HL Deb 12 March 1975 vol 358 cc277-9

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice they are giving to health authorities on the addition of fluoride to the water supply.


My Lords, the Government have indicated that under the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973 it is the responsibility of each health authority to decide in respect of its own area whether it wishes fluoridation to be introduced and, if so, to approach the appropriate regional water authority.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of a recent survey done in Anglesey, which showed rather conclusively that, by introducing fluoride into the water in Anglesey, the dental health of the children there was very much better than it was over the Straits in Bangor and Caernarvon? Would he not agree that the time has come for the Government to give a more positive lead in view of the benefits to children which are involved?


My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord has said, and I would agree with him. It is perfectly true that fluoridation of water is having a marked beneficial effect on the incidence of tooth decay. As the noble Lord has just mentioned, decay in the front teeth of children aged 15 in Anglesey was 85 per cent, less than in children of a similar age in the two areas referred to; namely, Bangor and Caernarvon. I should like to add that "baby teeth "in five-year-old children in Anglesey showed two-fifth less decay than those of children in both Bangor and Caernarvon.

With regard to the second point mentioned by the noble Lord, this is a matter which is left to the health authority, and it is for them to get in touch with the water authority as to whether fluoridation of water is effected in a particular area.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord: wherefor are these things hid? If the evidence, which I believe, is as unmistakable as the figures suggest, why should they not be broadcast not merely to the inhabitants of beneficially disposed local authorities but to the country at large? This seems to me to be one of the cases in which widespread publicity is in the general interest.


My Lords, I do not want to "wriggle out"of the question put to me by the noble Lord, but I must point out that at the present moment there is in preparation a consultative paper on this matter concerning not only dental health but general health. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services hopes that that paper will be available soon, and it should deal with this particular matter.


My Lords, may I say that while the Anglesey report is very impressive, other areas have made reports which are equally conclusive. In view of the long time during which we have been discussing this matter, is it in the interests of the children to leave this matter to the various authorities, who may not have people who are sufficiently qualified to pronounce on it? Should not the Government therefore decide, in view of this important report, that fluoridation should be accepted by all local authorities?


My Lords, I cannot go beyond the reply I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, a moment ago. This may well emerge from the consultative paper, and as a result it may be necessary for the Government to take certain action. I would, with respect, suggest that your Lordships should await the consultative paper, which could be debated if necessary.


My Lords, would the noble Lord meanwhile refer the matter to his right honourable friend in another place, asking whether some of the money which is spent on the not-very-successful advertising against smoking might be spent on advertising the benefits of fluoridation in order to conserve children's teeth, which are, after all, a most precious possession?


My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what she has just said.


My Lords, has my noble friend any information to put side by side with these impressive statistics; namely, as to the teratological or side effects of fluoridation? A Welsh child may be born with dragon's teeth, but how do we know that it will not have the mentality of a brontosaurus?


Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that the report with regard to Anglesey, to which reference has been made, has no statistical validity and that there is no reason to believe the comparison proves anything at all? Is he also aware that the official experiment conducted under the auspices of the Department of Health showed that the difference in the number of decayed teeth was on average only one per child and that the amount of teeth decay increased year by year at the same rate?


My Lords, we are aware that the noble Lord who has just spoken is very much against fluoridation, but I cannot agree with my noble friend when he says there are no satisfactory statistics available to prove that fluoridation is an asset and not a liability.

Viscount MONCK

My Lords, expanding on the question of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, would the noble Lord agree that whatever happens to the teeth of Welsh children may not necessarily have anything to do with the teeth of English or Scottish children?

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