§ Mr. Lawrence
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he is satisfied that the procedure by which the public and the press can be excluded from meetings of the area health authority and the community health council at which decisions are taken to support the artificial fluoridation of the public water supply is consistent with the requirement that a decision to fluoridate should have public approval;
(2) by what statutory power area health authorities and community health councils may exclude the public and the press from meetings at which decisions are taken on the artificial fluoridation of the public water supply.
§ Mr. Moyle
, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 23 February 1979; Vol. 963, c. 387–8], gave the following additional information:
The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 applies to Regional and Area Health Authorities and to Community Health Councils. Section 1(1) of the Act of 1960 requires that any body exercising public functions shall be open to the press and general public; section 1(2) provides that the body in question may, by resolution, exclude the public and press from a meeting (whether during the whole or part of the proceedings) whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other specific reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings.
Health authorities and community health councils are well aware of the importance which my right hon. Friend and I attach to good relations with the media and general public. Equally well known are our views that health authorities should take decisions to seek the 517W fluoridation of water supplies by water authorities after consideration of the results of consultations with local authorities and others representing public interests as well as on the evidence of the safety and efficacy of fluoridation in preventing dental decay in the community. The application of the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act is a matter for individual health authorities and community health councils to determine. Nevertheless, I would not favour health authorities taking substantive decisions about the fluoridation of the public water supply in private.