HC Deb 24 May 1989 vol 153 cc561-2W
Mr. Lawrence

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the results of the Water (Fluoridation) Act 1985;

(2) what has been the cost to his Department of water fluoridation since the Water (Fluoridation) Act came into effect;

(3) what new estimate he has made of the cost effectiveness of further fluoridation in view of the general decline in dental cavities in children's teeth in the 90 per cent. of the population not in receipt of artificially fluoridated water;

(4) whether he is prepared to offer an indemnity to private water undertakers who are liable to be sued for harm resulting from fluoridation of their drinking water; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman

The Water (Fluoridation) Act 1985 did what it was intended to do and put beyond doubt the power of water undertakers to add fluoride to the water supplied to them when asked to do so by health authorities. No new fluoridation schemes have been introduced since the Act came into force though a number of schemes are at various stages of preparation.

The central funds allocated to health authorities for the implementation of water fluoridation schemes amounted to £262,000 in 1986–87; £433,000 in 1987–88 and £1,168,000 in 1988–89. The 1988–89 figure reflects the commitment in the Government's White Paper "Promoting Better Health" to increase the amount of money made available to Health Authorities to fund fluoridation schemes. £2,075,000 is allocated for 1989–90.

A recent survey comparing the dental health of young children in fluoridated south Birmingham and non-fluoridated Bolton (C. M. Mitropoulos et al., Br. Dent. J. 1988) confirms that further reductions in caries levels in children's teeth are undoubtedly achievable over and above the general decline in caries that has occurred. These benefits are particularly cost-effective where caries levels are otherwise high and in the less privileged social classes where the highest incidence of caries is found.

A copy of the model agreement which provides the basis of discussion between health authorities and water undertakers on the terms under which fluoridation of domestic water supplies may be carried out, including a copy of the terms of indemnity provided for water authorities and private water companies operating fluoridation schemes was placed in the Library on 16 January 1989. We will continue to provide an indemnity to water undertakers after privatisation of the water industry; the terms of this indemnity are being considered in the light of representations made by the water authorities and the water companies associations.