerably reduced by fluoridation - is not caused by any lack of fluoride; it is caused by other things - mainly by an excessive consumption of sugar and sugar products.

The so-called deficiency of fluoride in almost all public water is not due to its having been removed from the water before reaching the waterworks; it is because this water has been less polluted by fluoride during its passage through the environment than water containing more fluoride.

The addition of fluoride to water at the waterworks does not restore it to its original purity; in fact it gives the water properties it never previously had.

Public water fluoridation is not the only way of administering more fluoride to those who are supposed to need it; it can be administered individually in several ways such as in tablet form, for example.

Public water fluoridation does not allow for people's right to choose; on the contrary, it violates that right forcing all consumers of the fluoridated water to ingest more fluoride whether they want to or not.

For the above reasons I am unable to support the idea of using public water supplies as a vehicle for conveying fluoride which has been added at the waterworks into people's bodies without their consent, a practice which has no legal authority of which I am aware and which I regard as setting a most dangerous precedent."

I agree to my name being added to the above statement. I would* / would not* like to be kept informed on the subject of fluoridation by the National Anti-Fluoridation Campaign.


GET OFF THE FENCE SAY THE BATTLERS

BOTH sides of the fluoridation debate are scathing in their condemnation of the Prime Minister's actions.

Glasgow's Dr Sheila Gibson, an ardent anti-fluorldationist, said: "When John Major was in opposition he was happy to oppose fluoridation and uphold the rights of the individual to choose. He underlined the fact that he fully supported the idea of democracy."

"I'm disappointed that now he is Prime Minister he feels himself impelled to follow the usual official line on fluoride."

"He seems to have abandoned his idea that the individual's right to choose is of any importance. The man doesn't seem to have the courage of his convictions."

Declared National Pure Water Association administrator Jane Jones: "He can't sit on the fence. He is either for fluoridation or he is not. There are no half measures here."

Signing

"This is NOT a party matter and any Government which has fluoridation as a policy demonstrably places no value on the right of the people to choose."

"After signing such a statement, if the Prime Minister relinquishes his personal integrity on this issue then, in my opinion, his position is untenable."

Blasted Glasgow Provan Labour MP, and president of the Scottish Pure Water Association, Jimmy Wray: "John Major seems to be riding two horses."

"He appeased the electors who came to him with complaints about water fluoridation by signing the 1978 statement. Now he supports the practice."

The MP is deeply worried about the emergence of the three Scots water authorities next year.

"I'm concerned these quangos have more rights than a democratically elected council", he said.

"The health boards seem to be very confident they can persuade the water authorities to fluoridate public water supplies, although Scotland's against it."

"But make no mistake - the anti-fluoridation army is ready to fight."

In Glasgow, Kay Allan, secretary of the Anti-Fluoridation Society said Mr Major's document "underlines the fact that water fluoridation is an infringement of the Patients' Charter, which states that patients have the right to choose."

She added: "Fluoride is a waste product of the aluminium industry. How much is that industry putting into Conservative Party funds?"

"The British Fluoridation Society is funded by the Government, but the Government won't put any money into putting up the opposite argument."

"What's really needed is a public inquiry."

Policies

Claimed Jan Sinclair, secretary of the Ayrshire Anti-Fluoridation Group: "We now face being denied the right to choose whether or not to be medicated."

"It has been established that fluoridation is very poisonous and dangerous to health. Babies, who ingest it if bottle feed in a fluoridated area, are very much at risk. How many cot deaths are due to that?"

Michael Watson of the pro-fluoridation British Dental Association Said: "I would like a comment from Mr Major as to what he means by opposing his own Government's policies."

"The Government he leads favours fluoridation, and he has said he doesn't."

"That says a lot about John Major. It doesn't say very much about fluoridation."

A Scottish Office spokeswoman said: "Health boards will, by law have to consult local authorities and the new Water and Sewerage Customers' Council about any proposal for fluoridation."

"The existing legal requirement to conduct full public consultation will continue unchanged."

"A number of elected councillors are expected to be among the membership of the new water authorities. The authorities will be accountable to the Secretary of State, who in turn is accountable to Parliament."

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