SUMMER ADJOURNMENT: CONSTITUENCY ISSUES – 21 July 2009
Dr Julian Lewis: I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn). For the first time in living memory, he has made an entire speech without calling for the abolition of the British strategic nuclear deterrent. I shall try to follow his example and refrain from discussing defence issues in the course of my short contribution. I also pay tribute to the particularly impressive speech made by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mark Oaten). Naomi House, the children’s hospice to which he gave great credit, provides a wonderful service to my constituents as well as to his, and I warmly endorse the plea that he made on its behalf.
In the time available to me tonight, I want to touch on a principle, a policy and a tribute. The principle is that the fluoridation of water should not be carried out without the general consent of the people affected by it. In an unusual, and quite positive, cross-party alliance, the Liberal Democrat councillor, Councillor David Harrison, who represents Totton in my constituency, and I, as the Conservative MP, have been working together to try to involve the Ombudsman in exposing the corruption of a flawed consultation process that completely ignored the fact that 72 per cent. of the people who responded to it were against that kind of mass medication.
I will say no more about the specifics of that case, however, because the matter is now subject to Judicial Review and I do not wish to trespass on that territory. That is why I shall talk only about the principle. The problem was first highlighted in March 2005, when the Water Fluoridation (Consultation) (England) Regulations 2005 were being debated in the Upper House. Earl Howe, the Shadow Health Minister, drew the House’s attention to Regulation 5, which was passed into law. It states:
"A Strategic Health Authority shall not proceed with any step regarding fluoridation arrangements that falls within section 89(2) of the Act unless, having regard to the extent of support for the proposal and the cogency of the arguments advanced, the Authority are satisfied that the health arguments in favour of proceeding with the proposal outweigh all arguments against proceeding."
The noble Earl Howe asked what this was supposed to mean, and pointed out:
"When we debated Section 58 of the 2003 Act, the Minister emphasised that: 'no new fluoridation scheme would go ahead without the support of the majority of the local population determined by local consultations conducted by Strategic Health Authorities in England and the National Assembly in Wales'."
Earl Howe emphasised the words "majority of the local population" and went on to observe:
"I see nothing in the order which fulfils that undertaking." – [Official Report, House of Lords, 8 March 2005; Vol. 670, c. 709.]
Neither do I. However, even if 72 per cent. – or 100 per cent. – of the people oppose mass fluoridation of a water supply, as long as the Strategic Health Authority can satisfy itself that the health arguments outweigh the opinions of the people affected, their opinions can be ignored. Only the Courts and the Ombudsman can do something about this; MPs evidently have no influence, and we must await the results of the case to which I have alluded.
I now move on to my policy issue, which is the policy of Associated British Ports. Having been massively defeated after a year-long inquiry in its wish to build a giant container port on Dibden Bay in my constituency, it is beginning to return to the subject again. Let me quote what Mr. Doug Morrison, the port director, had to say to my constituents:
"How do we leave a legacy for future generations? The answer has to be Dibden Bay. Just as you thought you were safe to put your toe back in the water, we are back again. And we are never going to go away."
That seems rather reminiscent of the film "Jaws": at the outset people are being gobbled up by a great white shark; but we should remember what happens to the shark at the end of the process.
Finally, I come to my tribute. This is very sad indeed. On 11 September 2001, a brilliant and beautiful young woman, a fashion designer, was due to be at the twin towers. Fortunately, she overslept and missed the catastrophe by minutes. She was in London on 7 July 2005, and although she often used the bus service that was bombed, she did not use it on that day, fortunately. Last November she was working in her boutique in Notting Hill when a psychotic serial robber confronted her with a knife, but she still managed to outwit him. But on 3 July this year, she was in her flat in Camberwell and was one of the six people killed by the fire there.
Her name was Catherine Hickman, and she was known as Cat. Her parents, and her sisters Elizabeth and Sophie, are my constituents. Her parents, Pip and Flo, are putting up with their terrible loss with amazing dignity, as is Mark, her partner of four years. I would like to ask everyone here – those representing all religions and none – to bear in their thoughts and hold in their prayers the Hickman family, as we remember a talented young lady who, like her family, was and is a credit to our community.