HC Deb 05 March 1985 vol 74 cc879-1045
Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 15, leave out from `force' to end of line 17 and insert 'for one year.'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 17, in clause 3, page 3, line 4, at end insert— '(2A) This Act shall lapse twelve months after coming into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Mr. Best

We are discussing serious matters. With the greatest respect to the House and to those of my hon. Friends who wish to speak, I must say that I hope that we can retain a sensible level of debate — that the debate will be informative and not necessarily designed to delay the deliberations of the House.

I was accused last Tuesday of filibustering. I found that allegation offensive. It was never my intention to filibuster.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Will the hon. Gentleman withdraw the allegation that filibustering, at any time, can be offensive?

Mr. Best

I shall not rise to that intervention, although I am prepared to be schooled by the hon. Gentleman in matters of filibustering. I gave the House information. The debate ranged over many amendments which needed to be dealt with in full. If hon. Members are good enough to read my speech they will see that I did not repeat myself.

11.15 pm

I like to think that I was acquitted of any charge of filibustering by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health, who said on 26 February that all the evidence that I had given had been rejected because it ran in the teeth of more reputable and more acceptable scientific evidence that goes in the opposite direction." — [Official Report, 26 February 1985; Vol. 74, c. 217.] Inherent in that statement is the suggestion that I had not articulated the other side of the case. As I said to my right hon. and learned Friend at the time, had I done so, I should have delayed the House even longer. That would have been intolerable. Later in the same debate, my right hon. and learned Friend said that I had touched on only some of the arguments raised in various parts of the world about adding fluoride to the water. I did not go into detail, because I did not wish to delay the House unduly.

Amendment No. 6 concerns the duration of an application made under clause 1 and seeks to make it last no more than 12 months. I hope that the Minister accepts the amendment, which does no more than require a health authority to consider the fluoridation of water supplies annually.

There are now 111 amendments to this most unpopular Bill. That demonstrates the opposition to it. I suspect that proceedings tonight will show that this is a matter of individual conscience and that there is no unofficial Whip on those who oppose or want to ameliorate the Bill. I accept that the artificial fluoridation of water supplies in certain circumstances might be beneficial to children's teeth, but if we cannot have individual choice in all matters of health — which I should prefer — we should at least have local decision making.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have listened carefully, but so far have not recognised that the hon. Member is speaking to the amendment. I hope that he will do so now.

Mr. Best

Inherent in amendment No. 6 is consideration of whether local views should be taken into account. Requiring health authorities to examine the matter every 12 months would enable any change in the views of local people to be taken into account. It is they who will have no choice but to drink fluoridated water.

It is important that I make my position on this matter clear, because if individual choice cannot be manifest in the Bill, at least the collective voice of people should be accepted by the health authority. It would be more able to do that if the matter were to be brought before it every 12 months for renewal or discontinuance.

I have said to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health that if he were able to accept this amendment, although I could not guarantee that I would be successful, I would use my best endeavours with those of my hon. Friends who feel strongly on this matter to persuade them that the amendment should pass without unduly prolonged debate, because it would be a valuable concession. If the amendment were passed, it would ensure that this matter would be debated every 12 months by the health authority.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend has advanced extremely good arguments throughout the whole of the debate. Many of us have grave doubts about the long-term effects of fluoride in the water upon human health. Should not the dismissive attitude taken by the Government to any evidence that has been submitted that does not agree with the evidence that they have led us to believe that they would not show good faith? It is clear that they are not prepared to heed any of the substantial evidence submitted by learned professional people that does not go along with the view of the Department and its advisers.

Mr. Best

Unlike my hon. Friend, I am an eternal optimist, and I am ready to hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will take account of the evidence. I hope that he will be prepared to accept the amendment, because, for the life of me, I cannot see what objection can be advanced against it. It would enable a health authority to look at the matter every 12 months and take into account the expressions of opinion that have been advanced by the local population.

If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary were able to do that, hon. Members would be able to take the debate on this amendment at a fairly quick pace. I cannot be certain, but it might lead to discussions between my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health and myself and other hon. Members. There might then by a concession by the Government. My right hon. and learned Friend has said that he will introduce his own amendment in the other place to ensure that there will be consultation. It might be conceded that that consultation will be given due cognisance by the health authority and will be acted upon.

I suspect that those who support this amendment, whatever their views on fluoridation might be, will have one thing in common. The essence of the amendment is to ensure the greater ability of the health authority to take into account the views of the local population, who are directly affected by this measure. I have said before, and make no apology for saying again, that I cannot understand why it is that those who advance the argument in favour of fluoride seem to be so frightened by the idea of leaving it to public decision.

Why must this remain the preserve of the health authority? Why not let there be public debate on the matter and leave the decision to the good sense of the British public? In fact, the amendment does not go that far, but at least it seeks to ensure that the health authority will take that consideration into account.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

Does my hon. Friend agree that this will be an important declaration of faith on the part of the Department of Health and Social Security, which apparently believes in fluoridation, and it will give an opportunity for those who have doubts — not necessarily the opponents of fluoridation — to reassess and reaffirm their position every year? That surely is the democratic process. From the Department's point of view, it would be giving nothing away. The Department would not be abandoning the idea of fluoridation, but this would give those who have to make the decision time to check any new evidence, such as that which came forward only last week.

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend exhibits his usual fairness, as the House has come to expect of him. I agree that this would be a gesture of good faith. However, I reiterate that the amendment does not even seek to give voice to the public feeling. It seeks only to ensure that a health authority will reconsider the matter. That is in no way inimical to the main thrust of the Bill.

I cannot share my hon. Friend's optimism that the Department of Health and Social Security is apparently in favour of the Bill. We know that certain Ministers are not in favour of the Bill. Unless they have changed their minds—

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Best

No, I will not give way. I gave the hon. Gentleman a chance to intervene earlier, when he was engrossed in reading. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I must advance my argument a little further before I allow him to intervene.

Mr. Marlow

rose

Mr. Best

I wish to advance my argument and, with due respect to my hon. Friend, he is not doing me any service in attempting to intervene. I am sure that, if he is successful in catching your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he may well give pleasure to the House. In any event, if he is successful, he will be able to advance his own argument.

The amendment is not alien to the main thrust of the Bill, but is an amelioration which would be beneficial by ensuring that health authorities discussed the matter every 12 months. I have advanced one reason why they should do so — that true representation should be given to the voice of the local population, who after all comprise the recipients of fluoride in the water supply without any democratic decision having been taken.

Mr. Marlow

rose

Mr. Best

I am coming now to a most important point, and I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to advance it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) referred to a report that appeared in the New Scientist of 28 February in the section entitled "Science" under the heading "How fluoride might damage your health". I will not quote the article in full, but I wish to quote the last paragraph which I believe contains the gravamen of the matter: The anti-fluoride MPs and their supporters seem to be a defeated political lobby. Suddenly they have been given proof positive of what fluoride does to the hydrogen bonding of one vital component of the living cell. But are they capable of understanding the weapon they have been handed by Edwards, Poulos and Kraut?". Those are the three scientists who have advanced these new findings. The article continues: However, all is not lost, for there is one chemist in government who should understand hydrogen bonding and its importance. Let's hope she reads New Scientist". That article was about the hydrogen bonding of enzymes and I do not pretend to understand the subject.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Would it not be more appropriate to discuss these matters under the next group of amendments?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) is straying a little.

11.30 pm
Mr. Best

I am ruled by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) will not seek to delay me.

I mention the article because it might be one reason why health authorities should have to consider the matter every 12 months. I do not necessarily agree with the article's conclusions. Evidence from other sources suggests that such arguments contain an element of scaremongering and I do not wish to be associated with them.

These important matters have not been fully articulated or fully answered by the Minister. In a parliamentary Question on Monday 4 March I asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what study he has made of the findings of Edwards, Pantos and Kraut on the effect of fluoride on hydrogen bonding in cyclochrome-C peroxidase inhibited with fluoride; what are the implications of this research for his assessment of the safety of fluoridating water at 1 part per million; and if he will make a statement. I received the following answer: I shall let my hon. Friend have replies as soon as possible. On a matter of such importance, the House should have the benefit of the considered view of those on whom the Government can call for expert advice. I hope that, whatever the veracity of the arguments in New Scientist, they will be answered by the Minister. I hope that he has taken further advice, because it is important to know the Government's attitude when we decide such matters.

I do not wish to delay the House. I address my remarks only to amendment No. 6. I expect that my hon. Friends will want to discuss amendment No. 17. I notice that the Whip is looking at his watch so, in conclusion, I shall say that the amendment could be accepted by the Government in good faith. It is moved in good faith because it is a genuine attempt to ensure that the opinion of local people is taken into account by the health authorities because they are required to examine the matter every 12 months.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I support the amendment because it will give the House time to reflect on this major issue every 12 months. So far, we have not had a proper chance to consider the issue in relation to the Scottish health boards and the regional water authorities run by the regional councils.

We have been told that the Government will move amendments in another place to clarify the position of the area health boards in relation to the water authorities. The Strathclyde region has an enormous water authority, with a substantial number of area health boards. We must not forget that the reason for this Bill arose in Strathclyde, where a lady brought an action in the courts.

The involvement of the regional authority, the very large number of district councils — which I understood my right hon. Friend to say would also be included in future consultations—and the area health board is a fair recipe for conflict of views on fluoridation of the various water supplies even though they may be under one overall authority. I believe that the advantage of my hon. Friend's amendment is that every year the House of Commons will be able to reassess the position, with the advice of constituents and of many organisations within Scotland, which will give the benefit of their wisdom to the House, the Ministers in the Scottish Office and the Department of Health and Social Security, as to whether an affirmative resolution should be approved.

Everything that my hon. Friend has said tonight is very apposite and very important to Scotland, because it means that we shall have this opportunity to clarify a situation which may be particularly conflicting on account of the multiplicity of local authorities, whether regional or district, and the area health boards, particularly in the area of Strathclyde, but also throughout the rest of Scotland.

Like my hon. Friend, I did not want to delay the House, but I did think that we must make an important point that we have not had an opportunity to make before. I therefore wish to support him very strongly and I believe that, on account of the situation in Scotland, which has never been clarified, the amendment really ought to be accepted.

Sir Dudley Smith

Like my hon. Friends, I have no wish to delay the House on this matter, but I think that in moving this amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys MÔn (Mr. Best) has hit upon something of considerable importance. I intervened to make the point that evidence is now coming forward — whether it is correct I do not know — and I was challenged by an hon. Member who said that it was pitiful, or something like that. He may say that, but it comes from New Scientist, a reputable publication, not some tabloid newspaper. When I read it, it certainly seems to me as a layman quite impressive and I should like to have the determination of those who are skilled in these sciences as to exactly what the position is.

We have heard something of considerable importance from this article, that there is a woman chemist in the DHSS who apparently is an expert on enzymes of this type and who would be able to give effective evidence to my right hon. and hon. Friends at the DHSS. This surely would be of considerable importance. [Laughter.] The Liberals may laugh, but of course they care very little for the rights of individuals when it comes to the point.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Alan Clark)

Closet Socialists.

Sir Dudley Smith

Yes. They are closet Socialists. Absolutely.

Mr. Michael Brown

In fact, the lady referred to in the article is not a chemist in the DHSS. She is none other than our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not pursue that. It really is away from the amendment. He should stick to the amendment.

Sir Dudley Smith

I am not bright enough to have noticed that that was what was meant. I was misled by my hon. Friend, and I will get back into order.

It would be a sign of good will if my hon. Friend the Minister were to say that there would be an annual renewal—automatically, or in a short while—for the next five or 10 years on the basis that new evidence comes forward from time to time. Members of the public and hon. Members have their suspicions. Indeed, so do Ministers, but for obvious reasons they cannot respond. If evidence of great importance were to emerge, the matter could be reconsidered. All legislation is not sacrosanct for all time. It may well be that in years to come proof will emerge that fluoridation is harmless or—I shall rue the day—that it is extremely dangerous and must be stopped immediately.

Mr. Fairbairn

Is my hon. Friend talking about the authorities in England and Wales or is he talking also about those in Scotland, where the position is completely different? In that Scotland has a preferable situation, he should not under-estimate the strength of his case.

Sir Dudley Smith

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, I am not competent to speak about Scotland. He can do that extremely well. I am addressing myself to England and Wales, representing, as I do, an English constituency.

My constituents, and certainly others who live in the west midlands, would feel far happier if the Department wer able to make this concession. It is another argument, but they are worried that the water authorities are not directly elected, but appointed. Their bureaucracies have grown up and often the individuals do not reflect the will or the hopes and aspirations of the people. I hope that the Government will do something about the water authorities but at the moment they are there and it is extremely important that we should guard the rights and liberties of our citizens.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Does not the problem get worse? If we are to have a discussion on scientific matters which will influence the House in the years to come, such a discussion should take place in the open and water authorities meet behind closed doors, which is a grave matter.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not pursue that. It is quite a way from the amendment.

Sir Dudley Smith

I shall not pursue it, except to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for the point made.

The Government, in, I hope, deciding that the application will be renewable every year, will give the layman an opportunity to have detailed and important scientific evidence explained to him. The article mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn says: Fluoride switches off the enzyme by attacking its weakest links — the delicately-balanced network of hydrogen bonds surrounding the enzyme's active site. That is double Dutch to me. I make no bones about it because I am not a scientist.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

It is gobbledegook.

Sir Dudley Smith

The hon. Gentleman cannot run away from it just like that. Just because he does not understand it does not mean that it is nonsense. I am prepared to accept that this is important technical evidence. I do not understand it but it might be vital. Given that kind of circumstance, we have a right to have the matter either disproved or upheld. Who better to do it than Government scientists, on the best possible evidence available to them, and with the best possible assistance from other scientists?

We are not talking about silly, muddled, objectors to fluoridation, who have got hold of some sort of prejudice and do not like the idea of mass medication of water. We have got away from that, and now reputable scientists are raising issues that are beyond our ken. They need to be interpreted. Unless they are, we are failing to do our duty in providing an adequate check on officials and bureaucrats who would railroad the measure through.

11.45 pm
Mr. Fairbairn

If there were no scientists who claimed that there was any harm in the addition of these substances to the water supply, that would be one thing. But in that there is a complete division among the most sophisticated and learned scientists, including two people who have the Nobel prize for their expertise—

Mr. Lawrence

Eight.

Mr. Fairbairn

Eight? Is it not appalling that the Government are willing to put at risk the health of the people on the basis that they will merely disregard half of the opinions of the scientific world?

Sir Dudley Smith

With respect, I do not think that the Government are intending to put the health of the nation at risk, as my hon. and learned Friend suggests. I am sure that they are honourable and decent people who want to do the best that they can. On this issue, unlike many others, they are misguided, but that is why we are here tonight, trying to suggest that one way that they can assist in the controversy is to allow an annual review, which will enable Parliament to reconsider the whole issue.

My hon. and learned Friend raises an important point. It is relevant to the sedentary intervention by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller), who is a doctor. To hear some of the critics of those who oppose fluoridation, one would think that the scientific evidence was not respectable, that it came from loonies, cranks and others, and did not emanate from those who have done serious research. My hon. and learned Friend suggests that some of them are Nobel prizewinners, and I accept what he says. I have always understood that a majority of scientific opinion was in favour of fluoridation, but that there was a respectable minority, a very serious minority, who raised question marks about it. In those circumstances, Parliament would do well to stop for a moment to consider, pause and realise that it should not now enshrine this Bill in legislation without giving some sort of let out, or possibility in future to discuss the matter in the light of emerging scientific evidence.

Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

The amendment deals with whether there should be an annual review. I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, that new evidence may come forward. However, is he saying that the scientists at the Department of Health of Social Security and the Minister in the Department would be so obscurantist, insensitive and blindly determined to drive the measure through that they would not withdraw, at a moment's notice, the power to fluoridate water if they believed that it was dangerous, rather than wait 12 months to do so? That seems to be the implication of what he is saying. Surely they would withdraw that power if they believed that fluoridation was injurious to health.

Sir Dudley Smith

That is a fair point. I am not suggesting that. We all know that if something really important suddenly happened somewhere, the duty of any Government of any political colour would be to the people, and they would withdraw the measure immediately, with emergency legislation. My sense about that is that if there was a sudden alarm and real evidence straight away that it was a highly dangerous substance, and something had to be done about it within 24 hours, that would be done.

On the other hand, I do not believe that this matter will be resolved quickly or easily. Evidence will continue to be produced on both sides, particularly on the side about which we have heard tonight. Eminent scientists have raised very serious technical doubts not only about the efficacy of fluoride but about positive dangers which, if we are not very careful, could lead to malformation. I do not wish to cause alarm. I just want to know what the exact truth is.

As time passes, more and more studies will be made of these aspects. That is why it would be prudent for the House and for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to accept my hon. Friend's very modest amendment. Ii would give us time to debate the matter in a sensible, logical way at a decent time of the day without any suggestion that we are trying to string matters out. I believe that the Minister would receive a great deal of cooperation from other hon. Members over other aspects relating to the passage of the Bill.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I am attracted by the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best). It contains the valuable feature that it would cause the health authorities to look at this matter on a regular basis and not to assume that the decision they have made can be set in stone for a long period of time.

Although many hon. Members are hostile to the Bill because they have a general objection to the use of the public water supply as a means of medication and although many hon. Members also object to the Bill because, in England and Wales at least, the authorities that will make the decision to put fluoride in the water will not be democratically elected, nevertheless many people, on wider grounds, would abandon those principles and say that if fluoridation is beneficial and not harmful they will accept the consequent limitations upon individual freedom for the good of children whose teeth may benefit. However, their views could change dramatically if the balance of medical evidence appeared to them to shift very seriously.

One striking feature of the medical debate is that new arguments and new directions of inquiry emerge week by week and month by month. Whenever a debate on the subject takes place in the House, that evidence is brought out into the open. Scientific journals are encouraged to publish articles on the subject and the whole debate is reopened. When these proceedings are over, debate in this House may be at an end for some time. It will be transferred to the health and water authorities, which are not required to hold their proceedings in public and which are not so well known to the public, anyway. Furthermore, if they were not obliged to bring the matter before their members at regular intervals, the authorities would not regularly review current scientific thinking.

Mr. Fairbairn

Does the hon. Gentleman think that the public water supply is a suitable medium into which substances should be put in order that diseases of one kind or another — caries, AIDS, schizophrenia or anything else—may be eradicated?

Mr. Beith

No. The hon. and learned Gentleman has not been listening very carefully. It is precisely because I reject that view that I reject the Bill. In the hon. Gentleman's party, as in mine, though perhaps more clearly in mine, there is to be a free vote on the matter. It is not a party matter. Were it a party matter, the Bill would not have got as far as this, but if the payroll vote were not being dragged through the Lobby with increasing reluctance night after night, the weight of opinion among those hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who have taken an active interest in the matter would have ensured that the Bill was killed off some weeks ago. It is only the application of the party principles of government that have enabled the Bill to survive so far.

I have been tempted to digress. The burden of my argument is that, whereas some of us object to the Bill on wider general principles, many take an attitude to the addition of fluoride to the public water supply which is contingent upon their assessment of the medical evidence. There are many who, unlike me, take the view that, if it is beneficial to a significant number of people, it may be tolerable. I am not advocating that view. I am describing it.

The health authorities owe those people a duty to review the evidence. If they are putting fluoride into the water supply, they should be required reasonably regularly to review the matter. Annually seems a reasonable basis for doing so.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

The House will be aware that I served on a regional health authority for 14 years. Regional and district health authorities, or whatever they are called today, are not freely elected. They are nominated by the Secretary of State. What is the point in referring a matter to such a body once a year? We should refer it to Parliament or a Select Committee. I am rather a purist. I have listened tonight to my hon. and learned Friends and others argue the case. I happen not to like state medication. This is a wrecking amendment, but I should like to see the whole thing destroyed and the Bill put aside. To say that fluoride is good and that health authorities should consider the matter every year is nonsense. It is Parliament that should consider it every year.

Mr. Beith

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's unequivocal statement, based on his well-known experience in the Health Service, that the procedure under which our health authorities are nominated by central Government is unacceptable. It is one that led my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) to propose an earlier amendment on that subject. It calls into question all our attempts to have the operation of the procedures under the Bill as reasonable and as fair as possible.

That is called into question by the basis on which health and water authorities are appointed. We constantly have to take what I might call a fallback position. If we start from the assumption that it were better that none of this were done through the public water supply, but the Bill has a Second Reading and seems as though it has some possibility of obtaining a Third Reading, we then have to consider what other ways might be employed to ensure that the matter is decided democratically and fairly and on the basis that information is to hand and that the matter is reconsidered at appropriately regular intervals.

I am at one with the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) in his criticisms of the mechanisms that have been chosen by the Government for that purpose.

Mr. Bermingham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the matter is left to health or water authorities, there is no guarantee that either body will be supplied with the full and detailed scientific information necessary to enable them to make a considered and rational judgment? Does he further agree that even if the information is given to those authorities, and although they may act in their almost cowboy-like fashion occasionally, the public cannot evaluate the judgments or query the decisions?

Mr. Beith

All those criticisms can be levelled. Wherever the decision that is reached—in this place or anywhere else—the criticism can always be levelled that insufficient scientific information is available, or that some people took account of one part of the information and some others. We cannot reach a purist view on that point.

The amendment seeks to ensure that the matter is brought regularly before the health authority. For the life of me, I do not understand why the Government should show the slightest hesitation in accepting that principle. It seems relatively simple even for the most dirigiste of the occupants of the Government Front Bench to accept. If they want to apply this collectivist, Socialist approach to the public water supply, let us have the matter reconsidered at suitably regular intervals.

Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

The hon. Gentleman makes comments which continually refer effectively to amendment No. 6. As I understand it, amendment No. 17 is also before the House. It reads: This Act shall lapse twelve months after coming into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. I should have thought that that amendment is in line with some of the points that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make.

Mr. Beith

I see great merit — on the basis of arguments that have been advanced by me and other hon. Members who intervened during my speech — in the matters coming back to the House regularly and in requiring an affirmative resolution. If this point were pressed to a Division, I think that I would be inclined to support it. Since the Government plan to entrust these matters to the health authorities, I believe that it is eminently sensible that a regular interval should be imposed within which the Government must reconsider. The strongest argument for doing so is the fluid nature of the medical and scientific arguments that surround this issue. Many people have felt that if the scientific argument had gone one way rather than another that would have influenced their decision.

12 midnight

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman, like myself, is a human being. [Interruption.] I would not say that of all Liberals. As the hon. Gentleman knows, to change one's mind from time to time is part of the human condition. One changes one's mind for various reasons, and the hon. Gentleman has adduced some of those reasons. Letters have been written to many hon. Members about this measure, and hon. Members have said that they are against fluoridation of the water supply. It is possible that hon. Members on the Treasury Bench have said that they are against fluoridation. It appears from the proceedings this evening that they are likely to vote in favour of fluoridation. For some reason—it is not for me to say what the reason might be; they might or might not have good reasons—

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

They have not changed their minds; they have only changed their vote.

Mr. Marlow

I am sure that they would not change their vote if they had not changed their minds. Let us be charitable about it — Ministers on the Treasury Bench have changed their minds. Having changed their minds once, they may well change their minds again. If hon. Members on the Treasury Bench can change their minds — given their status and intellectual clarity — surely others could change their minds as well.

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I have rested my case in favour of the amendment on the assumption that the medical evidence will continue to engage a great deal of argument from people on both sides of the case. That may lead some people at some stage to change their position on purely medical grounds.

There is no reason why someone should not change his mind on an issue of major principle. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security — the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)—has changed his mind once on that issue, and may do so again. The hon. Gentleman is not so inflexible and hidebound that changing his mind once will prevent him from doing so a second time. It is wrong of me to exclude the possibility that some people will change their minds on the fundamental principle involved.

In many ways, that is an argument in favour of amendment No. 17, which would bring the matter regularly back to the House. That would be especially for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, who might by then be in another job, or perhaps in no job at all. If he has no job, we might see him back in the Lobby voting against the Bill. If we found him on the Back Benches, the hon. Gentleman might change his mind again.

Mr. Best

I have in front of me a list of names of right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench who, in the past, have expressed opposition to fluoride. In fairness to them, it is open to them — I hope that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) accepts this point—to change their minds. This place is based upon the conception that people will be able to change their minds in the light of persuasive debate. Many of the Government Members whom I have approached have told me that they have changed their minds since expressing unequivocal opposition to fluoridation of the water supplies. One hon. Member whom I approached tonight immediately wrote a letter to that effect to make it clear that he was now in favour of fluoridation, although he had expressed his opposition to it in the past.

Mr. Beith

Clearly, if minds can be changed as quickly and as readily as that, changes the other way are just as possible. I am slightly more worried about those right hon. and hon. Members who have not changed their minds but who feel that it is incumbent upon them to walk through the Lobbies in favour of a Bill of which they disapprove. I acquit the Under-Secretary of that. I think he must have convinced himself of the argument. Time will tell. In a year's time he may be in a different position and have a different view. We must allow for that. We must allow for the ebb and flow of scientific argument. We must ensure that these matters are brought again and again before the authorities. It is an important decision of far-reaching implications. It is not something which can be taken once and for all time.

I fear that the health authorities and water authorities will find it too easy to have an uncomfortable debate about fluoride out of the way and repose in the hope that they do not need to consider the matter again for many years. I do not think they are entitled to the excuse of that freedom. If they are to be given this job, they should be required to review the matter annually. That is why I support the amendment.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I am pleased to participate for the first time formally in the proceedings on the Bill. I declare myself as a very strong opponent of the fluoridation of the public water supply. I must commend the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). It is not often that I follow the hon. Gentleman and can say that I agree with every word that he uttered and every sentiment that he expressed. I believe that he was reflecting the widespread opinion that is held in the country about fluoridation. On an issue which is surely one of personal choice relating to what one takes into one's body through water or through food, the opinion of the House should be reflected genuinely in a free vote.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed directed most of his speech to amendment No. 6, which was moved very ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best). I commend him on the way that he opened the debate because he held out to the Government a lifeline. The House will be forced to drag the Government through many further hours of debate unless they are prepared to make some reasonable concession to those of us, representative of all parties, who speak on behalf of a great many people outside.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins (High Peak)

Would my hon. Friend consider it a reasonable concession if the House is not to have a free vote on whether fluoride should be put in the water, for local government, which is freely elected by the public, to make the decision rather than health authorities which are appointed by the Secretary of State, who has also appointed the payroll vote which will vote the Bill through?

Mr. Winterton

I could respond at some length to that intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins), a very good neighbour to me in the county of Cheshire.

Mr. Hawkins

Derbyshire.

Mr. Winterton

Derbyshire is making a bid for parts of Cheshire which will be resisted.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My hon. Friend is probably unaware that the water authorities in Scotland are regional, elected authorities. Nevertheless many of us myself included, feel that they ought not to be given the powers in the Bill.

Mr. Winterton

I take the point so clearly made by my hon. Friend. One thing that I have learned in the time I have been in the House—almost 14 years—is not to intervene in matters relating to Scotland unless one knows one's facts. I do not pretend to be an expert on Scottish affairs. I certainly do not pretend to be an expert on the law of Scotland. I leave that to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), who has propounded excellent arguments in the debates that we have already had on the Bill. I support both amendments that are being debated, including the one put forward eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon, who I understand is a solicitor—

Mr. Best

No, a barrister.

Mr. Winterton

I stand corrected. I can never catch up with the Celts either. My hon. Friend expounded his views clearly. The last time that we debated this matter, my hon. Friend's speech was excellent. At no time did he repeat himself. This evening, he was so reasonable that he caught me by surprise, because I am a little more jaundiced about Government and the assurances that may or may not be given from the Front Bench during the passage of a Bill merely to pacify those who oppose the legislation.

Mr. Fairbairn

If my hon. Friend accepts, as I believe he does, that it is wrong in principle that any member of the public should be compelled to swallow a substance which might do some good to someone else but which is likely to be poisonous to himself, why should that be a matter of democracy? Why should it be debated in Parliament once a year? Why should the local health authority decide it? Surely every citizen and voter is entitled to say, "That shall not come in my water."

Mr. Winterton

To get this matter out of the way once and for all, and to assist my hon. and learned Friend, may I say, reading from a document entitled, "Fluoride: the facts and the fancy", that I entirely agree with the first stated objective of the National Pure Water Association, which is: Fluoridation is not an issue that should be decided by the votes of members of Local Authorities or of members of Parliament. It is the essence of a free society that people can make their own choice on intimate matters affecting their minds and bodies, such as religious belief, medical treatment, and what they should eat or drink. I should have been out of order had I developed that point, but I hope that I have clarified the position for my hon. and learned Friend.

As has been said by several hon. Members, not least by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, there are occasions when, during the passage of a Bill, the House must find a safety feature that will give some confidence to those of us who are deeply worried about mass medication and about the use of the public water supply for medical purposes. At present, we are debating a fall-back position. With the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, I want the Bill to be defeated. I repeat his view, which is shared by many Conservative Members, that if it was not for the payroll vote coming into the House to be what I would call the puppets and stooges of a misconceived Government measure that is not sufficiently understood outside this place, it would be defeated. Where are the press? They are certainly not here to listen to the debate, which is a pity, because the health of many people is at stake.

Mr. Best

I did not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend in full flow, especially after the expression of concern for his water from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn). I share his concern for his water. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) accepts that I moved the amendment very much on the basis that he just stated—that it was a fall-back position. With him and my hon. and learned Friend, I want this to be a matter for individual choice for every citizen who would be affected. However, the Bill has received its Second Reading. It has been introduced because the fluoridation of water supplies was rendered unlawful by the decision in the Strathclyde case. I have offered the Government an olive branch. If the Minister now said that the Government would accept the amendment on the basis that hon. Members would be brief in their speeches to ensure the smooth passage of the Bill, would my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield be prepared to cut short his speech?

12.15 am
Mr. Winterton

While I might refuse to accept that proposition, I am sure that it would curtail the debate because many hon. Members would feel that such a fail-safe situation would ensure that the rapid changes in medicine and science as they affect the fluoridation of water would be discussed after 12 months by every health authority.

Let us remember, however, that members of health authorities are appointed, not elected. I would rather the whole matter be left to personal choice. People could then use fluoride toothpaste, fluoride tablets or not use fluoride at all. Much cheaper and safer alternatives could be available for the benefit of children, and they are the only group for whom fluoride can be useful.

I accept that the amendment is a fall-back provision, and if I knew that every member of my local health authority would, once a year, take account of all new medical evidence relating to fluoride and the public water supply, I would be much happier.

We are debating a matter of high principle. Throughout our discussions of this issue my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross has stressed the importance of that high principle, and I support every word that he has said. Both Houses should spend some time each year considering the matter. After all, we are the duly elected representatives of the people. The experts and laymen among us can assess the medical and scientific evidence because, as has been pointed out, in this day and age medical and other advances proceed apace.

There should be a free vote on this issue. I hold in my hand a document which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), signed in 1979. That shows that he was then wholeheartedly opposed to the fluoridation of the public water supply. The Scottish Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), with whom I had the pleasure of attending school many years ago, was an honorary officer of the Pure Water Association in Scotland, and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will return to the amendment.

Mr. Winterton

I hope that I am talking to both amendments, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It appears from new evidence that a number of Members have changed their view merely because of their position and not because of medical evidence that has been presented to them. We are debating amendments of great importance. One amendment seeks merely to make an addition, and the other is designed to modify clause 1—

Mr. Best

rose

Mr. Winterton

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Best

In the interests of the debate and of amity in this place, I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw what he has said about my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. If I am not mistaken, he has been grossly unfair to Ministers and PPSs. Unless he has been able to ascertain their views and to discover whether they have changed their minds because of their position, or genuinely because of being persuaded to the contrary, I ask him to withdraw. If he has not taken the steps that I have described, he has been grossly unfair.

Mr. Winterton

I should like to oblige my hon. Friend, but I am prevented from doing so by the document which I hold in my hand, which was sent to the chairman of the national anti-fluoridation campaign in Thames Ditton, Surrey. It reads: I hereby confirm that I am opposed to the fluoridation of public water supplies — name, John Patten — constituency, Oxford—signature, John Patten. That is dated 12 July—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. the hon. Gentleman knows that the question whether Ministers have changed their minds has nothing to do with the amendment.

Mr. Winterton

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I refer you to amendment No. 17, which states: This Act shall lapse twelve months after coming into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. We are fortunate to be debating these issues tonight as we are fortunate to have the attendance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, who represents Oxford, West and Abingdon. I am sure that he will take advantge of the debate to tell the House why has has changed his mind. Perhaps he will tell us that his reason for doing so was not the appointment which led to him holding his present position.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That has nothing to do with the amendment. The hon. Gentleman must return to the amendment.

Mr. Winterton

I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown).

Mr. Michael Brown

Perhaps my hon. Friend will consider what I have to say in the light—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should address the Chair.

Mr. Brown

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will consider why it should be that my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), who once held the position of Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Dr. Vaughan). who once held the position of Minister for Health, changed their minds—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is raising matters that are not relevant to the amendment. He must adhere to the amendment.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I understand it, these amendments provide for a review after a year. The reasons that are being advanced for having that review include the possibility of new evidence and of hon. Members changing their mind. The fact that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security has obviously changed his mind and the fact that others have changed their minds is surely germane to the argument that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is advancing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am always grateful for advice from hon. Members on what is in order, but that is a matter within my discretion. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has been straying from the amendment, and he must return to it.

Mr. Winterton

I accept entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Best

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a convention of the House that before we name hon. Members, whether they be Ministers or Back Benchers, we approach them to tell them of our intention. It may be that those of my hon. Friends who have mentioned Ministers have taken that course, but if not, have they failed to observe a convention of the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That may be a convention, but it is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Winterton

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for bringing me back to order and enabling me to comment briefly before protecting me from my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys MÔn. In general, I do not believe that one has to tell a colleague that one intends to mention his name, especially if he is in the House, as was one of my hon. Friends whom I mentioned this evening. The other hon. Friend whom I mentioned was named for a similar purpose by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross when we debated the Bill a week ago.

Sir Dudley Smith

rose

Mr. Winterton

I have highlighted the way in which hon. Members and Ministers can change their minds because it is germane to amendment No. 17. If there were a debate in both Houses of Parliament at least once a year, if, in the words of the amendment, This Act shall lapse twelve months after corning into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament", it would then be the responsibility of the Ministers to tell the House what had happened in the previous 12 months and perhaps why they themselves had changed their views. Do not their electors have a right to know why they have changed their minds? I will take an even wager, if I may use such a phrase here, that many of the Ministers who have changed their views have not advised their electors accordingly.

Sir Dudley Smith

rose

Mr. Winterton

I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend, who represents the town in which I had the great pleasure to be born.

Sir Dudley Smith

My hon. Friend may not be quite so happy when he hears what I have to say. He is talking, quite rightly, about the fact that people change their minds and about why that is germane to the argument. I received in my post this morning a list headed "These MPs started right". It is a list of hon. Members who opposed fluoridation but failed to vote against the Bill on Second Reading. My hon. Friend was among them.

Mr. Winterton

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has drawn that matter to my attention. If he could remind me of the date of the Second Reading, I would be happy privately to tell him—he could release the letter to the press if he wished—where I was on that occasion.

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Winterton

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, whom I had the pleasure of contesting against in my first parliamentary election in 1969 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, but first I say that my record on fluoridation stretches back over many years. I moved resolutions in Warwickshire county council opposing the mass fluoridation of water supplies.

Mr. Golding

May I refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory? He did not lose one election to me; he lost two.

I appeal to hon. Gentlemen not to stir up a hornet's nest by quoting Division records in the Chamber. If Division records are quoted in the Chamber, many of us will tremble whenever we enter it.

As the only Labour Member who had to swing to the left on joining Mr. Callaghan's Government, I warn the hon. Gentleman not to challenge collective responsibility. If he does so, he will cause grave disquiet to each and every Minister, because not one of them can believe in what their leader is doing at present.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) pursues that point he will certainly be moving away from the amendment. He should return to the amendment before the House.

Mr. Winterton

I did indeed fight two elections against the hon. Gentleman. They were well contested by both candidates and on the first he produced the lowest majority for Labour in the history of his constituency.

Having established that, may I say that this is a matter of great principle. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) says that I should not question collective responsibility, but this is a free vote. There cannot be collective responsibility. That is why those of us who oppose the Bill because of what it does and the principle of what it tries to do have contested it so strongly. Amendment No. 17 says—

Mr. Fairbairn

It has not been moved yet.

12.30 am
Mr. Winterton

It is being taken with amendment No. 6, so I have every right to talk to it.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am amazed by my hon. Friend, even if he fought such a grand opponent twice, because what he is proposing and supporting is a fudge. I did not think that it was his nature to fudge. He is suggesting that this is not a principle but that it can be tested. All of these wretched Ministers and their parliamentary private secretaries will come back in one year's time, be just as dishonest and give the vote that keeps their jobs and leaves their conscience in the gutter, as all of them are doing now. Do not fudge.

Mr. Winterton

I am extremely tempted by some of these interventions. I do not want to incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by going beyond the amendments, but is it right that, when we are discussing an amendment that enables hon. Members to debate such an important issue, a Government Whip—my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones)—should write a letter to a Miss Mellor saying: This is just to let you know that I have added my name to the early-day motion opposing artificial fluoridation of the public water supply."? Is my hon. Friend the Member for Watford here? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Where is he? [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order.

Mr. Winterton

I hope that the debates that follow the Goverment's acceptance of amendment No. 17—

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There has just been a most vicious scurrilous attack on a Whip who was prevented from hearing it by an intervention from behind. Is it not wrong that, when an hon. Member is being attacked in such a scurrilous manner, he cannot hear it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Winterton

I merely said that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford had written a letter saying that he had signed an early-day motion opposing fluoridation of the public water supply, dated 7 November 1979.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for you to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) to the fact that he has been subjected to a devastating and unfair attack by my hon. Friend—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order.

Mr. Golding

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is not a point of order.

Mr. Winterton

I have had more exercise in the Chamber tonight than I have taken all day because of the number of times that I have had to sit down for points of order and other interventions.

Mr. Golding

I am informed that the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) was stopped from hearing that point of order by the chairman of the Scottish Pure Water Association.

Mr. Winterton

During the two elections that I fought against the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme he brought forward much entertaining information, and I am grateful to him for drawing the attention of the House to this point.

Mr. Best

I caution my hon. Friend not to go any further in the attack that he is making. I took the precaution of speaking to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) knows, cannot answer the attack that he has made. My hon. Friend the Member for Watford told me clearly, and I accept and respect the way that he put it, that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have been in the Chair for only five minutes, and I have heard nothing yet that relates to the amendments under discussion. Perhaps we can get back to them.

Mr. Winterton

Normally, my hon. Friend the Member for Watford is engaged in concocting press releases concerning my activities abroad.

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend the Member for Watford has genuinely changed his mind, and I respect his view on that. It is unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Watford, because he knows only too well that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford is not in a position to answer him.

Mr. Winterton

When I was abroad and my hon. Friend the Member for Watford attacked me, I was not able to reply either. I hope that that deals adequately with the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn, whose advocacy of amendment No. 6 I support purely because it is a fail-safe — it is a fall-back position. I support amendment No. 17 for the same reasons. Does not my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn believe that the House is owed an explanation for the extraordinary way that so many hon. Members suddenly changed their minds? Amendment 17, through a genuinely free debate, would give hon. Members, whatever position they hold, a chance to give their reasons for changing their mind.

Mr. Crouch

I am glad that my hon. Friend has come to amendments Nos. 6 and 17. Why are we debating so long on this subject? Has my hon. Friend never heard about the Consolidated Fund Bill, which must come before the House once a year, or the Budget, which must come before the House once a year? As representatives of the people, we decide once a year, every year, on matters that concerns their pockets—taxes. Is it so strange that we should ask them, under amendment No. 17, to consider an effect on their health?

Mr. Winterton

My hon. Friend, who until recently served with me on the Select Committee on Social Services, a Committee that is directly involved in preventive medicine, has drawn to the attention of the House a very valid point. Indeed, every year we debate the Consolidated Fund Bill, every year we have a Budget and every year we have other set piece debates, and I believe that, on a matter as important as an individual's health, the House also should have the opportunity of debating the issue. That is why I have strongly directed the majority of my remarks to the belief that the Government should accept not only amendment No. 6 but also amendment No. 17.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) would seek to intervene and indicate to my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môns and other hon. Members that he is prepared to accept the amendments, I am convinced that a great deal of the heat could be taken out of the debate.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has been attacked for attacking a Whip who is not allowed to defend himself. Will you agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is neither a rule of the House nor a rule of the party that Whips may not defend themselves? In fact, the chairman of the Conservative party at the time of the last general election set the tradition of a speaking Whip.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise a point of order, he should do so rather than make an intervention. I rule on points of order, not the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). It is also a rule of the House that speeches must be relevant to the subject under discussion. I hope that the speeches will be relevant to the subject under discussion.

Mr. Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was seeking your guidance. Is it a rule of the House that a Whip may not defend himself?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have already stated that it is not a rule of the House.

Mr. Winterton

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is perfectly clear that I accept any ruling that you have given. At no time have I sought to interpret a point of order, and I hope that I never will, unless I have the honour to occupy the Speaker's chair.

I have endeavoured to indicate clearly to the House my support for both the amendments under consideration. I look forward to the participation of other of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the debate.

In local government, in which I have been involved, the subject was debated by elected members, but it has now been taken away from elected members and comes under the responsibility of health authorities. Health authorities are comprised not of elected members but of members who are appointed by Government. I support the concept of a debate, but the debate in the health authorities should be supported by a debate in this House which is comprised of elected representatives of the people in the country. Hon. Members are therefore perhaps more closely in touch with what their constituents feel about a subject that affects them closely. I fully support the amendments because they provide some safeguard for those who are deeply concerned about the use of the public water supply for mass medication.

Mr. Bermingham

The two amendments under discussion give rise to some hope for the future. No matter how I think of myself, I do not consider myself to be a scientist. I am always prepared to accept the advice that science offers. Indeed, in recent years, scientific views have changed from time to time. As scientific views change—and that is called progress—Parliament ought to be in a position to review statutes.

Whether one is in favour of fluoride or against it, one has to keep an open mind. One has to be prepared to accept change and further advice. Legislation must allow for various matters to be brought into account from time to time. To do otherwise would be to have a closed and blinkered view which I believe would not be the wish of any hon. Member.

12.45 am

Earlier I was ruled out of order when I intervened. I do not want to pick a quarrel with the Chair, but I was trying to say that just as science has a rolling, progressive and developing view, water and health authorities should have a rolling and progressive view. They should be prepared to take into account developing trends in scientific knowledge.

Someone might make the massive discovery that fluoride is the best thing since sliced bread or that it is the most dangerous thing since alcohol, tobacco, or any of the other products of which I am guilty of indulging in. If the Bill is passed, I should at least like to believe that future discoveries would not be constrained.

An important constitutional issue is involved. I shall try not to try your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have listened to your comments about some of us going too far and I shall try to keep within the narrow confines of the amendments, but it is fair to say that in the last few years a number of measures have been too constrained. A minor example is the Representation of the People Bill. It took 30 years for us to bring that legislation back before the House. This could be dangerous. Some criminal law statutes are equally difficult to bring back for consideration.

We are dealing with a matter which affects the health and welfare of our citizens. A failsafe mechanism is essential to enable us to review legislation in the light of updated scientific evidence. It could be argued that one year is too short a time. I do not know. I am not a scientist. I am prepared to listen to advice on such matters.

Amendment No. 6 states that the area health authority shall annually review the matter. If I thought that the evidence presented to the area health authorities would be generally available I should be more content. However, experience shows that some health authorities are not as open to the public as they should be.

My views about the water authorities are well known. We learn nothing about them nowadays that they do not want us to know. Amendment No. 6 at least starts us down the road to openness. It enables the health authorities to call for the evidence and, with a bit of luck, the rest of us might find out what it is. Health is too important a subject to be for ever dealt with behind closed doors.

Mr. Best

The Secretary of State has accepted the spirit of an amendment which suggested that the public should be given access to health authority meetings and he gave an undertaking that an amendment to that effect would be moved in another place.

Mr. Bermingham

At least it appears that the Government are waking up to the concept of freedom of information and to opening up some of the unnecessary secret channels in our society. I welcome the fact that health authorities may be opening up, and I hope that this openness will spread to other aspects of Government behaviour. Perhaps if we had a little more openness we should not require quite so many leaks in order to find out what is going on and many of us could give up opening the letters which give those anonymous tip-offs about this, that or the other.

But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I pursue that much further you will tell me to get back to the point of the debate. Rather than give you an opportunity to do that, I will return to amendment No. 6.

Mr. Fairbairn

Watching the hon. Member's mind flicking around away from the relevance of the debate, I wonder whether he would concentrate on this matter. If we were to accept amendment No. 17—which has not yet been moved but comes within this grouping, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that This Act shall lapse twelve months after coming into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament", what reason should the hon. Member, or any hon. Member present in the Chamber, have to imagine that the payroll vote, seduced, suborned, disloyal to its principles, will not trammel through whatever the evidence is?

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have certainly not been seduced.

Mr. Bermingham

I do not know whether I am meant to reply to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I reply to the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), because I certainly did not have the opportunity—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman will deal with the amendment.

Mr. Bermingham

I hear what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross had restrained himself a little, he would have found that I would eventually deal with the point which he sought to raise.

Returning to amendment No. 6, the development of the concept of openness in health authorities is one which I welcome. If I understand the arguments that have been advanced on both sides of the House tonight, there appears to be a scientific argument—I will pitch it no higher than that at the moment—which means that there is an argument for and an argument against. As I have said, I am no scientist and I am not in a position to evaluate those arguments, but one listens from time to time to experts and one takes on board what they have to say. If that scientific argument is continuing, it seems to me to be only right and proper that local health authorites should be under a duty, if this Bill becomes law, to take on board those arguments annually and to evaluate them.

There are, of course, a number of health authorities in the United Kingdom and it may well be that different authorities will reach different views on the weight of the evidence. That is entirely within their right. If one health authority decides that the weight of the evidence is against fluoride and another decides that it is for fluoride, they will advise the water authority, under clauses 1 and 2, of their position and the water authority will then have to take the necessary steps.

It seems to me to be right and proper that the different views of various scientific bodies should be evaluated from time to time. It may well be that with the passage of time one particular view becomes overwhelmingly accepted as a result of the evidence adduced and the arguments would then cease. Which view that will be I am not in a position to judge. But we cannot have that continuing dialogue because, as all who have served on local authorities over the years are well aware, once a decision has been taken where there is no necessity to review it that tends to become part of the tenets, written on stone, of the local authority. It is written in the book, not subject to challenge. Indeed, it becomes difficult to challenge it as time goes by.

It is always worrying that matters pertinent to health should become part of holy writ, written on the tablets, never to be challenged or reviewed. The amendment provides a method whereby the continued review system can be brought into play.

Amendment No. 17 is even more pertinent and important. I concede that local health authorities are no longer democratically elected bodies, which is a matter of much regret to many of us. At least the House of Commons is still a democratically elected body. Even though the health authorities have their annual reviews, that may not allay the fears of those who are worried about the Bill. It is right that this matter, which is clearly of considerable dispute between the various scientific authorities, should periodically come before the House for review.

I do not want to take up the point of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross because the meaning of free votes has been well hammered home tonight. I hope that those responsible for the conduct of the business in this place will appreciate that when a free vote is listed it should be a genuinely free vote, otherwise it makes a mockery of this place. If the payroll vote is whipped in, it becomes necessary for the Opposition to begin whippin in their votes.

Mr. Golding

The Government must still accept collective responsibility for a Government Bill. It is nonsense for people to argue against Ministers voting for a Government Bill. We should be appealing to all the others in the House who are anti-fluoride to be here to vote against people who are bound to vote against them in order to keep their jobs in the Administration, and that is not something for which I would blame them.

Mr. Bermingham

Then there is no purpose in ever having a free vote because the concept of a free vote is that each individual Member has a right—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is all very interesting, but it is not relevant to the amendment. I hope that we shall not have a discussion about the principle of free or other votes in the House.

Mr. Bermingham

I seek never to trespass, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I know the penalties of arguing with your rulings, but I would merely suggest to the Chair, if I may put it that way at this stage, that amendment No. 17 gives rise to the suggestion that the matter should come before the House annually for the positive resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I have always understood that the basis of our constitution is that an hon. Member represents a constituency and that as such he comes here to represent the interests of his constituents. Hence my comments to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and the House about a free vote. Of course, if I were to be allowed to reply to my hon. Friend's intervention, I would have to raise the question of the free vote. If the Chair is suggesting that in replying to that intervention I shall trespass outside the terms of the debate, I shall naturally accept that ruling, but—

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Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am so suggesting, and I hope that the hon. Member will not persist with the words that hung around his "but".

Mr. Bermingham

I did not hear what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

What concerns me about amendment No. 17 is that it provides: This Act shall lapse twelve months after coming into force unless before that date its continuance is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. Given the normal time lags in the system, that would be difficult. Given the time lags involved in this Bill, would it not mean that the Government would have to introduce the new Bill the day after this Bill was passed?

Mr. Bermingham

Far be it from me to dare to comment on the Government's ability to manage their own business in this place, but if one reads the amendment literally it means that the positive resolution would have to appear on the Order Paper 364 days after the date of commencement of the Bill. Indeed, that could happen. I could understand an argument from the Minister that a year was not long enough for the Government to consider the matter because of the scientific interest. If he were to say to me personally that there should be a review every two or three years, I would be prepared to listen to arguments advanced along those lines. But it is the principle behind the matter that is important to me. It has been said that we have an annual Budget. The Bill is not quite in the league of the Budget, but it is not far away from the league of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, which has to be renewed annually.

Mr. Fairbairn

Quite right.

Mr. Bermingham

I note that the hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me. We are beginning to develop the concept of the annual review of matters that are pertinent to people's everyday lives. We all hope that there will come a time when the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not need to be renewed. At the risk of being called to order, I say that some of us argue that that is a criminal, not a political matter, but I shall leave that.

The concept of the whole matter is the annual review. I cannot see how amendment No. 17 can be opposed. If the Bill is to be the will of the House, presupposing that on a "free vote" at the end of all our debates the Bill goes to another place and after that comes back to us—and I wait with almost amused interest to hear what, if any, objections the Minister can have to amendment No. 17—

Mr. Fairbairn

What an extraordinary concept it is that the amendment should not be opposed. I find it most offensive. First, as we see tonight, it will be another year after which the measure will just be forced through. It is nothing to do with a resolution of Parliament. It is a bogus resolution of Parliament. Secondly, this is a matter in which water is to be adulterated contrary to the wishes of the people. It is not a matter of democracy. It is not a matter of 12-month votes. It is not a matter of payroll votes. It should not happen. It is a matter of principle.

Mr. Bermingham

I listen with care to the hon. and learned Gentleman and I accept that there are those who hold the very fierce view that the Bill should never reach the statute book. One accepts that that premise is held in good faith by hon. Members on both sides of the House. One also accepts that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who honestly believe that the Bill should reach the statute book. Those hon. Members in the middle who are still trying to evaluate the evidence say that amendment No. 17 is a valuable amendment. It allows the position to be continually reviewed. That does not seem to me to be unreasonable.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, it matters not for the purpose of the argument whether one is for or against fluoride. However, all hon. Members should be in favour of the continuous scientific evaluation of the arguments. In order to enable those arguments materially to affect the Bill, an amendment similar to Amendment No. 17 has to be written into it. It could be argued that the drafting of the amendment is not perfect. I believe that the amendment is very accurate and well drafted and that it is the kind of drafting that should appear in the Bill. It provides both Houses with the opportunity annually to review the position.

If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment, it means that he is not prepared to accept the concept of scientific progress — that arguments turn and change from year to year. As evidence develops, so views change. Therefore, I urge the House to accept amendment No. 6, which provides local authorities and health authorities with the opportunity to hold an annual review. I urge the House also to accept amendment No. 17. It would allow the position to be reviewed annually. Because there have been no scientific developments, there may be only a short debate. However, in two or three years a major scientific breakthrough may be made that will need to be fully debated. However, that debate cannot take place unless amendment No. 17 is agreed to. Therefore, I urge the House to accept amendment No. 17.

Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

I should like to say a few words in support of amendment No. 17. By contrast with some of the rollicking things to which I have been listening, what I have to say may seem somewhat prosaic, but I hope that it will not be so insufferably long-winded as some of the stuff to which I have been listening. Although it supported the argument that I propose to advance, it seemed to be in danger of killing it by a surfeit of words.

I support amendment No. 17 purely and simply as a fall-back. Why do we need a fall-back? I just do not understand how so many friends and colleagues of mine whom I have liked and admired for so many years can support, let alone be so determined to drive through this House, a Bill that authorises compulsory medication. It is no use trying to disguise that fact. In opening this debate my hon. Friend the Minister of State said that this is compulsory medication and that he accepted it. Let us think about the implications. If there is any freedom that we should preserve, is it not your freedom, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and mine to say, "I don't want that medicine. I don't want it put down my throat"? That in itself is sufficient of an argument to kill the Bill. I do not understand, as I have already said, how so many of my friends and colleagues, whom I like and admire, can take the opposite view.

Mr. Jessel

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Sir Ian Percival

No, no, no. I want to make my speech and sit down. I could just understand it if my hon. Friends were saying, "This is so important that we will compel it. The House will compel it." At least that would be compulsion by the senior elected body in this country. But the Government are not doing that. They could not. What are they doing? This I do not understand either. They are saying, "We will not do it, but we will allow two other bodies, over whom no one has any control, to do it." I regret the fact that some of my hon. Friends and colleagues have suggested that either is an elected body. They are not, and it is nonsense for us to say that they are. They are not answerable to any electorate.

Mr. Fairbairn

Except in Scotland.

Sir Ian Percival

All right, Scotland is on its own. It can fight its own battles. I am fighting the English battles—the battles of my constituents and battles in which I believe.

Mr. Fairbairn

Believe in the United Kingdom.

Sir Ian Percival

Will my hon. and learned Friend leave me alone to make my speech? The matter is too serious for the kind of rollicking enjoyment that we are having in the House.

I do not understand how my right hon. and hon. Friends can say, "Not only will we go along with the principle of compulsory medication, but we will put it in the hands of bodies over which there is no control." I have not yet heard any explanation as to how they can reconcile that with our Conservative principles.

I could just understand those matters if the case for fluoride were overwhelming, but it is not. The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) wags his head. He can make his speech in due course. It is no good anyone sitting, as he is, wagging his head. I have taken the trouble to study a great deal of the evidence. I have spent most of my life studying evidence and trying to evaluate it. I accept at once that I am capable of being wrong, but I reckon that I can see when the evidence is all one way. It is not all one way in this case.

I wish that the hon. Member for East Kilbride would stop wagging his head. If he has any evidence to the contrary perhaps he will make a speech. I do not fear fluoride for myself, but I accept that if someone else fears it I have no right to say that they are wrong to fear it. I hope that I may have my hon. Friend the Minister's attention on this. May I have the Minister's attention? None of us have any right to say that those who fear taking fluoride are silly, and that they should not fear it. We have no right to force it down their throats.

There are two other matters that I do not like. I do not like—this may be a bit stuffy—the lighthearted way in which this matter has been treated on some occasions by the Government and on others by those who are putting the same argument as I am. It is a serious argument and the sooner everyone sits down and takes the matter seriously the better.

I do not like this new concept of a free vote. I make no secret of that. I have communicated it to my hon. Friends and colleagues. I hope that it will be made clear to the country that this is not a free vote in the sense of it being the will of Parliament. If the Bill goes through, I hope that no one will say that it was the will of Parliament on a free vote, because that is not so. I do not believe that my colleagues on the Treasury Bench wish that impression to be spread abroad. I hope that they will make it clear that it is not that kind of free vote. If this measure goes through it will be the Government's responsibility.

I do not understand how the Government can take the view that it is right to allow compulsory medication or how, if they take that view, they can pass the authority for that to someone else instead of taking the responsibility themselves. That is especially hard to understand because the evidence is far from one-sided. It justifies the fears of some people.

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For those reasons, I wish with all my heart that the Bill will fail. I hope that my colleagues will change their minds and withdraw the Bill, saying that they have listened to the serious arguments—there is no loss of face in that. I hope that they will agree at, on reflection—never mind the rollicking — it would not be right to force the legislation through. That would be greatly to their credit. If they will not, I beg them at least to allow this fall-back provision to be introducted. For those reasons, I support amendment No. 17.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Makerfield)

We have all enjoyed the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival), who speaks with great authority on these matters. He did not name any hon. Member in particular who gave the impression that we have treated lightly a matter of high principle. This is our third late-night sitting on the Bill, and levity has crept into the debate without any serious intention to devalue this high principle. We should take the right hon. and learned Gentleman's rebuke on board. We shall do more justice to views on the Bill if we treat it is seriously as the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants.

Amendment No. 17, which is a fall-back provision, is seen by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) as giving credence to a thoroughly bad Bill which devalues the concept of freedom as all hon. Members understand it. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to deal with the Bill as a matter of high princople. He believes that we should not touch this legislation with a barge pole and should not table amendments that make bad principle slightly better. He says, "There are sound reasons why we can introduce this measure, obnoxious as many of us consider it to be. It is dangerous if we dress the legislation up with all kinds of bad amendments which allow the continuation of the bad principle, but for only 12 months."

We have to deal with the world as it is and recognise that the Bill was given a Second Reading. I shall not labour the point that the free vote is not enshrined in the amendment. It is essential to understand that the free vote as such has never existed. We have had a vote that has not reflected the will of the House. If it had done so, the Bill would not have received a Second Reading. The Bill has had its Second Reading and four sittings in Committee. We are now trying to do our best to lessen its impact. To that extent we have to address our minds to the principle of freedom which we all uphold. The Bill has gone through Second Reading and Committee stage. We are now seeing what we can do to lessen its impact.

Sir Dudley Smith

As the hon. Gentleman says, the Bill has gone through Second Reading and Committee and there have been long sittings on it. As time has gone on, so the arguments against the measure have become more and more conclusive. That powerful speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival), a former Solicitor-General, blew the Bill right out of the water. He was arguing that it was a fall-back position but that from his long experience as an advocate he had come to the conclusion that there was a great deal of evidence against the proposal.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have passed Second Reading, as the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire) said. I hope that he will turn his attention to the amendment that is before the House.

Mr. McGuire

I will, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Southport, who never once strayed out of order. The Chair could relax, knowing that he would not have to intervene. The contribution of the right hon. and learned Gentleman on Second Reading was equally powerful.

In regard to the fall-back position, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) developed his proposition skilfully. We are all entitled to our own point of view. The medical evidence is not all on one side. Even learned men who make their living out of evaluating evidence say that people can be left in confusion. Certainly there is evidence that fluoridation is good and will achieve a certain object, even though some people will not benefit from it, but there is also a lot of evidence that it is bad.

The purpose of amendment No. 17 is to provide for a fall-back position so that as the medical evidence becomes more positive and proves, as I believe, that fluoridation is not good, the Minister who is responsible can say, "Mea culpa. We have made a mistake. There is enough evidence to suggest that the amendment we made to the Bid was wonderful. The evidence against fluoridation is so overwhelming that the Act will not continue."

Mr. Fairbairn

This is a most serious matter of principle. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) was right. It is not a matter which should be discussed flippantly, as the Minister did frequently. If we were to put in the Bill a concept such as is embodied in amendment No. 17, and if the Government, in the face of all the scientific evidence which demonstrates that this is dangerous to health, were to say, "We do not care; our officials have driven us through the ox wagon," what reason have we to imagine that in one, two or 10 years' time any Government would not do so again?

Mr. McGuire

The hon. and learned Gentleman has outlined that point several times. I wish to deal with it practically. My views are well known—I have said that I would not touch the Bill with a barge pole. However, what has made it more difficult for the anti-fluoridation lobby, of which I am a member, is that the evidence points conclusively to the pro-fluoridation argument—in other words, that it is a good thing.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Yes, quite right.

Mr. McGuire

As I said earlier, we are entitled to our opinions. What we must do is to argue and fight our case. That is why we have a debating chamber. That is why we do not have a rostrum, such as exists in some countries, where a man harangues the audience for 10 or 15 minutes, while the others are filling in their pools coupons or writing letters—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Can we get back to amendments Nos. 6 and 17?

Mr. McGuire

I thought that I had not strayed one inch. What I was saying—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The procedures in other legislative assemblies have nothing to do with the amendments that we are discussing.

Mr. McGuire

Only in this sense, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We must defend our arguments here. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) says that the arguments are overwhelmingly one way. I want to say why I do not believe that that is so. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the New Scientist of 28 February 1985.

Dr. M. S. Miller

We have heard this. It has been mentioned by several hon. Members.

Mr. McGuire

It may have been mentioned by others, but it has not been mentioned by me. I have the floor now. The argument about the fall-back position is relevant, because as more evidence becomes available which is contrary to the view held by my hon. Friends their firmness in upholding the fluoridation argument would be weakened. I do not believe that they are saying, "Nothing will shift our opinion. This is the most marvellous invention since one-way streets." What I am saying is that evidence is coming forward to aid people like me, and I am delighted to receive it.

As the article says: The anti-fluoride MPs and their supporters seem to be a defeated political lobby. Suddenly they have been given proof positive of what fluoride does to the hydrogen bonding of one vital component of a living cell. Such evidence was not previously available to us. The more such evidence is available to us, the more the Government's mind is bound to be concentrated. Perhaps we shall eventually persuade them that it is not good to have embarked on the scheme and that, having embarked on it, they must now stop it.

Dr. Miller

Will my hon. Friend explain what he means by the hydrogen bonding of the living cell?

Mr. McGuire

So as not to delay my hon. Friend, I shall refer him to the article—

Dr. Miller

I have read it.

Mr. McGuire

In that case, my hon. Friend understands it.

Dr. Miller

I want my hon. Friend to tell the House about it.

Mr. McGuire

The evidence states that this mechanism destroys certain cells in the body.

Dr. Miller

No; it destroys enzymes.

Mr. McGuire

As I understand it, they are a vital part of the make-up of any human being. If something that we did not know about previously attacks the enzymes, we must say that it is not a good thing.

1.30 am

From the English point of view—I do not want to arouse the ire of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross—unelected bodies will determine this issue. It is almost an obscenity of the Bill that this House, on a supposedly free vote, will not be taking the final decision. The Government are prepared to hand the decision to unelected bodies whose members are not subject to recall.

It is time for the Government to have another change of mind. I say that because the Parliamentary Under-Secretary changed his mind on this issue. We discussed that at length in Committee and, in reminding him of that change of mind, I am not making a party point. Indeed, in Committee I quoted in his defence the words of Emerson: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds". Having changed their mind on this issue, the Government intend nevertheless to leave the final decision to an unelected body over which we have no control and which is not subject to the democratic procedures to which we in Parliament are subject.

While I agree that we should not try to dress up a bad principle with frills, at least the amendment would give some hope for the future. As new evidence comes forward—I have quoted some from the New Scientist—a fall-back provision will be necessary. Amendment No. 17 would provide such a provision.

Mr. Jessel

I oppose amendments Nos. 6 and 17. The period of one year is so basic to our everyday thinking that we hardly every pause to consider what it really is. As an interval of time, 12 months has no relevance to any problem connected with fluoridation or dental health.

An analogy has been drawn with the annual budget and the annual Consolidated Fund Bill. A year as a time interval has been traditionally used for the assessment of tax. A winter and a summer—a cycle of seasons—was used to assess the income of farmers and peasants, and that got carried forward into our modern industrial economy; but, as I say, it has nothing to do with fluoridation and dental health.

To assess the effects of fluoridation in terms of a reduction in dental decay among children requires a period such as five, six or seven years. Over that type of interval one can see the massive reduction in pain, suffering and the avoidance of waste through dental decay that fluoridation is intended to bring about but which had hardly been mentioned tonight. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) said that 12 months would be suitable to assess what he called mass medication. I wish that some of my colleagues would be consistent and oppose the addition of chlorine to our water if they are opposed to mass medication and ask that that addition be examined every 12 months. That is mass medication, and to be consistent my colleagues should ask for chlorine to be removed from our water or keep quiet about mass medication.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has allowed me to intervene. He does not understand the argument even now. I do not suppose that he will understand it, even in his time scale of seven years. If we add something to our water to make it possible for everyone to drink it without risk, that is not medication. The addition is making it drinkable, or potable. On the other hand, if we add something to our water which may help someone else who does not brush his teeth not to have toothache, that is not mass medication, that is force-feeding some so that someone else might benefit. If my hon. Friend cannot see the difference between having water that is drinkable for everyone and adding something that may make the water beneficial to someone, he should sit down within the next seven years.

Mr. Jessel

I listened to my hon. and learned Friend's argument, but he was engaging in hair splitting. Both additions amount to compulsory mass medication. There are mass additions because everyone has them in his or her water and they are compulsory because they are added to the water supply which everyone has to use. Chlorine and fluoride are both medications because they prevent disease and pain. In that sense they are identical. There is no difference in principle and to pretend that there is to introduce a hair-splitting distinction which is not worthy of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn).

Mr. Neil Hamilton

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Mr. Jessel

No, I shall not give way. The other night my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross called me and a few of my colleagues cannibals. I remind him that cannibals need strong teeth, which is exactly what the Bill is intended to produce.

Mr. Bill Walker

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) is obviously unaware that in some parts of Scotland, certainly in the part in which I live, we do not add chlorine to our water. We have pure water which passes through filter beds. We object strongly to anyone doing anything to our water.

It is all very well for us to talk about mass medication and what we want to do to help the public. It is important for us to remember that in a democracy we should have the maximum amount of freedom. We should impinge on freedom only when it is essential to do so. It may be essential in some circumstances to add something to the water to make it fit for drinking. If my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham does not understand that fine difference, I suggest that he spend some time in Africa. If he takes up my suggestion, he will learn quickly what the difference means.

I oppose the amendments because I think that they are wrong in the context of the water supply in my constituency and not because I think that it is wrong to have a fall-back position. I do not want a fall-back position in my constituency or a review procedure after 12 months. Much as I think that the amendments have something to commend them, I consider them to be tantalising and tempting. They would take us away from the important matter, which is whether medication should be given to the public through our water supplies.

I have no facts to support what I am about to say, but I have been advised today by some of my constituents, who care deeply about this issue, who are beekeepers. They tell me that if chlorinated water is added to bee syrup—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are debating whether health authorities should be required to review applications at the end of 12 months. The amendment has nothing to do with bees.

Mr. Walker

Amendment No. 17 seeks a review after 12 months have passed following the Bill's enactment. I do not want to have to go to my beekeepers in 12 months' time and say that the House of Commons is going to review the matter and that we are sorry that all the bees are dead. That is relevant to the amendment.

Mr. Golding

Would it not be more important to be able to say "halt" to the Government in 12 months' time if the bees had grown steadily worse but were not yet dead? It would be no use saying "halt" when the bees were dead. The hon. Gentleman wishes to be able to save the bees in the nick of time.

Mr. Walker

I am sure that the House will appreciate the merit of that intervention.

I am not a scientist and cannot evaluate the evidence presented to me. That is why I am opposed to giving even a 12-month period. I remember the case of high alumina cement. In that case there was no 12-month review period. There was no review period at all.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have had bees and now we are having cement. We must address ourselves to the amendments.

Mr. Walker

I feel that you are being a little unjust to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] I do not challenge your judgment in any way, but I hope that we shall never in the future look at medical or scientific evidence and be satisfied that there may be a review in 12 months' time when evidence is already being presented that shows that we are indulging in a dangerous practice. I mentioned high alumina cement because that was what happened at that time. Before the first structures collapsed there was ample evidence that the substance was faulty. The principal of Dundee university was responsible for writing the papers that showed that the material was faulty and should not be used.

Mr. Golding

Is it not possible that it was the fluoride in the water used to mix the cement that produced the problem?

Mr. Walker

I am not a scientist and cannot comment. However, having been an aviator, I understand that fresh evidence constantly comes forward that makes one revise attitudes that one has held for years. If one does not revise one's attitudes, one can find oneself in serious trouble.

It is unnecessary to encourage mass medication, and it is wrong to force it upon my constituency, which probably has the purest water—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have had the Second Reading. We have dealt with that. We are now dealing with specific amendments. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will either address himself to them or resume his seat.

Mr. Walker

I was about to say that if the people living in my constituency are forced to receive this medication for 12 months before there is a review—

Mr. Fairbairn

My hon. Friend should understand that in his constituency and mine, where the water comes from the same source, there is no question of mass medication. The people who will have to drink the filthy stuff are not being medicated. They are being poisoned—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has heard me several times ask hon. Members to address themselves to the amendment. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will either do so or not seek to intervene.

Mr. Walker

I am trying desperately to make you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House understand that I speak tonight on a free vote on behalf of my constituents—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The question whether any hon. Gentleman has received any advice, guidance or direction about how to vote is not a matter for the Chair. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will either address himself to the amendment or resume his seat.

Mr. Walker

It has not been my intention to delay the House. I have spoken for seven minutes, during which I have said why I am not prepared to support either of these amendments. I have sat through many longer speeches that have gone much further from the subject under discussion. I hope that I have explained why I am unable to support the amendments.

Mr. Marlow

I do not know how much of the debate my hon. Friend has heard. He has been here all evening, but I am not sure whether he was here on previous occasions.

Mr. Walker

I was abroad.

1.45 am
Mr. Marlow

That is quite reasonable and I am not criticising my hon. Friend. I would not dream of it or dare to.

Mr. Home Robertson

I would.

Mr. Marlow

Well, the hon. Gentleman is a little uncouth. I shall not be drawn in that direction. My hon. Friend must be aware that every day, week, month and year there is new evidence on this subject. Without these amendments, we shall allow health authorities to pollute our water supply without end. As new evidence is constantly emerging, it is only prudent to pass the amendments.

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend as put his case well and cogently. I said that I found it tempting to go for the fall back. I have examined the evidence and circumstances in my constituency and I am unable to support a fall back.

Mr. Michael Brown

The amendments are important as they give those who are convinced that the evidence favours fluoridation the chance to vote in favour of their principles today and to be able to say honourably in 12 months that, although they were convinced that fluoridation was right on 5 March 1985, they recognize—

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker: The time might come when the Government might feel that they might wish to put it to you that the Question should be put. Before that crosses the Government's mind, can I put it to you that we have had a long debate but have not heard from my hon. Friend the Minister?

Amendment No. 6 concerns an annual review, and we know that my hon. Friend the Minister has had a change of mind. It would be inappropriate for the Government to put it to you that the Question be put in advance of my hon. Friend answering the debate and giving his point of view, as that is germane to how many hon. Members might react.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I cannot rule on hypotheses. That is not a point of order.

Mr. Brown

Those hon. Members who follow the view of my hon. Friend the Minister that fluoride is, with all the evidence that is available today, something that should he put in the water supply should support the amendment. They do not know, any more than I do, what evidence will be adduced in the next two months, the next 12 months or the next 10 years, which might suggest that fluoride in the public water supply is dangerous.

Mr. Fairbairn

Let us suppose that it is discovered tomorrow by scientists that fluoride causes cancer or destroys kidneys, or whatever. Obviously, the Government would say, "Stop." However, if in a year's time, there is still the shady evidence, of which there is a massive amount now, will it happen on 5 March 1986 that the Act will fall and the payroll vote is not wheeled in? If so, what would be the Government's position? It is an absurd amendment. Why do not the Government just accept the fact that there is major scientific evidence that shows that fluoridation is harmful and is contrary to principle? To put it on as a sort of annual event like the Budget is ridiculous.

Mr. Brown

I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend on that point. These are a modest two amendments that enable those of my hon. Friends who today believe that fluoride is a good thing, to change their minds in 12 months' time in the light of new evidence. For that reason, many of us have supported my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in their amendments. Because of those amendments, my hon. Friends, led by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, can hold their heads high. As there is doubt, which has been drawn to the attention of the House, it is right to give the House the opportunity to think again every 12 months.

The position for many hon. Members, myself included, has changed since we last debated this matter a week ago. Then, I could not imagine that I would read a distinguished article in the New Scientist of 28 February entitled "How fluoride might damage your health". I am sure that there are hon. Members who, a week ago, were prepared to give my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary the benefit of the doubt, but as a result of this article, have changed their minds. We would be ill servants of our constituencies if, having debated a matter of great controversy such as this with open minds, we had not been influenced by this article.

Many hon. Members must be taking advantage of what has been described as a free vote not to be here. It may be that last week, hon. Members who had no interest one way or the other in the debate on fluoride were prepared to be guided by the advice being given to the House by my right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend in the Department of Health and Social Security.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend has just said that there is to be a free vote. I shall not upset you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by talking about the payroll vote. However, there are hon. Friends here tonight to sustain the Government who do not necessarily believe in the Bill but who are here because pressure and persuasion has been put upon them. They are not of the payroll vote, so this is not even a free vote to the extent that my hon. Friend thinks that it is.

Mr. Brown

It would be wrong of me to comment at great length on my hon. Friend's point, and I might incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I did so. There is no doubt that there are a number of my hon. Friends here tonight who were not here last week, for understandable reasons. They took the view that they did not know enough about the issue, and were satisfied with the assurances that they had received from my right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend at the Department of Health and Social Security, and were prepared to abstain and not attend the debate. They felt that Ministers, with all the back-up that they get from their Department, are people in whom they should trust, and of whom they should take notice. But on Wednesday 28 February those hon. Members, some of whom may well be present tonight, read the article which begins: New evidence now supports earlier suspicions". If that can occur in only six or seven days during the passage of the Bill, I am convinced that in the course of the next 12 months there will be even more new evidence. I hope that the Department of Health and Social Security will spend some time in getting its research chemists and staff to consider this evidence. The Department may want to take the opportunity provided by the New Scientist article to use the year of grace that would be given to it by acceptance of the amendment. The Department might consider the article and then go back to the test tube, the drawing board or the laboratory and think again.

Mr. Golding

I obtained the article from the Library before supper, and trying to understand it ruined my supper. Could the hon. Gentleman explain what it says?

Mr. Brown

It is incumbent upon all hon. Members in considering whether circumstances might change in 12 months' time to have regard to the article.

The new evidence is: The anti-fluoride lobby has always lacked solid evidence of the mechanism by which fluoride could be harmful. Judging by what American chemists have discovered in the course of the last few months, they will discover a great deal more in the course of the next 12 months. That is why I think that we should keep the debate to some extent open-ended and allow ourselves a let-out, whether we are in favour of or against fluoride.

Dr. M. S. Miller

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he does not set too much store by that argument which seems to be the cornerstone of his speech. It may be that he will have egg on his face if he maintains that that is the most important aspect of the matter. I merely warn the hon. Gentleman of that possibility.

Mr. Brown

I accept the comment of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller). My hon. Friend the Minister said last week that he would not take notice of any old report, article or information that came before him. I think that he has a duty to consider any new evidence, article or information from whatever source it comes.

Mr. Golding

I had egg on my face when I read the article, but I ask the hon. Gentleman again to tell us precisely what the article says.

Mr. Brown

The import of the article is that it has been discovered recently that fluoride damages the enzymes which are crucial to the human body function. Fluoride switches off the enzymes. I am not a scientist. The House is being asked to debate a matter. We are lay people, but I do not think that it devalues our arguments in any way if we adduce certain scientific evidence. I think that it is perfectly reasonable for us to do this.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

The study to which my hon. Friend refers describes for the first time … the crystal structure of a fluoride-inhibited peroxidase enzyme … the fluoride ion attaches itself to the iron atom at the heart of the enzyme and then disrupts the active site by attracting groups that can form strong hydrogen bonds to itself".

2 am

Mr. Brown

The yeast enzyme is affected by the ingestion of fluoride over a considerable time. I shall explain what the yeast enzyme does—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I should like the hon. Gentleman to address his comments to the amendment rather than to the article on medical matters which are beyond my comprehension, and—I think—beyond that of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not possible that within the 12 months the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) will have read and understood the arguments and be in a position to argue on behalf of the Government?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House accepts amendment No. 17, we shall be able to return to the argument 12 months from now.

Mr. Brown

In an intervention last week I drew the attention of the House to an article in New Scientist in 1983. I have read that publication regularly for about three years. I collect all the articles on fluoride in that distinguished magazine. It is clear that New Scientist has taken an editorial view that fluoride should be examined carefully. I do not pretend to understand the scientific analysis in this or any other article, but it is important in the next 12 months to consider new evidence.

Mr. Fairbairn

The refusal even to consider the scientific arguments demonstrates that the Government are saying, through their officials, that they do not care what the evidence is and that they propose to ignore it.

Mr. Brown

I agree. I am prepared to leave the article and refer to the publication of the report on fluoridation by the Royal College of Physicians.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend should not be so willing to discard the importance of the article in the face of the baseless challenge from the Opposition that there is no evidence for challenging the veracity of that article. My understanding of the importance of the article is that since fluoride affects the hydrogen bonding—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It would be in order to discuss the relevance of the article to the amendment, but it is not in order to seek to widen that to a discussion about the basis of the Bill.

Mr. Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Hon. Members should not rise when the Chair is addressing the House. We cannot discuss matters which have been decided on Second Reading.

Mr. Lawrence

I am sorry that I expressed my argument so ineptly that I misunderstood. The significance of the article, and therefore the significance of the point of being able to consider the scientific evidence more frequently than the Bill allows, is that fluoride interferes with hydrogen bonding in the yeast enzyme. It is first-time evidence that fluoride can interfere with a living organism in a living cell in the body. It is a significant breakthrough. Since it is a recent breakthrough, amendment No. 17 is important and valuable for the safety of our people.

Mr. Brown

I shall not dwell—it would be out of order to do so—on the technical reasons which have been adduced in this article entitled "How fluoride might damage your health". But I think that it is reasonable, as you have yourself indicated, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to point out to the House that this Chamber is much more heavily attended for these proceedings than it was a week ago, which could well be due to the fact that those hon. Members who last week were prepared simply to give my right hon. and hon. Friends at the DHSS the benefit of the doubt have had cause for second thoughts.

The point I am making in support of these two amendments is that, if hon. Members had new evidence made available to them through a magazine which they may or may not understand but which clearly indicates to them that there is some reason for doubting whether they should cast in stone a statute which does not give them the opportunity of thinking again, it is obviously right and proper that amendments of this kind should be passed so that, if there are further articles of this kind, further reports, experiments, laboratory tests and test-tube tests during the course of the next 12 months following up the work that has been done by those who wrote this article, they can be taken into account.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend has pointed out how important this debate is and how much interest there is in it in the Chamber. He will see that there are probably three times as many hon. Members in the Chamber as we had during the last Opposition Supply Day, which is an absolute measure of the validity and importance of his remarks.

I am on my feet, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to right a wrong which I feel that my hon. Friend was about to perpetrate. He would not wish to do that. He said that last week our hon. Friend on the Front Bench, who happened at that time to be our hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), when confronted with arguments and facts, was prone to dismiss them with a wave of the hand. In fact, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon was not on the Front Bench at the time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) well knows, he is one of the most courteous Members of the House and would never have behaved in such a way.

Mr. Brown

I was mixing up my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary with the Secretary of State. I withdraw entirely the criticism I appeared to make of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. I hope that my hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take on board what I said and I apologise for wrongly addressing my remarks to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary.

It must be recognised that year by year, month by month, new evidence is becoming available. The New Scientist magazine is not written just for the benefit of scientists. It is not in the Library of the House of Commons as well thumbed as it is today because only scientists read it. It is a magazine which Members of Parliament read and reread and take very seriously. When I went to the Library early this afternoon, it was a very dog-eared magazine that I picked up, and it had been there only since last Thursday. That is clear evidence that hon. Members are deeply concerned about the fact that there is an element of doubt. If there is an element of doubt today, there is bound to be an even greater element of doubt in 12 months' time.

That is why, presumably, my hon. Friends have tabled these two amendments, so that there may be an opportunity for all of us to reconsider the matter in the light of whatever new evidence may become available. It is conceivable that in 12 months' time, as a result of DHSS work on the evidence which has been adduced in the New Scientist article, I may be convinced by my right hon. and hon. Friends at the DHSS to change my mind. I do not think that there is anything wrong in minds being changed. One of the criticisms that is often made in the House is that hon. Members have closed minds. Opposition Members often call upon the Government to change their mind during Prime Minister's Question Time and other set-piece debates. When Governments change their minds in response to an expressed will of the House, few people then challenge the Government for that. Often we congratulate the Government on having had the good sense to change their mind. If an hon. Member changes his mind, there is nothing wrong in that.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) changed his mind. On 3 December 1981 he signed an early-day motion stating that the House is opposed to the artificial fluoridation of the public water supply. Yet, by 24 November 1982, he was signing an amendment attacking that motion.

Mr. Beith

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson).

Mr. Brown

I apologise. On 3 December the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) signed an early-day motion, presumably in good faith, and yet, 11 months later, something happened to change his mind.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for giving me notice that he intended to raise this earth-shattering matter. I have been consistently in favour of the fluoridation of the water supply because of the overwhelming evidence that that is beneficial to all concerned. There must have been a typographical error because I have been consistent in my approach to the matter.

Mr. Brown

I must accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is an honourable Member and we must believe what hon. Members say on matters of this kind.

Mr. Fairbairn

The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) is a Scottish Member of Parliament. All I can say is that if the hon. Gentleman has been consistent in that matter it is the only matter he has ever been consistent in.

Mr. Brown

I shall not be drawn by that intervention.

The anti-fluoridation organisers of the pure water campaign have the hon. Member for East Lothian down as having signed an early-day motion on 3 December 1981 and as changing his mind in 1982. It may well be a typographical error and of course I believe the hon. Gentleman. It is a fairly major error. The hon. Gentleman is a genuine enough hon. Member to say openly and honestly that that is a mistake. Many of my hon. Friends have changed their mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has already referred to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment here.

We all acknowledge and understand the principle of collective Government responsibility. We should not make too much of this. I recall that last week a member of the Government rightly aid at the 1922 Committee that the Government are entitled to expect any Minister of the Crown to support Government legislation, even on a free vote on Government-sponsored legislation. We must acknowledge that there is a type of free vote that goes with a private Member's Bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman heard me rule on that matter some time ago. He should return to discussing the amendment that is before the House.

Mr. Brown

I am trying to say, as simply and concisely as I can, that although some of my hon. Friends sitting on the Treasury Bench have given public commitments to their electors—I have photocopies of letters here, some of which have already been referred to—they should not need to feel that they have been in any way inconsistent. We all acknowledge that they have special responsibilities.

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us more about the inquest in the 1922 Committee, perhaps in terms of it taking 12 months before a verdict is reached?

2.15 am
Mr. Brown

No, I think that that would be out of order, unfortunately. I am supposed not to divulge what goes on in the Conservative Back-Bench 1922 Committee. I do not want to incur the wrath of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) if it is written in Hansard exactly what goes on in the 1922 Committee. I am sure that it is all right for us all to read in the Daily Telegraph what goes on, but it is stretching the point to read it in the columns of Hansard.

The point that I am trying to make is that, while new evidence is being adduced that might change people's minds, there might come a day—I hope that it will not be for a very long time—when each and every one of my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench does not have the burdens of office that so restrict them, for understandable reasons. My hon. Friends the Members for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) and for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan) occupied positions of Under-Secretary of State and Minister of State. Since they have ceased to occupy those offices, now held by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), they have become signatories to the early-day motion opposed to fluoridation. Something has happened since they left the Department of Health and Social Security to make them change their minds.

There was my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate, and there was my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East. They were sitting there in the DHSS with all the officials and everybody else telling them in the early 1980s, when they held those offices, that they should acknowledge that fluoride was the best thing out to prevent dental caries. They were told that they must recognise that there was no danger to health. Yet when they left office, and left all their advisers behind them, and it was expected that as they sat on the Back Benches they would have ringing in their ears all the scientific evidence that their officials gave them, they signed the early-day motion,. of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton. They changed their minds although they, more than any other hon. Member, must have known the scientific details. They must have been through all the reports to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health referred a week ago. They would have been in the DHSS reading report after report and getting thoroughly fed up with the very word "fluoridation", yet when they left all that on one side and became free men as Back Benchers, they had no hesitation in signing that early-day motion.

I hope not in the next 12 months, but one or two of my hon. Friends might find themselves in different circumstances. They might find themselves no longer restricted by the understandable and constitutional burden of collective responsibility—

Mr. McGuire

Or the attractions of office.

Mr. Brown

I look at my hon. Friends tonight, and I do not think that they are particularly attracted by their office at the moment. I am a fair and reasonable man, as I think my hon. Friends will agree. The point that I am trying to make is that one day perhaps, for example if my hon. friend the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household, who in the past has consistently opposed fluoridation, ever has the good fortune to be relieved of the cares of office—I hope to goodness that it will not be for a very long time because he is one of the best Vice-Chamberlains we have ever had in the House—

Dr. M. S. Miller

The hon. Gentleman is talking as if things that have happened since the days that he is talking about have produced only adverse reports about fluoride. However, does he not accept that it is the other way round? More and more studies have been done showing that fluoride is not dangerous.

Mr. Brown

What the hon. Gentleman has just said might have been true of the 1970s, but I do not believe that it is true of the period since 1983. He made a fair point when he referred to the position a decade ago but circumstances have changed quite dramatically since then.

To return to my theme about changing one's mind, there is nothing wrong about that. When my hon. Friends become Ministers their minds have to change overnight. My hon. Friends the Members for Reading, West (Mr. Durant) and for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd), who became Government Whips not so very long ago, had to change their minds overnight in favour of fluoridation, although on several occasions in the past they had formed part of the anti-fluoridation campaign. On the basis that when they become Ministers they can change their minds overnight in favour of fluoridation, it is reasonable to assume that they again can change their minds overnight if they cease to be Ministers.

Mr. Fairbairn

Instead of giving these perfervid examples of duplicity, why does my hon. Friend not tell the House that the fact is that those on the payroll vote who pretend that they are for fluoride are not for fluoride; they are not for principle; they are not for anything? They are just for office.

Mr. Brown

No, I cannot agree with that, and my hon. and learned Friend does not make that intervention with clean hands. There are hon. Members who have never had, who will never aspire to have, who will never receive, and who would never accept an invitation to sit on the Front Bench, because there are other hon. Members who are far better qualified to do so.

One can illustrate the point that there are hon. Members, particularly those who sometimes occupy this Bench, who are prepared to change their minds when they become Ministers by showing how it works the other way. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) signed the early-day motion against the compulsory fluoridation of the water supply not once, not twice but three times, three years in succession. He believed that fluoridation was bad. Suddenly, good fortune overtook him. He had the great privilege of becoming the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. Therefore, he had to change his mind overnight about fluoridation. He did not read New Scientist or the publications of Her Majesty's Stationery Office to help him to change his mind. He changed his mind overnight for the entirely honourable reason that there was a very important job to be done.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins), who on one occasion signed the early-day motion against fluoridation, found himself one day the Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister in the other place. He changed his mind overnight. He did not go to the Library and read New Scientist or make up his mind on the basis of HMSO or Department of Health and Social Security publications. The list is endless. If I were to read the complete list, I suspect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would ask me to resume my seat because of tedious repetition. However, the commitments made in letters at general elections are probably the most important. I do not think that we should get too het-up about early-day motions.

Mr. Golding

Not only is the hon. Gentleman cutting himself off from office for ever more but he will have to examine every single letter that he signs at the time of a general election if he persists with this argument.

Mr. Brown

I have always worked on the assumption that every single letter written by me under my signature must be capable of appearing in inch-high letters in Private Eye and every other journal that one can possibly think of. I learnt that lesson within weeks of coming into the House when I wrote—

Mr. Golding

After the election?

Mr. Brown

Unfortunately, after the general election. I remember writing to the hon. Member—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps the hon. Member can save that for his memoirs and return to amendments Nos. 6 and 17.

Mr. Brown

I shall not pursue that line of argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I remember sending a letter to an Opposition Member which I suddenly found myself reading in "Londoner's Diary". I learnt then that every letter must be capable of appearing across the pages of any journal. I am sure that seasoned and experienced Ministers work on that basis.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Paymaster General, the chairman of the Conservative party, must have realized that some day, somewhere, his letter dated 18 October 1978 to Mrs. Bridger of 8, Cross street, Liston Suffolk, when he was fighting a by-election, would be drawn to the attention of the rest of his constituents or the House of Commons. He said: Thank you very much for your letter. I find the points that you raised particularly interesting and am especially keen on the matter of returnable bottles"— Heaven knows what that is all about— but you are right in assuming I am opposed to the compulsory fluoridation of water and will vote against it whenever it comes up. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is in the Chamber. I know that he will be in the Division Lobby in an hour or two.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

He is in the Tea Room.

Mr. Brown

He is in the Tea Room. Well, whenever the vote comes, and it will come tonight, we shall all watch the way that the chairman of the Conservative party will cast his vote.

My well-respected right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment must have known that attention would be drawn to the commitment that he honourably gave on 25 April during the 1979 general election to Mr. Turner of Washford, Watchet, in Somerset: Thank you for sending me the paper about fluoridation. I hope that you will excuse me if I do not complete the form at this rather hectic time. You know my views, that I am utterly opposed to the fluoridation of water"— my right hon. Friend showed himself to be capable of great and high office when he had the good sense to add the rider— unless it carries the overwhelming support of people in the area. He may have ascertained their views in some kind of local referendum and will be able to vote accordingly later this evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) is a distinguished member of the Whips Office. He revealed his ability to fulfil higher office when he sensibly wrote to Mr. J. Hayward on 29 November 1979 after the general election campaign: Thank you for your letter of 17th November about the fluoridation of water supplies. On the whole I am not in favour of compulsory fluoridation though I understand that the practice is strongly endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians. As you know, however, it is the responsibility of the area health authority to initiate a fluoridation scheme and for the water authority to take action. I note, incidentally, that the North-West Water Authority have decided not to take any action at the moment on the decision of the area health authority. There was a sensible and considered response.

My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport wrote on 20 June to Mrs. Beaumont, of 67 Malden road, Cheam.

Mr. Golding

Is he here?

Mr. Brown

I am not sure whether he is, but if he is he will recall his remarks to Mrs. Beaumont: Thank you for your letter. I share your views on fluoridation. There are many MPs on all sides who are disquieted and I am most grateful to you for your support in this matter. There we have a clear case of many of my hon. Friends who understandably and rightly sit on the Treasury Bench, constitutionally and correctly voting for the Bill, even though, if they were not Ministers, they might have been in another Division Lobby. I do not attack any of them for finding themselves in that position, because it could happen to any hon. Member who becomes a Minister.

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us, for the benefit of those who are on the run tonight, that he will be reading those letters this week to the 1922 Committee?

2.30 am
Mr. Brown

I even more terrified about speaking to the 1922 Committee than about speaking in the House. It may surprise you to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have sought to catch the eye of the chairman of the 1922 Committee only twice in my political career in the House, which spans six years. I have spoken for about 20 seconds on each occasion, so terrified am I of the atmosphere. Therefore, I shall hesitate to draw this matter to the Committee's attention. Last Thursday, which was one of the two occasions on which I have spoken to the 1922 Committee, I spoke about fluoridation.

Whether one is the Secretary of State for Employment, the Minister for Sport, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household or a Government Whip representing Watford, Reading, West Huntingdon, or Fareham, I say, "There are many of you in the Administration who rightly at some stage have supported the anti-fluoride campaign and sometimes have been unable to support the anti-fluoride campaign."

Mr. Home Robertson

In some instances people face both ways at the same time. I have particularly in mind the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), who is the Government Whip and whose name appeared on the letterhead of a letter by the Scottish Pure Water Society sent only a month ago to all Scottish Members of Parliament urging them to vote against the Government. When I last saw the hon. Gentleman, he was urging Government supporters to vote for the Government.

Mr. Brown

We have all found ourselves in those circumstances. Even free men on the Back Benches have on one day been marched by the Government Whips into one Lobby only to be marched in exactly the opposite direction on another occasion. The Government are entitled to get their business through when it is a whipped vote. We have all committed some assaults when we have been on a whipped vote. I am a free man tonight. I am not on a whipped vote. Therefore, I can exercise that freedom. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench do not have the luxury that I have, but they might one day—I hope that it is not for a long time—have the luxury of being able to change their minds again. If the amendments are passed, we shall afford all the right hon. and hon. Members to whom I referred the opportunity to exercise the freedom that they once enjoyed.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

I wonder whether my hon. Friend is doing a disservice to our right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates that one becomes a Minister only if one is a responsible individual and puts oneself in a position to consider all the arguments that a debate throws up. We cannot assume in advance that our right hon. and hon. Friends will all vote the same way simply because they are sitting on the Treasury Bench. I prefer to believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends, being broad-minded intelligent individuals and anxious to consider all the arguments for and against the proposition, will make up their minds on the basis of the weight they attach to the arguments. It is unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) to impugn the integrity of our right hon. and hon. Friends in that way.

Mr. Brown

If I have done what my hon. Friend accuses me of, I withdraw any such suggestion. I hope that I shall be forgiven if any of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench have taken my speech in the way that my hon. Friend hinted they might do. As I said earlier, I am not looking for anything from anybody, so it does not matter one way or the other.

Sir John Page (Harrow, West)

My hon. Friend has been making amusing play with his colleagues. Would he care to comment on the fact that this Bill is to regulate the fluoridation of water? If the Bill were to regulate lion tamers, it would not necessarily mean that those who supported the Bill were likely to become lion tamers or would wish actually to support lion taming. I would have thought that the Bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I see no reference to lion tamers in the Bill.

Mr. Brown

I think the point that my hon. Friend was seeking to make was that there are occasions whey all of us, whether we are free men or whether we are constrained by the constitutional practice of collective responsibility, go into the Division Lobby in favour of something with greater or lesser enthusiasm. When some of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench go into the Lobby in support of the Government later, they may bear in mind with a certain lack of enthusiasm their letters to their constituents.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

I accept some of the points my hon. Friend has made about people changing their minds and about ministerial responsibility on major party political issues. Will my hon. Friend comment on whether he thinks it is reasonable for the Government to keep trying to press through a Bill when most of the samples of opinion in the party suggest that two thirds of the party, including Ministers and parliamentary private secretaries, are against it? Does he not think that it is just a virility symbol for the Government to try to push the Bill through against the will of the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) will not pursue that point. We are getting very wide of the amendment, which deals with the time period and whether the words "for one year" should be substituted for the words in the Bill.

Mr. Brown

That is the crucial point of the amendment. We all know that there is a Cabinet reshuffle coming in September. Who knows what that Cabinet resuffle will bring? Who knows who will be free men by 6 March 1986? The whole point of the amendment is to enable those of my hon. and right hon. Friends who may be free men in 12 months' time to change their minds once again, so used are they to the practice of changing their minds.

The importance of the let-out, or long stop, is to protect those of my hon. and right hon. Friends who may find themselves in different circumstances in 12 months' time. It is also to protect people like myself who may find during the next 12 months that my hon. and right hon. Friends have been able to adduce evidence which, although it has not convinced me so far, may yet convince me that my decision tonight has been wrong. If they can come up with a Department of Health and Social Security response that the yeast enzyme does not harm the health of an individual if it is attacked by the fluoride bonding, that may convince me. As a layman and a person not involved in the medical profession, I might be persuaded.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State would be the first to agree that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) does not have a closed mind on the subject. He has a very open mind on it. He knows everything there is to know about the subject. He would be the first to be convinced by any new serious evidence that my hon. Friend might adduce in response to the article to which I have referred.

Mr. Fairbairn

Is my hon. Friend seriously suggesting that scientists of the distinction of Steven Edwards, Thomas Poulos and Joseph Kraut of the department of chemistry at the university of California, who prepared the crystal fluoride form of cyclochrome C peroxidase and demonstrated the effects of fluoride, should be so base and dishonourable as to change their opinions in the way that he has suggested?

Mr. Brown

My hon. and learned Friend must acknowledge that overwhelming evidence that is lurking somewhere underground and that has not yet come to the fore might upset what we consider to be the compelling evidence of the article in New Scientist of 28 February.

Mr. Golding

Is the hon. Gentleman accusing the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) of being a wobbler on this issue? I can understand the hon. Gentleman attacking those who sit on the Government Front Bench, disposing of their careers one by one, but he cannot turn at this hour on the hon. and learned Member for Burton, who as far as I can see has displayed the most admirable prejudice throughout the proceedings, and accuse him of being a wobbler. Surely he must withdraw.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will resist the temptation. The amendment deals with whether the application should last for one year.

Mr. Lawrence

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) to accuse me of displaying prejudice when I have displayed nothing at all this evening?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that that is a point of argument, not a point of order for me.

Mr. Brown

I shall not go down the route of temptation that was presented to me by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). As the Chair has rightly said, the purpose of the amendments is to enable the House to reconsider the matter in 12 months' time. The reason why we need the long stop of reconsidering the matter in 12 months' time, although the House might not have changed its complexion as a result of a general election, is that minds can change and new evidence can be adduced. Some of my hon. Friends who may wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may wish to oppose the amendments and suggest that the period should be longer than one year. A case could be made for giving the House the opportunity to reconsider the matter after another general election.

This House has a certain view about fluoride. From the number of letters that parliamentary candidates were writing during May and June of 1979 to prospective constituents, it was clear that fluoride was an important matter in the minds of many of our constituents.

Perhaps in deciding whether to accept the amendments we should consider whether they will permit the House to change its mind after a general election, when the entire complexion of the House may have changed. In those circumstances, many of us may be asked for our views on fluoride during a general election campaign, as has already happened to some of my hon. Friends who now find themselves on the Treasury Bench. Because of the excellent answers they gave, they became Ministers—

Mr. Marlow

As a point of information, could my hon. Friend tell the House what legislation that is passed by one Government has to be reaffirmed by the next Government? Obviously Governments change and it is open to the next Government to repeal an Act of Parliament. What my hon. Friend is suggesting is a constitutional novelty.

Mr. Brown

I had better be careful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or I will incur your wrath. Of course, I acknowledge the difficulty of the suggestion that I have put forward. All that I am saying is that, since minds can change within the present composition of the House, minds can certainly change as a result of a change—

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the prevention of terrorism legislation must be renewed every year by the House?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. We must, of course, discuss amendments that are before the House and not amendments that we might have tabled. The ideal situation would be for Parliament to be able to return to this issue at regular intervals in the light of new evidence that may come forward.

Mr. Fairbairn

My hon. Friend may not be aware that the first measure to be passed every year is the defence of the realm legislation, otherwise the nation has no armed forces. Among the things that the armed forces must do is swallow bromide, lest one sex gets off with the other sex in the armed forces.

2.45 am
Mr. Brown

I had better not be led down that road. I have spent most of my time in this Chamber since about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon concentrating on staying within the rules of order, whatever the subject under debate. I shall continue to resist the temptation to stray out of order.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

My hon. Friend might too lightly have dismissed the intervention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), which encapsulated an important constitutional principle, namely, that the defence of the realm legislation has had to be passed on an annual basis since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It has been subject to that requirement because it affects the liberty of the citizen in the same way as the prevention of terrorism legislation must be—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is getting well away from the subject of fluoridation and the amendment.

Mr. Brown

I dismissed the intervention of my hon. and learned Friend only because I would have been out of order in pursuing it.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Will my hon. Friend agree that not minds but voting patterns have changed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Member will also resist the temptation to concern himself with that intervention.

Mr. Brown

Having been a supporter and admirer of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, I hope that he will be influenced by what has been said in this debate. Perhaps he will say, "Let us change our minds again. I have been convinced by what hon. Members have said on this issue." All is not lost because he has yet to respond to the cogent case that has been made for the amendment.

After all, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, all hon. Members have said with a united voice which has crossed the political divide that the amendment reapresents a resonable compromise. The Second Reading is over. By whatever means — duress or otherwise — hon. Members voted for the measure at that stage. Let us reach a compromise that does not detract from the basic policy which the Government have arrived at and does not set in concrete for ever and a day legislation that should be considered from time to time. If scientific evidence emerges that is critical of the legislation, there should be a let-out. For that reason, I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security will be able to accept the amendment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. John Patten)

rose

Mr. Lawrence

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for my hon. Friend the Minister to respond to a debate on an amendment which has not yet been moved?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that I have called the Minister.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like your guidance. The Chairman of Ways and Means has selected amendment No. 17. He did so in his wisdom, and it was wise of him to do so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The amendment has been moved.

Mr. Golding

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your ruling is correct, but underlining the point of order is the fact that so far the Member in whose name amendment No. 17 appears has not yet been called to speak. It is difficult to justify—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not seeking to criticise the Chair. The Minister has risen and I have called him.

Mr. Crouch

On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your help by asking you to advise me and the House whether, by calling my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, it is your intention to curtail the debate, in which a number of Members are still hoping to speak. This is not a light matter and constituents are pressing us on this issue. I have been questioned for not having been a party to debates at earlier stages in the passage of the Bill. I have sat in the Chamber since the beginning of the debate on the two amendments and have sought to catch your eye. I hope that you can assure me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you are not curtailing the debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of the House and he knows that I cannot anticipate what may happen at some time in the future. The amendment has been moved—

Several Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister has risen and I have called him.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before you rule that the amendment has been moved, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask you to check with the Official Report or to say who moved the amendment. I suggest that the amendment has not yet been moved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are discussing amendment No. 6, which has been moved, and with it we are discussing amendment No. 17. Amendment No 6 has been moved, so the debate is in order.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have called the Minister, who caught my eye. I assume that he is seeking to reply to the debate.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hestitate to take the matter further, but it is within my clear recollection that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn, who moved amendment No. 6, said specifically that he was not moving amendment No. 17 and that he was hoping—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. and learned Member knows the procedures in this place. In this instance amendment No. 6 has been moved and with it we are discussing amendment No. 17. There is no question of amendment No. 17 being moved. The discussion is taking place on amendment No. 6, which has been moved.

Mr. Beith

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point of order has got off on the wrong foot if there is any suggestion of criticism of the Chair. The Minister rose to speak and it is the normal practice of the Chair to call the Minister whenever he rises to speak. The point at issue is that the Minister chose to rise before he had had the opportunity to hear the arguments of the hon. and learned Member who tabled amendment No. 17. Would it not have been for the convenience of the House if the Minister had listened to one more speech, and heard the arguments? Many hon. Members do not see how the Minister can answer arguments that he has not heard.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the first part of his remarks, which merely reinforces my belief that I was wise to call the Minister. I call Mr. John Patten.

Mr. Lawrence

On a different point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been waiting for an opportunity to speak, so that I could invite the Chair to say whether there will be two votes on the two amendments. Could you clarify that point before the Minister replies?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I cannot do so at this stage. We are discussing amendment No. 6, the amendment that has been moved and discussed. I call Mr. Patten.

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood you to say that we were discussing amendments Nos. 6 and 17 together. When we reach amendment No. 17 on the Paper, there will be no opportunity for discussion unless you rule that we have been discussing amendment No. 6, that you have divided amendment No. 6 from amendment No. 17, that when we reach amendment No. 17 there will be an opportunity for discussion of that amendment, that the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) will have an opportunity to speak to his amendment and that we will know whether there is to be a separate vote. The proceedings as they stand are entirely unsatisfactory.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

When we reach amendment No. 17—it is a long way down the Amendment Paper—I will of course be prepared to listen to any representations that may be made for a Division on that amendment. I call Mr. Patten.

Mr. John Patten

The debate that we have had on the two amendments — the substance of both amendments has been discussed — has been a very good one. The amendments are very important. An outsider looking at them for the first time might well wonder, however, why those particular amendments should have been laid before the House for discussion. Amendment No. 6, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) in a short, succinct and powerful speech, is about the activities of health authorities, and amendment No. 17, which has been discussed extensively during the past three or four hours, is about the possibility of a reference back to Parliament once every 12 months.

An outsider might ask why the amendments are necessary. Health authorities may at any time — monthly, if they have a monthly cycle of meetins — discuss the issue of fluoridation. If issues of safety, principle or practice arose, the authorities could determine on a monthly basis what they proposed to do. Within their own standing orders, over which they have sovereign rights, they may debate fluoridation. Equally, there are many ways in which the House can return to the issue of fluoridation at any stage, should issues of safety, efficacy, practicality, freedom or individual choice be thought to be pressing enough. I recognise the strength of feeling of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these points.

An outsider might be surprised to see the amendments tabled for discussion tonight. I shall seek to explain why the amendments were tabled and why I welcome the chance to reply on behalf of the Government by saying that, as we have seen, my right hon. and hon. Friends who are pressing the amendments are concerned about the critical issue of safety, which concerns the Government just as much as it concerns them.

I will illustrate the principles by turning to the issue of safety — the specific issue raised in the much-quoted article in the New Scientist of 28 February. The author of the article is as yet anonymous.

Much has been made of the article entitled "How fluoride might damage your health". Various pieces have been selected for quotation. I am not accusing my right hon. and hon. Friends of being selective in their choice of quotations. The anonymous resumé sums up a paper by Edwards, Poulos and Kraut, which describes investigation of a hypothesis about the mode of action of an enzyme using X-ray crystallography on a complex of the enzyme with fluoride. My scientific advisers tell me that, to synthesise the complex, the crystallised enzyme is soaked in a solution of fluoride at a concentration and in conditions very unlike those of a living cell. The authors of the original paper, which the New Scientist article comments on, demonstrated that, in the circumstances that I have described, fluoride formed hydrogen bonds with other parts of the enzyme. The House has discussed that.

Mr. Marlow

rose

3 am

Mr. Patten

The anonymous article of 28 February in the New Scientist speculated—I am not using the word pejoratively, as it is quite proper to speculate in scholarly circles — whether fluoride can interfere with the hydrogen bonding in DNA in a similar fashion. The authors of the original paper made no such suggestion. The findings of Edwards, Poulos and Kraut do not alter the assessment of the safety and efficacy of the fluoridation of water in one part per million.

The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire) knows that we discussed these matters in Committee. It has been known for decades that fluoride at high, non-physiological concentrations can inhibit or enhance the action of many enzymes. That is why fluoride is often used as a tool in the analysis of the function of enzymes. There is no evidence of enzyme inhibition damage in humans as a result of consumption of water fluoridated at one part per million.

As the anonymous author says—

Mr. Marlow

rose

Mr. Patten

The author says: a healthy individual can easily cope with tiny doses of fluoride from food and drink and this can strengthen the teeth and the bones".

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. friend give way on his point about anonymity?

Mr. Patten

The article speculates on a broad range of scientific arguments out of which comes no scientific evidence that casts doubt on the safety or efficacy of the addition of fluoride to water. I shall now give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Marlow

I was surprised at my hon. Friend not giving way, as he is normally courteous. I am grateful to him. He said that the article was anonymous. It is not; it is the editorial of the New Scientist and therefore has the full backing of the editorial staff and the reputation of the magazine. Moreover, the article is not concerned purely with the piece of work that my hon. Friend is talking about. There is a great deal of other research behind it. My hon. Friend would be well advised not to dismiss the article so lightly. Will my hon. Friend give the House the benefit of the research that has no doubt been put in by our right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health since last week? He said that he had evidence that some 100 countries fluoridated the water. Many hon. Members were surprised at that statement. He has had a week to do the research. Which countries fluoridate water? If my hon. Friend cannot tell us now, he can tell us in a year's time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the Minister will stick to the amendment.

Mr. Marlow

I was making the point that, if my hon. Friend cannot tell us now, he can tell us in a year's time. That would make the amendment important because the House would have another opportunity to look at the facts.

Mr. Patten

The evidence put forward, not by the editorial, whether drafted singly or corporately by people in New Scientist, has been examined by our scientific advisers. Much more importantly, they have examined the article on which the speculations—I use that word in a non-pejorative sense—have been based.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) asked about what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health said about the number of countries that add fluoride to their water. My right hon. and learned Friend said that there were 40 such countries. Careful and assiduous research by those whom we are lucky enough to have to advise us has produced a list that shows that my right hon. and learned Friend was, uncharacteristically, wrong. The number is not 40 but 41, and I shall write to my hon. Friend to list these countries, which range from Argentina, the Netherlands and Antilles to Venezuela.

I understand the strength of feeling about these two amendments. They have been put down because hon. Members are worried about safety. Both my right hon. and learned Friend and I have given assurances about safety on Second Reading, in Committee, and during the interesting and important discussions on the Floor of the House recently. If ever safety considerations are involved, it will not be a matter of asking the health authority to discuss the issues and saying that, as it had had its annual meeting, it will have to wait for a year to do so, nor that, as we have just had a debate in Parliament, we shall wait another year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services will use his powers under the National Health Service Act 1977 to direct health authorities to stop the process of fluoridation immediately on the grounds that it presents some danger to health.

For those reasons, I ask the House to reject the amendments.

Mr. John Cope (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Lawrence

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you give the House some guidance about the status of amendment No. 17?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I shall gladly do that. If the House wishes to have a Division on amendment No. 17, the Chair is prepared to consider that. It is academic at the moment, because we have much business ahead of us, on amendments that have been selected, before we come to amendment No. 17.

Mr. Lawrence

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for that ruling. Will the hon. Member who tabled amendment No. 17 be given an opportunity to debate it at some stage, and in particular to direct the Minister's mind to an answer to it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that I have made the position clear. The Chair is prepared to consider the possibility of a Division on amendment No. 17, but it does not arise until after all the other amendments have been dealt with.

Mr. Lawrence

(seated and covered): You have misunderstood me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was asking not about a Division, but about whether we could have a debate on amendment No. 17, which has not yet been answered.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that two amendments have been discussed at some length, and amendment No. 17 has been referred to on a number of occasions during the debate. In other words, it has already been discussed.

Mr. Crouch

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask about amendment No. 17? The Minister has said not a word about what is in amendment No. 17 and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is not a matter for me to decide how the Minister addresses the House. The debate has been in order, and I am now about to put the Question.

The Question is, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Crouch

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You said that it was an academic matter whether the Question—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I will take points of order at this stage only about the conduct of the Division. If the hon. Gentleman has further points of order, I will take them after the division.

The House having divided: Ayes 120, Noes 49.

Division No. 140] [3.07 am
AYES
Ancram, Michael Fletcher, Alexander
Arnold, Tom Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Good lad, Alastair
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Gow, Ian
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gregory, Conal
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gummer, John Selwyn
Bottomley, Peter Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hayes, J.
Bright, Graham Henderson, Barry
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Howard, Michael
Burt, Alistair Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Butler, Hon Adam Hunt, David (Wirral)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jessel, Toby
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Colvin, Michael King, Rt Hon Tom
Coombs, Simon Knowles, Michael
Cope, John Lamont, Norman
Couchman, James Lang, Ian
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lilley, Peter
Dunn, Robert Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Durant, Tony Lord, Michael
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lyell, Nicholas
Eggar, Tim Macfarlane, Neil
Fenner, Mrs Peggy MacGregor, John
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Sayeed, Jonathan
Marland, Paul Scott, Nicholas
Mather, Carol Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Maude, Hon Francis Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Meadowcroft, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mellor, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Squire, Robin
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Stanley, John
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Steen, Anthony
Moynihan, Hon C. Stern, Michael
Needham, Richard Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nelson, Anthony Stradling Thomas, J.
Newton, Tony Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Nicholls, Patrick Tracey, Richard
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Trippier, David
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Viggers, Peter
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Waddington, David
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Waldegrave, Hon William
Pattie, Geoffrey Walden, George
Pawsey, James Ward, John
Pollock, Alexander Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Raffan, Keith Watson, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Watts, John
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Whitfield, John
Renton, Tim Whitney, Raymond
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Younger, Rt Hon George
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Tellers for the Ayes:
Ryder, Richard Mr. John Major and
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Mr. Michael Neubert.
NOES
Beith, A. J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bermingham, Gerald Lawrence, Ivan
Best, Keith Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Loyden, Edward
Brandon-Bravo, Martin McGuire, Michael
Budgen, Nick Maclean, David John
Carttiss, Michael Marlow, Antony
Chope, Christopher Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Monro, Sir Hector
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Crouch, David Parris, Matthew
Dixon, Donald Patchett, Terry
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Pike, Peter
Fairbairn, Nicholas Portillo, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Skinner, Dennis
Forth, Eric Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
George, Bruce Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Grist, Ian Stott, Roger
Ground, Patrick Terlezki, Stefan
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Wareing, Robert
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Haynes, Frank Winterton, Nicholas
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Holt, Richard Tellers for the Noes:
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Mr. John Golding and
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Mr. Michael Brown.
Howells, Geraint

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 43, Noes 122.

Division No. 141] [3.21 am
AYES
Beith, A. J. Chope, Christopher
Bermingham, Gerald Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Best, Keith Crouch, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dixon, Donald
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Budgen, Nick Forth, Eric
Campbell-Savours, Dale Grist, Ian
Carttiss, Michael Ground, Patrick
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Patchett, Terry
Haynes, Frank Portillo, Michael
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Skinner, Dennis
Holt, Richard Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Stern, Michael
Howells, Geraint Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stott, Roger
Lawrence, Ivan Terlezki, Stefan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Winterton, Mrs Ann
McGuire, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Maclean, David John
Marlow, Antony Tellers for the Ayes:
Monro, Sir Hector Mr. John Golding and
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Mr. Neil Hamilton.
Parris, Matthew
NOES
Ancram, Michael Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Arnold, Tom Mather, Carol
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Maude, Hon Francis
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Meadowcroft, Michael
Biffen, Rt Hon John Mellor, David
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Bottomley, Peter Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Moynihan, Hon C.
Bright, Graham Needham, Richard
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Nelson, Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Newton, Tony
Burt, Alistair Nicholls, Patrick
Butler, Hon Adam Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)
Colvin, Michael Pattie, Geoffrey
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Pawsey, James
Coombs, Simon Pike, Peter
Cope, John Pollock, Alexander
Currie, Mrs Edwina Raffan, Keith
Dorrell, Stephen Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Dunn, Robert Renton, Tim
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Durant, Tony Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Roe, Mrs Marion
Eggar, Tim Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Ryder, Richard
Fletcher, Alexander Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Garel-Jones, Tristan Scott, Nicholas
George, Bruce Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Goodlad, Alastair Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gow, Ian Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Gregory, Conal Soames, Hon Nicholas
Gummer, John Selwyn Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Squire, Robin
Hayes, J. Stanley, John
Henderson, Barry Steen, Anthony
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Howard, Michael Stradling Thomas, J.
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Tracey, Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Trippier, David
Jessel, Toby Viggers, Peter
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Waddington, David
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Waldegrave, Hon William
King, Rt Hon Tom Walden, George
Knowles, Michael Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lamont, Norman Watson, John
Lang, Ian Watts, John
Lee, John (Pendle) Whitfield, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Whitney, Raymond
Lilley, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Younger, Rt Hon George
Lyell, Nicholas
Macfarlane, Neil Tellers for the Noes:
MacGregor, John Mr. John Major and
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Mr. Michael Neubert.
Marland, Paul

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Fairbairn

I beg to move, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

May I remind the House that this is a comparatively narrow motion? We cannot go into the merits of the Bill. We are merely deciding whether we should continue with the debate or whether we should draw stumps.

3.30 am
Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I feel happier being on my feet when I address the Chair rather than sitting down.

May I explain the point of order that I was seeking to make to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, during the Division? We have had an extremely valuable and interesting debate on amendment No. 6, during which, with the Chair's permission, we were also able to discuss the content of amendment No. 17. When the Minister replied, he made an adequate reply to amendment No. 6, but we did not hear what he thought about the debate on amendment No. 17, which was very important because it related not to what health authorities might think but to what Parliament might think and do in relation to the whole matter. It is for that reason that I raised the matter. Many of us had made contributions solely on amendment No. 17. I know that we get an opportunity to vote on amendment No. 17 later. Will we have an opportunity to hear the Government's view on it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has largely answered his own point. As he said, amendments Nos. 6 and 17 were debated together, and reference was made during the debate to amendment No. 17. I am not, of course, responsible for ministerial replies, and I am relieved that I am not. If the House wishes to have a Division on amendment No. 17, which has been discussed, the Chair will consider that, but it does not arise now because we shall take that Division in the order in which it appears in the Order Paper, which is after we have disposed of the other three amendments that have been selected. I call Mr. Fairbairn to speak to his motion.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am indebted to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to move the motion. This is the third occasion upon which the House has discussed the Report stage of a Bill that is of fundamental constitutional importance. Our discussions took place on one occasion during what is vulgarly called prime time. I have always liked the adjective "prime". I think that "Prime Minister" is a grand phrase and that "prime time" is a vulgar phrase. We were given prime time and a free vote, and a confused Whip made it absolutely clear to Back Benchers that on a free vote they were to vote for the Government.

I greatly respect the view of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) that this is a matter of the most serious principle. It is not a laughing matter. It is not a matter upon which the chairman of the Party, who stands beyond the Bar of the House, can change his mind at the click of a whisker because it suits him, having written to a constituent a letter which my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) read out. It is a serious and important constitutional issue.

Certain hon. Members believe that we are not at our best after midnight and that we ought to be tucked up, lovey-dovey, at ten o'clock at night. That seemed to me to be the basis of the article by the deputy leader of the Labour party in The Sunday Times on 3 March: that we ought to be grateful to two of my hon. Friends on the Back Benches and to an hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Back Benches for being so audacious as to suggest that this was not the time when men think and when great deeds are done, or ought to be done. But they are, more frequently than not, done. Yet here we are with our payroll vote. The Cabinet are sitting around, making fools of themselves and voting against their consciences in order to keep their beloved offices, cars and salaries. Hurrah! I am delighted.

When I was a child, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there was an arithmetical scale which said that 22 yards equals one chain. There is now a new arithmetical scale which says that 10 votes against the fluoride Bill equals one office, plus one car. It is ridiculous, but here we are. It is suggested that the Government, exhausted though they are, will stay up all night to try to push through a measure of constitutional significance. This is a matter of freedom and constitutional understanding which the House of Commons should consider. Will any Government of any party seriously say to us that in the early hours of the morning they will attempt to exhaust the spirit of those who honestly believe that it is wrong to tamper, for whatever reason, with the water supply for some spurious purpose that has nothing to do with those who drink the water? Is it seriously to be supposed that this matter wall be discussed into the early hours of the morning in the belief that the Government will railroad through this legislation on a free vote?

Let us look at that wonderful word "free". Will we be free to drink water that does not have medication in it? Will we be free to drink anything which is harmful to us? Yes. The Government are going to extend the concept of freedom. There they sit, plot and plan—leather shoes, suede shoes and all the other shoes—our freedom at 3.40 am like the free democratic East German party Are they plotting freedom to debate? Oh no, not freedom to debate. Freedom to vote? Oh no, not freedom to vote. I will not look at them. I will look away from them. I will look at you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I can point to those who believe in their conscience. They have destroyed freedom, except for the freedom of keeping office for a short time longer. Are we seriously to say that the House, with many important points yet to come on this major issue, should not continue to debate?

You will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I tabled an amendment to give licence to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health, but not licence to wear such frightfully vulgar shoes. I was reminded by my right hon. and learned Friend that last week I withdrew my charge against him that he was snide and arrogant. I do so again tonight. I forgot to put in the adjectives that I thought more appropriate, and that I shall do shortly, depending upon his attitude.

Let us be clear, we are debating important matters. We shall debate them for many hours, endlessly if necessary, because we believe that it is wrong that water, the one substance that the citizen must imbibe should be made a channel for medicine.

The amendment which I tabled to give liberality to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not selected. It enabled him to put innumerable substances with a fluoride radical into the water.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Member must not debate an amendment that has not been selected. We are on a narrow point—whether we should continue to debate the amendments that have been selected or whether we should draw stumps.

Mr. Fairbairn

I do not wish to depart from the narrow point that we are debating, which is whether we should continue the debate. May I remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker of a letter in The Times, which I understand is a journal of some contemporary confusion. The most loyal of its readers seem to doubt whether they should continue to be so because of the activities of some of its correspondents. That does not, I am happy to say, apply to me. You will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the point of the letter was that it was wrong that debates on a constitutional principle such as this one should proceed at an hour of night when the public who wish to attend Parliament are unlikely to stay up. The deputy leader of the Labour party in his article in The Sunday Times asked whether the public wanted us all to stay up. Apparently the Government want us all to stay up.

I am confused — one moment the Government say that the debate must be short, another moment they say that the debate must be extended and the next moment they say, "We shall never get the payroll votes here again so we had better keep hon. Members here, dead, dying and dotty as they are. There are only 120 of them left."

3.45 am

We are discussing the most important principle that has been brought before the House during the short time I have had the privilege of being a Member. No other substance but water is essential to life. We are discussing whether the Government should add poison to the water. One may say, "It is poison in a dilution that is acceptable." All poisons in sufficient dilution are acceptable.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Including whisky.

Mr. Fairbairn

All poisons in sufficient dilution are acceptable. I did not say that all pleasures in dilution are acceptable. Water can ruin the substance to which it is added as easily as a substance added to water can ruin it. That is the principle we are discussing. It is unconscionable that the House is discussing at this hour of night whether the very substance of life should be poisoned and made a medium for medical or political indoctrination.

I believe that these discussions should not continue at this time. Suppose that Mr. Scargill's Government—if matters had changed during the past 12 months we might have had Mr. Scargill's Government—had discovered a substance that could be added to the water which could cause Labour Members not to resist deselection, to become mad pickets or to take views that were schizophrenic. It could, because many Labour Members are schizophrenic, stop them being schizophrenic. That would be an abominable process. If a substance that cured the common cold were discovered, I do not believe that it should be added to the water.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Member is now straying into the merits or demerits of the Bill. We must discuss whether to continue the debate on the Bill.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged to you, Sir.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that schizophrenia is an extremely dangerous mental illness? It appears that many who are in a position to govern this country are stricken with that disease in so far as they are two people—a person who, before this debate, opposed fluoride and a person who, during the debate, supported the adding of fluoride as a form of medication.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) will not agree or disagree with that remark.

Mr. Fairbairn

No, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would not do anything so dangerous or, indeed, so schizoid. Having spent my morning in court acting for a paranoid schizophrenic with 11 psychiatrists who could not agree whether he was one or not, I would certainly not waste a moment in imagining that any diagnosis to which the House might come about either themselves or my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) would be accurate or inaccurate. That is not a path down which I would go.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

In addition to the points my hon. and learned Friend is trying to make about the wisdom of hon. and right hon. Members staying here until this time of night, debating a major constitutional issue, if we carry on at the speed we have been going at since 10 o'clock, we will be here for a very long time. It has taken until now to debate the first group of amendments. There are three further groups of amendments to be considered. There is also the time we are now spending in debating the motion to report progress. Then there is the possibility of a Third Reading as a conclusion to our debate.

Therefore, it is clearly staring us in the face that we will carry on for so long that we will lose tomorrow's business, including the Second Reading of the Interception of Communications Bill, which again must be a very important measure to all hon. and right hon. Members. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that this is no way for the business of this important House to be conducted, with important Ministers charged with the responsibility of looking after great offices of state being kept here until this time? Does he not agree that there should be a more sensible way of trying to consider the matter?

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. Those members of the Government who matter are on the Front Bench, because I can recognise by the absence of hair those who are most significant in the matter. We are discussing a matter which I believe to be of major constitutional importance. It is not a matter of which any of my hon. Friends was given notice before being elected at the last election. It was not a matter referred to in the Queen's Speech as coming before Parliament. It has been demonstrated to the Government and to the Government's managers that those of us who believe that it is a matter of the highest principle are not likely to be kicked over the traces by bribery or any other means. It has been demonstrated to the Government that the falsehood of whipping or the fantasy of giving a false impression that we are coming for a shipbuilding order at 3.30 pm when we are not, will not deceive us.

I would have thought that the proper thing for the Government to do was to take the Bill away. If they want to brutalise through the House against the conscience of those who are their supporters and against the decision of the electorate a matter which is totalitarian in principle and wrong in concept, let them do it, but it will be done in the heat and light of the publicity that they are disturbing the very principles of freedom and liberty. That is why at this time of night we will not allow the matter to be smashed through by the steamroller of a payroll vote, if it is still here. We will not have it done when there is nobody in the Press Gallery to report what we say. We will not have it done in a way which will prevent the other place from destroying the Bill, as I believe they will.

What we are trying to say to the Government and to the Government's managers is that this is a totalitarian measure which hon. Members on all sides of the House believe is wrong. There is scientific evidence to demonstrate that it is evil. The case for it has not been proved. We do not accept that it should be railroaded through.

Mr. Best

Far be it from me to suggest that my hon. and learned Friend suffers from that disability, but will he accept it from me that many of us in this Chamber are not at our best at this time of the morning and, therefore, the standard of debate is likely to suffer? On a matter of such importance, one has heard allegations made against Ministers and Whips which I personally deprecate and believe are grossly unfair. That is the sort of trend that one finds in the small hours of the morning when, inevitably, the standard of debate must be lower. That is something which neither the Bill nor any measure merits in this Chamber.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am sorry for my hon. Friend the Member for this unpronounceable place that he represents following the reorganisation of boundaries. Some of us who have been here for a long time used to understand the intelligent language of Great Britain, knew the names of towns and counties, and were able to understand what people's constituencies were. But now we have "osteopathic", or whatever is the name of the constituency which my hon. Friend represents.

I am sorry, but I do not share his view. I do not know whether this is a parliamentary term, but I think that my hon. Friend is being a creep. During the evening, he has been half sucking up to the Government and half defiling them. I am perfectly willing to defile the Government—

Mr. Best

I must reject that criticism. My hon. and learned Friend should know, as I hope the whole House knows, that the short and succinct way in which I moved the first amendment — those are the words which the Minister was kind enough to use when he replied to the debate—was to try to be helpful and not to prolong the debate, in the sure belief that the Minister might have come to the Dispatch Box and accepted two perfectly reasonable amendments. I cannot comment now on the fact that he did not.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must not go into the merits of amendments that have already been debated.

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) crawls, is it right for his hon. and learned Friend to call him a creep?

Dr. M. S. Miller

He is a creepy-crawly.

Mr. Fairbairn

I would not wish to go into the question of crawling and creeping now, except to say this; what my hon. Friend said to me now in mitigation of his creeping was even more crawling than what he said before. But I do not wish to be dishonest. There are those on the Government Front Bench, with their backs turned to me, who will remember that in the Government of 1974 to 1979, this was the sort of hour when I was at my best, and when we used to make that wretched, awful, frightful Labour Government extremely embarrassed. I remember Mrs. Shirley Williams appearing at the Dispatch Box as the dawn came through the windows. When I was on my feet, she said to me, "The trouble with the hon. Member is that he is half asleep." I said, "Yes, but I am also half awake." And we won that vote.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

To help my hon. and learned Friend about the matter of "creeping", I notice that in the Hansard report of our debate last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best), after making a speech which was the model of brevity for one hour and 50 minutes to start our debate, made his next utterance in column 231, when he said, "Creep! Sycophant!" Those words were directed towards the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson)—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must get back to the motion before the House.

Mr. Fairbairn

Now that I have got in the word "creep", which is a good Anglo-Saxon word that has not been disapproved, far be it from anyone who does not understand language to use a word such as "sycophant", which is Greek.

Dr. M. S. Miller

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that he is at his best at this time of the morning. May I say to him that that is the first sign of shizophrenia.

Mr. Fairbairn

All that I can say is, thank God I did not have a bad position to complicate the difficulties that the psychiatrists had with my client this morning. If that was the sort of judgment they had to add to their difficulties, I cannot imagine what would have happened. If the hon. Member cannot even pronounce "schizophrenia", I am not surprised that he is a sycophant.

4 am

This is a matter of the greatest seriousness, which we will not permit to be railroaded through. We are free men in a free Parliament dealing with an important issue on what is laughingly described as a free vote. Mr. Robert Mugabe or Mr. Scargill might describe it as a free vote. After all, Mr. Scargill said today, in effect, "We are free men. We did the best we could. I am proud of us all."

I dare say that tomorrow the Government managers will say, "Free men voted for fluoridation. Free men stayed up till 4 or 7 o'clock in the morning. We marched them up to the top of the hill and we marched them down again." Why will they have done it? Just so that a child's tooth can be filled.

Mr. Marlow

During and since the last Division the Chamber has been stalked by the figures of Cabinet Ministers almost dead with fatigue. These men will be directing our affairs in the days to come. My hon. and learned Friend will agree that it is ridiculous that they should be required, at this time of night, to support this measure of all measures, for which they are not responsible, with which they do not agree, which does not appear in the party's programme and which may have been provided by the Civil Service as a fait accompli to the Government.

These men are expected to run the affairs of the nation and be awake at this ridiculous time of night to support a measure which the political arm of the Government does not support and which the Civil Service arm of the Government may have provided for them. That is why we should pack up this filthy business now and return to it at a time when we can give to it the serious consideration that it deserves.

Mr. Fairbairn

If I were to give the Government advice, they might regard it as I frequently regard advice that I get from some people. At this stage in their term of office — if the Government want to know what I consider is going wrong—Ministers are tired, they have run short of ideas and officials are running ahead of them, putting ideas in their hands, ideas which they grasp like batons in a hurdle race and happily stagger on and hand them on to the next chap. That happens to all Governments, but it is happening now partly as a result of exhaustion.

Ministers have huge responsibilities. After one has been discharging such responsibilities for a considerable time, one ceases to be able to cope. That is why I cannot understand why a libertarian Government devoted to the principles of freedom should be trying to push through Parliament at 4 o'clock in the morning a totalitarian measure that would be unlikely to be accepted at any other time.

Consider what the Government are trying to do at this hour. They are keeping Cabinet Ministers and all their acolytes on the PPS strip awake so that they can vote for a totalitarian measure. I guarantee that if we proceeded now to a Division, not one among the payroll vote would know on entering the Lobby what the vote was in respect of. Yet the vote would be on one of the most totalitarian and unprincipled measures ever to come before the House.

It is said by the Government that we must all take fluoride. If someone is on hunger strike or in the H-block, the only thing with which he can be force fed is water. Those in the H-block are force fed with water — pure water.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are discussing the comparatively narrow point of whether the debate should continue, and not force feeding.

Mr. Fairbairn

I do not want to stray from the principle, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was saying that even in the most extreme of circumstances we cannot force anyone to drink other than pure water. The Government are pushing through a totalitarian measure at 4 o'clock in the morning. Their aim is to force people to drink water and at the same time to take medicine. Health Ministers think that smoking causes cancer; why do the Government not put something in the water to make us all stop smoking or to make us sick if we do so? They think that drink causes problems; why do they not put something in it to make us sick if we have a drink? If they think that we are all constipated—and the Government are—why do they not put something in the water to make us all move?

Mr. Neil Hamilton

I am sure that we all take my hon. and learned Friend's point about Ministers becoming extremely tired and yet having to be in the Chamber at this hour notwithstanding the effect that it will have on their performance later tonight or tomorrow. I accept that this is a Bill of some constitutional importance and, therefore, it is of importance that the majority of Members have the opportunity to discuss it at a reasonable hour. Ministers and others who are present at this hour are to be congratulated on being in a position to hear the arguments at such an extraordinary time but, for good or bad reasons, others are not present. My hon. and learned Friend may say that that is up to them, but we should assist those who are not here to be able to take part in the debate. That would be done if the motion were to be accepted by the Government and we were to continue the debate at a more reasonable hour. That would be more in keeping with the constitutional importance of this measure.

Mr. Fairbairn

I agree entirely.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if we were to keep going for a little longer we would reach a reasonable hour?

Mr. Fairbairn

I must say—it is a terrible thing for me to have to admit—that I am rather fond of the hon. Gentleman, who is the Opposition's deputy Chief Whip. As I have been brought up as a lawyer to believe that a reasonable man is someone to be found on the top deck of a Clapham omnibus, I am willing to put him back where he belongs, which is seat three, top deck, Clapham omnibus. He is a very reasonable man. If he leaves the House at this reasonable hour, he will have a hell of a job catching a Clapham omnibus.

I do not wish the Government to come to the conclusion that my stubbornness should immediately promote theirs. I would not wish it to be lost on the House that I believe that this is a matter of such climacteric principle that it is wrong that we should be here in the absence of the majority of hon. Members passing legislation which on not one Division has been supported through the conscience of those who voted.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Nonsense.

Mr. Fairbairn

It has been passed, Madam — taunt me not—on the payroll vote. I am not saying for one moment to my hon. Friend, spreadeagled or otherwise, that she does not have a conscience. For that matter, I do not care about her conscience or any other part of her.

If one substracts from that vote even the grand conscience of the hon. Lady, one will see that those who voted against all of the amendments were outnumbered only because the payroll vote was driven in.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether a majority of hon. Members have voted in any Division on the Bill?

Mr. Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must get back to the motion.

Mr. Fairbairn

I do not know whether a majority have voted, but I do not think that the House understands sufficiently the climacteric principle that the Bill enshrines. It is that if the Government take the view that something should be added to the water, they can pretend that there is a free vote and keep the members of their Geheimer Staatspolizei up until all hours of the night to push it through.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

My hon. and learned Friend is not being fair to the Government. We have already considered the collective responsibility of Ministers to uphold Government policy, which the Bill is. Moreover, people are entitled to have a change of heart after considering and debating the matter. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) suggested that, if we stay here somewhat longer, we shall be here at a reasonable time. He might be theoretically correct but we shall not be more reasonable. Indeed we could become increasingly unreasonable in our deliberations. My hon. and learned Friend mentioned the quality of our debate. When our debate goes on into the early hours of the morning—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is developing into a speech.

Mr. Fairbairn

I should be the last to say whether it is possible for my hon. Friend to become more or less unreasonable. He mentioned the possibility of a change of heart. Where are the hearts in front of me? Where are those who, we have been told, wrote to their constituents from their hearts saying, "I am against fluoridation" but whose hearts compel them to keep their jobs? Where is the Parliamentary Private Secretary who has resigned? Where is the change of heart? Where is the chap who has ducked out and said, "At 4 am, surely Mr. Chief Whip, you do not expect me to blackguard my heart"? Not at all. They are all there, those who do not believe in it. I could name them. Their hearts are not on their sleeves but in their little automated driver-ridden cars.

Mr. Marlow

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for allowing me to interrupt his second peroration. I should like to bring him back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who said that he doubted whether half of all hon. Members had voted on Second Reading or on the amendments.

Since last week, the seriousness and gravity of the matter may have gravitated to other right hon. and hon. Members who, because of the nature of the business of Parliament have been involved in other activities, quite rightly and properly. They were unaware of the fundamental importance of the issue that we are discussing. It would be right and proper that we should adjourn further consideration of the Bill, with the knowledge that, with the news of the debate tonight, other right hon. and hon. Members will be able to make themselves present at future consideration of the Bill, and to make their own contributions and vote. This is a fundamental issue, and it is becoming increasingly apparent both to the country and our colleagues that this is so. They should have the right to vote on it. If we continue tonight, that right will be curtailed.

4.15 am
Mr. Fairbairn

I shall deal with that matter in a moment. Before those with hearts retreat from the Chamber, I remind them of a great film that many of us may have seen, called "Kind Hearts and Coronets". How many right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench prefer their coronets to their heart?

This is a matter of such fundamental importance that the House should not be discussing it at this time. It should be given up by the Government. What on earth does it matter if some wretched child in Bedfordshire or Gloucestershire or somewhere else has a hole in its teeth? It can get it mended. If it does not get it mended, it can suffer it. It is not as though we are curing cardiac disease, or something important. This is something that possibly helps a few children.

Dr. M. S. Miller

We could put in something for heart disease.

Mr. Fairbairn

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a particularly totalitarian attitude that may not be appropriate. Putting something in the water to prevent heart disease is the next step. We are talking about a minor irritation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are supposed to be talking not about the merits or demerits of the Bill but about whether we should continue the debate.

Mr. Fairbairn

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was carried away with the concept that we could add something to the water to cure dandruff, although it is clear to me that the Deputy Chief Whip and the Leader of the House might not necessarily benefit.

This is not something that was in our manifesto or in the Queen's Speech. It is a totalitarian measure, allegedly to reverse a law, believed to have been the law of England, put in doubt by a judge in Scotland—a Court of Session judge who did not say it anyway—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman again, but he must address his remarks to the motion.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The fact that we should now adjourn the debate and resume it on another day is obvious from the reply that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave to the debate on the previous amendment. He gave an inadequate reply, which shows that he could not have been paying attention during the debate. He paid no attention to amendment No. 17, which is fundamentally important to the House. If we cannot get an adequate reply from Ministers, is it not clear that they are tired, and that we should adjourn, and resume the business on another day, when Ministers can give hon. Members an adequate reply to a long and important debate?

Mr. Fairbairn

There is some substance in what Member for Macclesfield says. Ifmy hon. Friend thought that it was exhaustion or mental inadequacy that had caused the Minister to give the futile and piffling reply that he did, it would add strength to my argument. The reason why he gave the piffling reply that he did was that he did not have a proper answer to the debate. As to the reason why he did not discuss amendment No. 17, which has not even been moved yet and for which I would not have voted anyway because I do not consider that we should trim on this principle, is—

Mr. Golding

Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman ignoring the fact that the Ministers are working shifts? Has not the hon. and learned Gentleman noticed that the Minister has actually changed? Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman think that it would be better to continue to observe how many Ministers can be brought out in rota?

Mr. Fairbairn

I am not sure whether I accept what the hon. Gentleman is saying. While the Minister of State had his feet on the Dispatch Box, I noticed that he was wearing what I would call shifts; whether he was also working them, I do not know. In Scottish it is called nimming, but I do not suppose that he would understand so proud a word. Since he seems not to understand words in the English language, he is unlikely to understand that.

Mr. Best

They are "creep"ers.

Mr. Fairbairn

With great respect, I know that my hon. Friend calls them creepers. I got away with "creep", Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not for a moment call the Minister of State a creeper—and certainly not a brothel creeper or a brothel sycophant, because they are even worse.

Mr. Best

My hon. and learned Friend misinterprets what I said. I was referring to the Minister's shoes, not his character.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the merits or demerits of Ministers. We are discussing a comparatively narrow motion.

Mr. Fairbairn

If I were to go down that path—and nothing would tempt me to follow the Minister in those shoes anywhere for fear of contracting some incurable disease which nothing added to the water could cure—I would say that the creepers all have their backs to me at the moment. Each one was saying that he was creeping away from a great principle at 4.20 in the morning, he was willing to stay here at 4.20 in the morning, he did not care about the principle; he had said that it was wrong, he had written that it was wrong and he had voted that it was wrong, but he was going to remain a creeper; he would stay in office, he would if necessary stay up all night and tomorrow; he would do anything that he was told to do contrary to his judgment and his conscience in order to keep his job; that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is now creeping away from the motion before the House.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

I take my hon. and learned Friend to task for the way that he has been treating my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten). I would take my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) to task even more so for his comments upon the Minister's speech in reply to the last debate, because the Minister did seek to reply to amendment No. 17 as well as to amendment No. 6. What was wrong with that debate, as is likely to be wrong with the debates for the rest of the night, is that as the hours went on there was superficial concentration, particularly on amendment No. 6. I tried to bring the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) to the point by pointing out to him that we were discussing another amendment. Amendment No. 17 is quite a bit different and, with the hours for which we are debating, and the length of the sitting, there will be dissatisfaction among right hon. and hon. Members that we cannot have a separate debate on amendment No. 17 in addition, to the debate that we have already had on amendment No. 6. I observe the length of time that we spent on amendments 6 and 17 grouped together, and that in the next group there are five amendments, Nos. 98, 52, 29, 11 and 76.

In addition, there is amendment No. 4 and the group comprising amendments Nos. 46, 10 and 78. We shall complete discussion on those amendments, if we carry on at the same rate, by 3.15 this afternoon. That is no way to consider a matter of such constitutional significance.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I raised this matter inadvertently in a slightly different context before. Last week at about 11.45 pm, after the debate had been running for about one hour 40 minutes, I tried to raise a point of order at about the same time that the Whip tried to move, That the Question be now put. We had a conversation—sometimes with the hat on and sometimes without it—about whether I was in order. The Chair decided to put the Question and implied that my hon. Friend had got to his feet before I had made by point of order.

Like me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you read the Official Report from cover to cover and you will know that the sequence of events was a little different—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman's point of order is, but we cannot debate what happened on previous occasions.

Mr. Marlow

The Official Report will make it clear that I sought to raise my point of order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is out of order for the hon. Gentleman to discuss matters that were raised in the House some time ago.

Mr. Marlow

The point of order that I was seeking to make is important. Under Standing Order No. 31 the Chair will not entertain the Question being put if a minority interest has not been involved in the debate. At that stage the Liberal party had not been able to put its view forward—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This is hypothetical and we must get on with the debate.

Mr. Fairbairn

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) has raised what appeared to him to be a point of order. We must all be jealous of private imagination.

Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) mentioned a matter of greater importance—whether we should continue the debate now. He gave a large number of figures that appear on the Order Paper and he read out Mr. Speaker's selection. I have never been numerate, and I am barely literate, but if ever there was reason for teachers having an increase in their wages, if they have to add up such figures they have a good case.

We have still to consider many amendments and the Third Reading, so we shall be here for a long time. It should be obvious to the Government that Back Benchers — who have a free vote — are not dyslectic, insane or mad. They think that it is so wrong in principle that it contravenes the right of humans to drink the only substance available to them for the sustenance of life—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is again straying from the motion before the House.

4.30 am
Mr. Fairbairn

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to stray from the point. What I am trying to say — and there are heads in front of me that presumably are both listening and rejecting — is that the principle is such an important one that the Government should say that they will close the debate, throw out this stupid Bill; that they will not have the Cabinet Ministers and the payroll vote kept here all night so that they can put before the House so totalitarian a measure, in the absence of the public, of most of the Members of the House and of the authority or wish of their party.

Mr. Best

With respect, I think that my hon. and learned Friend has missed the fundamental point, which is that before this debate started last night there were 111 amendments tabled by hon. Members, all demonstrating their extreme concern. they were all sensible amendments designed to improve the Bill. Several issues of very great importance have been raised during the present debate and it may well be that hon. Members will seek to table further amendments arising from those issues that Mr. Speaker in his wisdom might in due course allow to go forward for further debate. If this matter is to be pushed through at 4.30 in the morning, that gives no opportunity whatsoever to put down any further amendments arising out of the matters of great importance raised by my hon. Friend the Minister and other hon. Members.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We cannot have an intervention within an intervention.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I want to answer the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) has made. I think it is very important that we should have an opportunity to table amendments. Indeed, I tabled amendments that added to the schedule every substance that I could discover in Sach's list of dangerous chemicals and Martindale's pharmacopoeia—

Dr. M. S. Miller

Pharmacopoeia—with a hard "c".

Mr. Fairbairn

I can pronounce it. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should correct me on Greek pronounciation, because I even know what the word means, which I doubt whether he does.

I think it is important that we should be able to understand that there are many fluoride radicals, organic and inorganic, of benzirines and other forms which could be added to the water with great benefit even to the members of the Government. They might even be pacified; they might even understand that those behind them and those in front of them desperately mind about the principle. We might find that N fluorine 2Y222 trifluoracetimine in one part per million might make them see reason. What about adding that to the water, then? They might go home tomorrow, or whenever it is that they are going to go home, and actually smile. That would be a marvellous thing to add to the water, would it not? It would not do them any harm. There are people who say one's lung rots if one eats it, but that does not matter to them, as long as they smile tomorrow.

The Government will no doubt suggest that those of us who believe in the strength of this principle are filibustering. The Government will have understood from the Sunday papers — if they read them — that there is only one substance—and it is not water—which the free Members of a free House have to use. It is called time. If time is to be the embarrassment of the Government, if it is to take us from now until a year from now to convince them that those of us who believe in this principle believe in it for the strongest of reasons; believe that this measure is totalitarian and wrong, that it is an unnecessary measure that the Government should never have introduced and are unlikely to carry in another place even if they carry it in this House, that is how we shall proceed.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. and learned Friend said that someone had been accused of filibustering. I have here the definition of "filibuster" in Webster's dictionary. It speaks of the source being: Dutch vrijbuiter freebooter, of which the earliest examples are obvious alterations; the present use begins with the adoption of French flibustier; this was succeeded by the present form … freebooter… 1587… One of a class of piratical adventurers who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies in the 17th c. . Secondly, it Applied to the lawless adventurers from the United States who between 1850 and 1860 followed Lopez in his expedition to Cuba, and Walker in his expedition to Nicaragua 1854. Would my hon. and learned Friend equate himself in any way with either a piratical adventurer who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies in the 17th century, or someone who was a lawless adventurer from the United States who between 1850 and 1860—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is enough for an intervention.

Mr. Fairbairn

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that I would rather be Walker in Nicaragua than Kinnock in Nicaragua. Anyway, that is not what "filibuster" means.

Mr. Lawrence

It is in the dictionary.

Mr. Fairbairn

It may be in the dictionary. No wonder the law of England is in such disrepute. Even its seniors cannot understand the English language, nor, so far as I can make out, can they consult relevant dictionaries.

"Filibuster" has a simple meaning. It comes from the Greek for "I love" and "buster" meaning Buster Edwards, one of the great train robbers. [Laughter.] There is nothing for hon. Members to laugh about. He happens to be my florist at Waterloo. I was extremely distressed to be instructed this very day to defend the son of one of his greatest friends whose father I have defended on many occasions.

Before my hon. and learned Friend gives me advice I wish that he would learn to look up dictionaries with responsibility. He will know, as I do, that the definition of an advocate's clerk is somebody who helps an advocate to get what is coming to him. So I shall not praise him for his advice. Nevertheless, I must go back to where I was before we came to the dictionary meaning of "filibuster".

I was talking about principle and people as literate as my hon. and learned Friend will know that "pr" comes after "ph" in the dictionary. We are dealing with a matter of the greatest principle. We mind about it and we are not willing to see ourselves talked out, knocked out, driven out or driven over by the Government in the middle of the night.

We are not madmen. We are not paranoid schizophrenics who see salt shouting at us, full stops threatening us, and so on. I studied medicine, so I understand something of the fluoridation of water. Some of us regard that as the greatest breach of a constitutional principle that could ever happen in a free country. I want the Government to understand that. If necessary I shall add fluoride to their morning coffee, afternoon coffee and next week's coffee until they understand that that is what we are talking about.

All of us mind about children having holes in their teeth. Hurrah. We also mind about people dying of cancer and all sorts of other things. But we are not willing to adulterate the source and support of life—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am finding it difficult to relate this to the motion before the House.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

May I take my hon. and learned Friend back to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best), who said that there are 111 amendments down on the Order Paper for consideration in our debates, including some six new schedules, matters that will take a long time to go through? About an hour and a half ago, I voted against the closure of the previous debate. Possibly I was selfish in voting against the closure, because I had been trying to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know that my hon. and learned Friends the Members for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) had also been trying to do so. With the closure of the previous debate, even with Back Benchers still wishing to contribute towards it, even with complaints from them that there had been an inadequate reply from the Front Bench to that debate, we are still not getting adequate consideration of the amendments. We have a total of 111 to go through, and we already have two undertakings from the Government that they will bring forward their own amendments in another place. But if we had a more sensible form of debate my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health could bring the amendments back to the House so that we could properly examine them.

Mr. Fairbairn

I think that my hon. Friend is right. The Government should have discovered by this time that they cannot shuffle between late-night discos, which we have now had twice, and decent thé dansants, which we have in the afternoons, because neither works any better. The reason is that there are those in the House who are not willing to shift on principle, not for any reason—not for reason of bribery, office or persuasion, not to let the Government go to bed, not because we are worried, as worry we should, about the state of the teeth of the deputy Chief Whip, not because we think that we should all throw our hands into the Save the Children Fund in order to get a decent pair of shoes for the Minister of State—nothing like that. We are all here because we mind about principle. We are all here, and we shall all stay here, until that principle is acknowledged.

Mr. Golding

Does the hon. and learned Member know that he is putting me in some difficulty? I want to speak against the motion, and I shall not be able to until he has given some reasons for it.

Mr. Fairbairn

As usual, the hon. Gentleman has given a helpful indication of his bias. I have always regarded him as a very biased man. Indeed, who but a postman with all the responsibilities that a postman has, could have demonstrated such a remarkable commitment to the delivery of letters to people who were Left or Right, or voted this way or that way—a less biased member of the House we could not have. Therefore, for him to admit to a bias during the debate demonstrates his integrity, even if not his reason.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

I wonder whether I might provide my hon. and learned Friend with an argument that he might advance, on which the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) may later be able to give us some observations. This is a Government Bill. Not only have the Government failed to get the majority of hon. Members voting in favour of their Bill but they have failed to get the majority of Conservative Members voting in favour of it. Does my hon. and learned Friend think that it is proper and appropriate, however much it may be in the standing orders of the House, for the Government to railroad the legislation through in this way?

Mr. Fairbairn

It is not in the least proper. The trouble about the Government is that they probably have not read the Old Testament. It may be that the Bishop of Durham has put them off anything like scripture. Even the reverend Archbishop of York said that there is not a chap up there to whom one can pray. He appears to be able to destroy York Minster quite suitably, but apparently one is not allowed to pray to him. Such was the latest benediction.

The judgment of Solomon was an interesting concept. Nobody divided the baby to please anybody. King Solomon threatened to divide the baby because two women claimed that the baby did not belong to the other. That is the position in which the Government find themselves. On the one hand they are saying, "Oh, no, it's your baby. It's a free baby. It's the Back Benchers' baby. It's the baby of all of you. It's freedom's baby." on the other hand they are saying, "We'll smother the little brat, whatever you do."

4.45 am

On the one hand the Government are saying, "Ah, yes, it's our baby; it's a beautiful baby, it's a wonderful baby. You mustn't divide that baby. We need that baby. Give that baby to anybody else, but for goodness' sake keep it alive." On the other hand they are saying, "Don't you dare touch that little thing. You get out of the way. We're going to get our big, strong-armed nannies in here to keep you out of the way. We'll suckle it. It's our baby." This Bill is about milk, teeth and water, so it is not a bad idea to bring babies into the argument. It is the lovely teeth of babies that we are discussing, yet this wretched child, this fluoride baby, is being suckled compulsorily at the pap of the deputy Chief Whip—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing babies' teeth. We are discussing whether the debate should continue.

Mr. Fairbairn

I was trying to give, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a simple illustration which I hoped that the parents of this ghastly, illegitimate child might understand. I was saying that the reason why it should not be discussed at this time of night is that this baby is a bastard. It was not admitted at the time of the wedding, which was when this Government were elected. It was not admitted at the time of the Gracious Speech, which was the time of its conception. Yet suddenly the Government produce this loathsome, hideous, Fascist child, say that it is a love child and beseech all of us to adopt it. They say that we are free either to adopt it or to reject it, or to smother it or do anything we like to it. But actually "You're not, darlings. We're going to make sure that this nasty little creature grows up to be Joseph Goebbels." This is all about schizophrenia. We should not be talking about schizophrenia at this time in the morning. The Minister for Health cannot even spell the word, far less understand it.

I am disturbed to be informed that I have been speaking for an hour and a half. I have never addressed a jury, even on a capital murder charge, for more than 50 minutes. Apart from those occasions when I thought that I was doing immeasurable good by talking out the ridiculous totalitarian measures of the 1974 to 1979 Government, I have never addressed the House for that amount of time. However, I am happy to have done so on this occasion because I mind deeply and passionately about the wrongness of the principle that underlies the Bill. It is also totalitarian and unnecessary. The Government should take it away, like any other little baby which has half its head off, put it face down on the pillow and say, "I'm terribly sorry, darling. It was stillborn."

The Minister for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I acknowledge that this is not the most convenient hour of night to be discussing these matters and that it is probably slightly less convenient than it was when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) rose to draw attention to the problem. Having listened to his passionate and very prolonged address, I appreciate why he is here at this time of night and why he has spoken at such length. He withdrew the adjectives "snide" and "flippant" that he had used about me before. I am sure that I will give him every opportunity and occasion to put them back.

I acknowledge that my hon. and learned Friend is filibustering because he believes passionately that to proceed with the Bill at all is wrong. He and my other hon. Friends are fighting their corner for a cause in which they believe. I am sorry; it is one of the occasions on which we are divided.

My hon. and learned Friend and I have different views on footwear. I cannot persuade him of the virtue of hush puppies, which I am sure will come back into fashion. They have fallen out of favour in the House at the moment.

I realise that it is an issue of principle that has kept so many of my hon. Friends here. We gave been having a debate of high quality and I think that it could continue. I have not yet spoken in the debate, nor have the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and my hon. and learned Friend for Perth and Kinross. The earlier debates reached a high standard. We could probably match that, with effort, when we reach further important amendments.

The House should congratulate itself. It has reached line 15 of page 1. There are many important amendments to come. We have made reasonable progress. The matter has been fully and carefully considered. The time has now arrived to make a little further progress. Who knows, after the next amendment it may be an extremely convenient hour to continue the debate because the media will soon be reawakening. Early morning radio will soon be coming on the air and our proceedings could well be broadcast live within a few hours. I suggest that we could make a little more progress before then.

Mr. Cope

rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put.:—

The House divided:Ayes 106, Noes 39.

Division No. 142] [4.55 am
AYES
Ancram, Michael Mellor, David
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Bottomley, Peter Moynihan, Hon C.
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Needham, Richard
Bright, Graham Nelson, Anthony
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Newton, Tony
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Nicholls, Patrick
Burt, Alistair Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Butler, Hon Adam Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Pattie, Geoffrey
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Pawsey, James
Colvin, Michael Pollock, Alexander
Cope, John Raffan, Keith
Couchman, James Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Currie, Mrs Edwina Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Dorrell, Stephen Renton, Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Durant, Tony Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Roe, Mrs Marion
Eggar, Tim Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Ryder, Richard
Fletcher, Alexander Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Garel-Jones, Tristan Scott, Nicholas
Goodlad, Alastair Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Gow, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gummer, John Selwyn Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hayes, J. Soames, Hon Nicholas
Henderson, Barry Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Howard, Michael Squire, Robin
Hunt, David (Wirral) Stanley, John
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Stern, Michael
Jessel, Toby Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Knowles, Michael Tracey, Richard
Lamont, Norman Trippier, David
Lang, Ian Viggers, Peter
Lee, John (Pendle) Waddington, David
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Waldegrave, Hon William
Lilley, Peter Walden, George
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Ward, John
Lord, Michael Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lyell, Nicholas Watson, John
Macfarlane, Neil Watts, John
MacGregor, John Whitney, Raymond
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Major, John Younger, Rt Hon George
Marland, Paul
Mather, Carol Tellers for the Ayes:
Maude, Hon Francis Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Mr. Michael Neubert.
NOES
Best, Keith Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Haynes, Frank
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Carttiss, Michael Holt, Richard
Chope, Christopher Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Lawrence, Ivan
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Loyden, Edward
Dixon, Donald McGuire, Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Maclean, David John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Marlow, Antony
Forth, Eric Marshall, David (Shettleston)
George, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Grist, Ian Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Ground, Patrick Patchett, Terry
Pike, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Skinner, Dennis Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Stott, Roger Tellers for the Noes:
Terlezki, Stefan Mr. John Golding and
Walker, Bill (T'side N) Mr. Gwilym Jones.
Wareing, Robert

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned:—

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 103.

Division No. 143] [5.05 am
AYES
Best, Keith Lawrence, Ivan
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Loyden, Edward
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) McGuire, Michael
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Maclean, David John
Carttiss, Michael Marlow, Antony
Chope, Christopher Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Dixon, Donald Patchett, Terry
Fairbairn, Nicholas Pike, Peter
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Rogers, Allan
Forth, Eric Skinner, Dennis
George, Bruce Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Grist, Ian Stott, Roger
Ground, Patrick Terlezki, Stefan
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Wareing, Robert
Haynes, Frank
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Tellers for the Ayes:
Holt, Richard Mr. John Golding and
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Mr. Gwilym Jones.
NOES
Ancram, Michael Lang, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Lee, John (Pendle)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Boscawen, Hon Robert Lilley, Peter
Bottomley, Peter Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Lyell, Nicholas
Bright, Graham Macfarlane, Neil
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon MacGregor, John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Burt, Alistair Major, John
Butler, Hon Adam Marland, Paul
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Mather, Carol
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Maude, Hon Francis
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Mellor, David
Colvin, Michael Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Cope, John Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Couchman, James Moynihan, Hon C.
Currie, Mrs Edwina Needham, Richard
Dorrell, Stephen Nelson, Anthony
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Neubert, Michael
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Newton, Tony
Eggar, Tim Nicholls, Patrick
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Fletcher, Alexander Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)
Goodlad, Alastair Pattie, Geoffrey
Gow, Ian Pawsey, James
Gummer, John Selwyn Pollock, Alexander
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Raffan, Keith
Hayes, J. Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Henderson, Barry Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Howard, Michael Renton, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Jessel, Toby Roe, Mrs Marion
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knowles, Michael Ryder, Richard
Lamont, Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Scott, Nicholas Waddington, David
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Walden, George
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Ward, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Soames, Hon Nicholas Watson, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Watts, John
Squire, Robin Whitney, Raymond
Stanley, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stern, Michael Younger, Rt Hon George
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Tellers for the Noes:
Tracey, Richard Mr. Timothy Sainsbury and
Trippier, David Mr. Tony Durant.
Viggers, Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Lawrence

I beg to move amendment No. 98, in page 2, line 1, leave out from 'one' to end of line 4 and insert 'a compound of fluorine which has been tested and found to be safe to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It will be convenient to consider at the same time the following amendments: No. 52, in page 2, line 10, after 'one' insert 'half of a'.

No. 11, in clause 2, page 2, line 43, at end insert— 'save that no reference to another compound of fluorine shall be added except where such compound has been tested to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State as to its having no adverse effects on any person to receive it'. No. 76, in clause 2, page 2, line 43, at end insert— '(c) adding a reference to a combination of compounds of fluorine and other non fluorine compounds.'.

Mr. Lawrence

I have been sitting patiently throughout the night, not having managed to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I am grateful for this opportunity to participate in this important stage of the Bill. Having been called now to speak will restore my confidence, which was shattered last week when I was about to speak at a dinner in my constituency and the toastmaster said, "My lords, ladies and gentlemen, pray for the silence of your Member of Parliament."

Mr. Best

The House will have noticed that amendment No. 98 also stands in my name. My hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that I am not moving it because I feel unable, at gone 5 o'clock in the morning, to devote the necessary attention to what are complicated issues. However, I am sure that he will do an excellent job in moving it.

Mr. Lawrence

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the excellent work that he has done so far. With his experience and knowledge of Anglesey, an area which has been force-fluoridated for a number of years—much to the concern of the local people, which is one reason why my hon. Friend is so passionate an opponent of fluoridation—he has many important examples to give the House.

It is a pity that he cannot introduce the debate. If he is flagging, it may not be possible for my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, let alone the rest of the payroll, to concentrate closely on these issues at this hour.

5.15 am

I should be grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if at the outset you make it clear whether you will allow separate Divisions upon the amendments. They are nearly all different. Amendment No. 98 would leave out from 'one' to end of line 4 and insert 'a compound of fluorine which has been tested and found to be safe to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State'. It is the comprehensive proposition on safety in this group of amendments. I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would wish there to be a separate Division on the subject of safety, which is central to our deliberations.

There follow variations of what would be safe. Amendment No. 52 stands in the name of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I shall leave it to the hon. Gentleman to explain precisely what his amendment implies but I suggest that it implies broadly that 1 mg per litre may be thought by the House to be unsafe and that a ¼ mg per litre would be safer. If life-threatening diseases are triggered by the addition of fluoride to the water, perhaps the logic of the amendment is that they will have the chance to live four times longer, if it is accepted, before suffering the affliction of the evil effects of fluoride.

Amendment No. 29 is the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), which seeks a reduction to ½ mg per litre. The House has the opportunity of deciding whether it wants 1 mg per litre as the level of safety, ½ mg per litre or ¼ mg per litre. That is an issue upon which there might be divided views. It might be possible to hold the view that one is satisfied on the balance of probabilities on the evidence — it can never be higher than that because of the weight of evidence that the poison called fluoride causes damage to health — that one should not be satisfied with 1 mg but might be satisfied with ½ mg and should certainly be satisfied with ¼ mg.

Mr. Best

My hon. and learned Friend might find it helpful if I intervene to suggest to him that amendment No. 98, which would leave out from 'one' to end of line 4 and insert 'a compound of fluorine which has been tested and found to be safe to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State', is the omnibus amendment on safety. It encompasses safety for those who handle fluoride as well as the recipients of it. It embraces the problems of trade unions and statutory water undertakers, the question of protective clothing and whether there should be no need to give notice of termination of contract if suddenly a statutory water undertaker puts fluoride in the water supply.

Amendment No. 11 is much more restrictive, as it concerns the recipients of fluoride and requires the Secretary of State to ensure that they do not suffer adverse effects.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Amendment No. 76, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is, as one would expect of him, unrelated to the matters that we are discussing now.

We are discussing safety — the most serious and important of the issues involved with fluoridation as, beyond peradventure, it concerns the health of the nation. I am fed up with hearing from all kinds of sources—no doubt we shall hear it from hon. Members who are not here, have never been here, were not in Committee and have not read one page of Hansard or, indeed, anything about fluoridation—that there is no evidence of harm to health from fluoridation at one part per million.

There is a massive amount of evidence, which has accumulated quite rapidly during the past few years. When if first took an interest in this subject in 1976, there had been a great deal of evidence in the 1950s and 1960s, but for some reason, it appeared to dry up. There was a revival in 1975, since when there has been a steady flow of studies all over the world, most of which suggest that there is likely harm from putting fluoride in water at one part per million.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) is leaving the Chamber. He gets up from time to time to criticise, but I do not suppose that he has read one of the studies. He does not stay in the Chamber long enough to hear anyone quote them or give evidence. It is important that the evidence is adduced and presented. Right thinking people ought to consider it. It is not enough to say that this is an infringement of the liberty of the individual. We must go further, because there are some people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who are otherwise freedom loving but say that the small infringement of freedom involved in mass medication is so insubstantial as not to be weighed in the scale against the benefits. We have to argue the case, but it cannot be argued in five minutes. That is partly because the arguments are complicated and partly because there is just a mass of stuff to be considered. It is tedious, and I understand that it is boring and therefore people go away rather than concentrate their minds on the issues.

I come to one small but significant matter. There is a lot of evidence that fluoride of one part per million is mutagenic. That is, it causes abnormalities in cells. The Government, on the advice of the Royal College of Physicians, and no doubt other worthy bodies, repeatedly say that there is no evidence of that. Recently there have been two Japanese reports on the studies of research groups on this subject. When this point was raised during the passage of the Bill, it was said—I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), but I may be forgiven for getting it wrong at this time of night—that that matter had been studied, or was being studied by the forces for good. These wonderful scientists, dentists and doctors, who always manage to reassure the Government of the complete safety and integrity of something that is a dangerous poison, were examining the matter.

In the last Session, it was said that as a result of the Strathclyde decision, legislation would have to be introduced. However, when we looked avidly at the Queen's Speech for any mention of a Bill on fluoridation, we did not see it. The astute media cross-examined staff in the Department of Health and Social Services as to the reason why a Bill that had been well trailered was not in the Queen's Speech. Those of us of a cynical mind never believed the story that emerged, which was that consideration of the latest report was holding things up.

Those of us with a very cynical mind thought that there was no mention of such a Bill in the Queen's Speech because, if there had been, those of us opposed to such a Bill would get our supporters organised. Many people would write to Ministers, and that would be terribly embarrassing added to the letters about the restricted drugs list. The rumour was that these reports were being taken seriously by the Government, and were being properly considered, presumably by the Medical Research Council.

I shall read a letter that was written to a lady in Scotland by the information officer of the Medical Research Council, dated 21 February 1985: The articles which have recently appeared in the press are a little misleading. The Medical Research Council is not assessing the Japanese report, but is undertaking, at the request of the Department of Health, a research project aimed at identifying whether sodium fluoride has the ability to induce gene mutation in mouse lymphoma cells. This project is being carried out at the Council's cell mutation laboratory in Brighton. A final report to the Department will be made later this year. No results have been published yet. This is an interesting letter. First, it tells us that we have been misled. I do not for a moment think that we have been misled by anything that Ministers have said to us, but we and the press were misled into thinking that the Medical Research Council, which is the research council par excellence, do look at scientific developments that might endanger health.

We were misled into thinking that somebody was studying the Japanese reports, but that was quite wrong. The two Japanese reports in 1984 came from Nippon dental university. They purported to show that if one injected fluoride under the skin of hamsters and into embryo cells, into a human cell or into a cultured human cell, the fluoride caused genetic damage. Whether or not scientists are wrong in starting their testing procedures on hamsters, rats or mice, which is the traditional way of doing this for various scientific reasons that the scientists in the House will well understand, the fact that the same effect was being created in a human cell is deeply worrying.

5.30 am

Those are recent reports. They were not available in 1976 when the Royal College of Physicians reported that it was safe, nor were they available in 1983 when we were assured by the Government that it was safe, in 1982, in 1981 or ever. These are recent reports from a serious body, the dental university in Tokyo, where these matters are properly and deeply studied.

What do we hear from the Medical Research Council? The Medical Research Council is not assessing the Japanese reports. Why is the Medical Research Council not assessing the Japanese reports? Why is somebody else not assessing the Japanese reports? I hope that the Minister will make some reference to that, because it seems to me that those reports are worthy of assessment. If there is anything in them — if fluoride under the skin of a hamster, in the cell of a human being, in an embryo cell or in a culture grows into a tumour, what better evidence could we have that there must be a doubt about whether this stuff is as safe as everybody says? That is the first matter on the letter.

The second matter is that the Medical Research Council is engaged on a research project aimed at identifying whether sodium fluoride has the ability to induce gene mutations in mouse lymphoma cells. I do not know how mouse lymphoma cells differ from hamster cells, human cell cultures or any other cells into which sodium fluoride has been injected. It is reassuring to hear that some inquiries and examination are taking place into whether this stuff when injected into living cells causes cancer. But if the Minister had only told the House that he was waiting upon a research project which would advise him in a year or two whether there was any danger of genetic abnormality resulting from the injection of fluoride of one part per million or its equivalent into the cells of a mouse, I doubt very much whether the heart and spirit of the stout souls in the payroll vote would have swept quite so quickly into the Lobby.

In other words, whichever way one looks at this letter, on the one hand the Government are paying no, or little, attention to a report from a reputable source; and on the other hand they are showing such concern about that and other reports that they have set up a research project of their own which is being carried out at Brighton.

If the letter were widely enough known—this is not the hour at which to have it widely enough known, but I shall take steps to ensure that it is more widely circulated—I think some hon. Members, perhaps just one or two, might put a question mark over the assurances of safety until such time as the matter is cleared up by the research project reporting a clean bill of health.

Mr. Best

My hon. and learned Friend quoted from the Royal College of Physicians' report. Many people rely on that report; that is understandable. When was that report published and was the evidence to which he has referred known at the time of the publication of the report? That is an important aspect.

Mr. Lawrence

It certainly was not. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best), who is normally bright at any hour, lost his concentration for a moment. I said earlier that the reports were published in 1984 and that the Royal College of Physicians report was made in 1976. In that time a great deal happened.

Mr. Best

Is my hon. and learned Friend interested to know the reply that I received to three parliamentary questions? I asked the Secretary of State for Social Services

  1. "(1) if any studies have been brought to his attention which indicate that fluoride is a cause of genetic damage;
  2. (2) if any studies have been brought to his attention which indicate that fluoride is carcinogenic;
  3. (3) if any studies have been brought to his attention which indicate that fluoride causes damage to plant and animal life."
The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Securit told me:— Our independent scientific advisers have considered the relevant work on the genetic effects of fluoride as used in water fluoridation schemes to achieve a concentration of one part per million in the drinking water of whole communities. They have also considered all the available evidence on the biological effects of fluoride in short term tests, animal carcinogenicity tests and the epidemiological evidence

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be brief. This is an intervention.

Mr. Best

I hoped that I could quote the answer by the Under-Secretary, who went on— recently reviewed in the report of the working party on fluoridation of water and cancer, copies of which are available in the Vote Office. They have concluded that there is no evidence leading to an expectation of a mutagenic hazard to man through the industion of heritable abnormalities in the germ cells and that there is no reliable evidence of any hazard to man in respect of cancer from the fluoridation of drinking water to a concentration of one part per million."—[Official Report, 26 February 1985; Vol. 74, c. 138.] That answer was given two days before the report appeared in New Scientist. I make no comment about the veracity of the comments in that report, but all that we have had is a brief answer from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.

Mr. Lawrence

I am, of course, interested in those matters. The Department of Health and Social Security works slowly and its right hand does not always know what its left hand is doing. We have heard about examples of that. I tabled questions. To some I have received answers. I have received answers to questions that I did not ask and I have not yet received answers to some important questions. The DHSS seems not to be working in a co-ordinated way.

It is interesting that until recently we were told that there was no evidence. "No evidence" is what the Royal College of Physicians says. Now we hear "no reliable evidence". That is because the statement "there is no evidence" is a lie; there always was evidence. No doubt the great and the good who want to force this harmful measure upon us brushed all that evidence to one side and said that it was not very good and it was not reliable, but to tell the British people, as the great and the good did in their "Fluoride: teeth and health", upon which successive Governments have relied for encouragement to fluoridate the water, that there was no evidence was to tell them something that was simply untrue.

If there is a court case and the prosecution calls evidence and the defence calls no evidence, it can be said that there is no evidence for the defence. But if there is a court case and the prosecution calls evidence and the defence calls some evidence which is discredited, it cannot be said that there is no evidence; it can merely be said that the evidence is discredited; or, if it is not discredited but just unreliable, it can be said that the evidence is unreliable. The one thing that cannot be said in English is that there is no evidence, there are no studies, because the implication is, and the impression given to people is, that all the scientists in the world have not come up with any study at all which shows that fluoridation is harmful.

Mr. McGuire

The hon. and learned Gentleman is telling us that the argument that there is no evidence to support the case of people like myself and the hon. and learned Gentleman—that is, the anti-fluoridation case—has now been proved to be bogus. I would like him to turn his very able mind to the other side of the coin, the fact that evidence, statistics and facts were given supporting the case for fluoridation which we know were misleading. This is true in particular of the case we have had evidence on in the letter from Dr. Yellowlees, from a Scottish address, where the principal advocate of fluoridation did not himself know the very limited number of people who were getting naturally fluoridated water. That is another aspect to which I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will turn his attention, because it is equally valid. We should try to demonstrate that that argument for fluoridating was based on false statistics and that misleading statistics were made to sound very authentic.

Mr. Lawrence

I hope in the course of my argument to develop that very point, because it is not just that denials of any harm exist but that some of the bases upon which assertions have been made are fallacious.

For the purpose of crossing an "i" and dotting a "t", I want to refer the House to one of the pages of "Fluoride: teeth and health" where we are assured of the safety of fluoride. It is page 9 of the summary, and the sentence reads: Studies in the U.S.A. and Britain have found no relationship between cancer mortality or cancer incidence and fluoride levels in water supplies. Does that not give the impression that there is no evidence, although there have been studies, of any relationship between cancer mortality or cancer incidence and fluoride levels in water supplies? That is utterly false, because all the authors meant to say was "There are studies and they show a relationship but we discount them". That is a very different matter and it is very misleading. Successive Governments have been misled by that. That can be the only justification for successive Governments saying that there is no evidence and that fluoride is safe.

5.45 am

The importance of the New Scientist article of 28 February 1985 is self-evident. As reported in The Times, it says: Evidence that fluoride can interfere with hydrogen bonding in a yeast enzyme provides proof that it can affect a vital component of a living cell. That is the significance of it. That study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1984, volume 2259, page 12,984. I can scarcely believe that any book has 12,984 pages but if what I am reading is correct that is so. I suppose that a book on the evils of fluoridation might run into that many pages. It was written by Stephen Edwards, Thomas Poulos and Joseph Kraut of the department of chemistry at the University of California in Santiago.

That is only a supplement to a research group's report in 1981 under the control of Dr. John Emsley, a reader in chemistry at Kings college, London. He made a radio broadcast about that study which is very interesting to listen to. Here was a man who knew nothing about fluoride an was not investigating it. He was investigating for other purposes the subject of hydrogen bonding forming between amides in biological systems. He said: My work and the work of my research group has shown that fluoride combines itself to other molecules by what are called hydrogen bonds, and in particular very strong hydrogen bonds. The implications are that some of the molecules that we have investigated are important chemicals in the living cells in the human body. That means that fluoride is not quite so innocuous as people previously thought. It was always assumed, and in fact I think when they atarted putting fluoride in water 30 years ago, that fluoride was about the safest salt— by that I mean the most unreactive salt that was known—and therefore could not interfere in any metabolic processes in the living cell. Well, I think that our work has shown that really this must now be doubted. Fluoride will interact with salacylic acid, for instance, which is an important compound in the body and it will interact with this in the presence of water, and therefore fluoride in water is not as inert as chemically we used to think it was. In fact it can now do all sorts of reactions that otherwise were not suspected. There are so many unknown questions now hanging over flouride, especially as the result of what we have discovered, that it can interact with things that we thought it could not interact with before. We found a way in which it can do this. It can attach itself to other molecules by its strong hydrogen bonds and when it does that who knows what it is going to do to these other molecules? He added: When I used to hear it said that fluoride would cause cancer and birth defects about 10 years ago I dismissed it completely because there was no way in which I could see something as innocent as fluoride appeared to be at the time doing something like this. Now, if you were to tell me that, then I would have doubts about it, I must admit. We cannot just give it a clean bill of health as we used to.

Mr. Best

My hon. and learned Friend may be interested to know that my office contacted Dr. Emsley today, who said that he did not feel strongly one way or the other about the Bill. He should also be aware that yesterday I spoke with a biochemist who tells me that the danger pointed to in the article occurs only in high concentrated levels of fluoride, not such as is proposed by the Government should go into the water supplies. Again, I make no comment about the veracity of those statement. But it is right that I should point that out to my hon. and learned Friend so that he can deal with the matter.

Mr. Lawrence

I shall deal with that in a moment because I want to refer to concentration and dose. Before I do, I should like to complete the point that I am making.

Since 1976 and the report of the Royal College of Physicians, which is relied upon, there has been a large number of surveys and research projects throughout the world. I refer to just some. In Poland, at the Pomeranian medical academy, there have been studies on human cells, which concluded that fluoride causes genetic damage. In 1981, at the institute of botany at Baku in Russia, rat studies showed that fluoride causes genetic damage. In 1982 at the university of Missouri in Kansas City, research showed that, injected into mice, fluoride causes genetic damage. In 1983 at the Kunming institute of biology in the People's Republic of China, fluoride injected into deer cells showed that fluoride causes genetic damage. I have reported the two studies in the Japanese dental university in 1984. In addition, research teams from Texas university, Missouri university, the institute of botany at Baku and the cental laboratory of mutagen testing at Freiburg in West Germany have published over 10 papers showing that fluoride causes genetic damage in insects and various plants.

That leads me to a point that I have made before, but I shall make it again, because the audience is different, and the point must continue to be made. It is not just the very odd scientist or dental expert who says that there is danger in this stuff. There is professor Butenandt, a chemist from Munich university, a Nobel prizewinner, professor Murphy, a consultant physiologist, a Nobel prizewinner, and professor Semenov, a chemist from Leningrad university, a Nobel prizewinner—all of them are living Nobel prizewinners, and all have warned against putting fluoride in water. There are several other Nobel prizewinners, but, when we have consulted the various books, it has not been evident whether they are any longer with us. Therefore, I shall not cite their names. The sum total of known Nobel prizewinners over a period of years who have shown themselves to be opposed to fluoridation as a result of studies that they have either carried out themselves or referred to in their particular scientific capacities is at least 11.

There is professor Louis Steyn, the professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Victoria university, professor Albert Shatz, the co-discoverer of streptomycin, who stopped Chile from fluoridating, professor Burgstable of the university of Kansas, Dr. James Ebert, vice-president of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Philip Sutton, formerly the senior lecturer in dental science at Melbourne university and of course Dr. Dean Burk, who for 35 years was the chief psychochemist at the national cancer institute of America. I must point out that that man has been greatly reviled. He has been the subject of attack because his report has been the most frightening of all the reports that have been produced on cancer. It was frightening because it was the most thorough of all the reports. He has been attacked personally as being a charlatan peddling quack medicines. The learned and eminent professor in Britain who thus attacked him had to eat humble pie and retract on pain of a slander action.

That indicates just how the pro-fluoride lobby reacts when somebody of standing says that this stuff is not safe and that we ought not to accept it. They attacked the wrong man. They chose somebody who must know more about cancer and the effects of fluoride than almost anybody else on earth.

Recently there has been the evidence of Paul McCormick, who is a research fellow at Nuffield college, Oxford, Dr. R. A. Holeman, a senior lecturer in bacteriology at Cardiff hospital, Mr. G. J.Roberts, a lecturer in children's dentistry at the Royal dental hospital London, Dr. C. W. M. Wilson, consultant physician in geriatric medicine at the Royal hospital, Lanarkshire and the department of physiology and pharmacy at Strathclyde. I have already referred the House to Dr. John Emsley reader in chemistry at King's college, London, and Dr. Paul Wix head of food science at the polytechnic of the south bank in London. These important research scientists say that fluoride should not be added to water and that there is something wrong with this substance. Are they all nuts? Are they all mad? Are they all so stupid that they cannot see a safe poison when they see it? Or are we to say, as the Government and the pro-fluoridation lobby say, that it is perfectly safe and that nobody of any repute speaks against it?

Mr. Fairbairn

; I apologise for interrupting my hon. and learned Friend because he is making an important contribution to the diagnostic and academic understanding of these matters, but the point that he is making is not sufficiently understood. Let us suppose that each of these scientists can be presumed to be a bad scientist. By passing the Bill will the House of Commons be saying that each of these men is irresponsible and wrong in his research, that he is misleading the public and doing gross damage—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman address the Chair.

Mr. Fairbairn

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At six o'clock in the morning, which is half-way between twelve o'clock and twelve o'clock you will appreciate that I know not which way to turn. I give you my most humble apologies. The Government are not saying that one or two of them may be wrong. It is in fact a finding of guilt against each of them that they are bad scientists. That is the point to which I wish my hon. and learned Friend to address his mind.

Mr. Lawrence

There is no need for me to address my mind to it. As one would expect from a question posed by my hon. and learned Friend, the answer is self-evident. Unless these people are complete idiots who are not worthy of the posts that they hold, or of the money invested in their research, or of their professorships or their Nobel prizes, there may be just some substance in the warnings that they utter. I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Best

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for giving way. I think it is important—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman please address the Chair.

Mr. Best

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Once I have fallen into error, I hope I shall not do so again. Is it not a fact that there may be an answer to the points that my hon. and learned Friend is making? I have not had the opportunity to read all the studies to which he referred. They may show that fluoride can cause severe damage to health. Indeed, the Minister said in one of our earlier debates that fluoride can kill one. And of course it can, in high concentrations.

6 am

Will my hon. and learned Friend address his mind to whether those reports related to concentrations similar to that which it is proposed should be put in the water supply as a result of the Bill, or whether they were higher?

Mr. Lawrence

Some of them were low and some were high. The point that my hon. Friend makes is one that we often hear. We heard it from my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister in an earlier debate on the instructions of his advisers in the Box. It is an utterly bogus point.

Those scientists use high concentrations to obtain speedy results. If they conclude that with lower concentrations over a longer period the result would be the same, that is a scientific conclusion which answers the point, and which raises serious doubts about the safety of the medicine. It is well known that if something will cause a tumour at 10 times the lower level, a concentration of one tenth of that over a much longer period will be likely to have the same result.

To assume otherwise is to assume that all those people are idiots. They are not giving out the evidence on the basis, "We are showing that 100 times what will be put in the water will cause cancer." They would then conclude that the fluoride was safe because it only causes harm at 100 times the level that will be put in the water. They conclude that it is unsafe because if it is unsafe at 10 or 100 times the amount that will be put into the water, the cumulative effects will be as harmful.

Mr. Jessel

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my hon. Friend who is here only because I promised to give him a lift home, and I regret that kind offer.

Mr. Jessel

I was not going to refer to what my hon. and learned Friend has just said. I was only going to take a lift home from him if he was going home. Until 3.30 we did not know.

In view of what my hon. and learned Friend alleges about the risks from fluoride, does he now advise all my constituents and those of my neighbour, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground), who have a common water supply with Twickenham, to stop drinking the water as it contains one part of fluoride per million? Should they also stop drinking tea, which contains fluoride, and obtain their beer from another part of the country?

Mr. Lawrence

I shall come to a longer and more thorough answer to my hon. Friend's point a little further into the day. The short answer is that naturally fluoridated water does not appear to have the same toxic effects as artificially fluoridated water for a number of reasons. That is not just a conclusion that I, a lawyer and politician come to, it is one to which eminent scientists come. I shall refer to them in a moment.

We could draw the conclusion, therefore, that if fluoride is not causing harm it should be left where it is.

There are countries that are taking natural fluoride out of their water, because it is even harmful in its natural form at high levels of one part per million.

Mr. Fairbairn

My hon. and learned Friend is not doing justice to his argument, because if he and my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) understood the matter they would know that in Great Britain where fluoride occurs naturally in the water a large amount of calcium also occurs. Calcium takes out fluoride. If any credit is to be given to either element, it is calcium that benefits teeth, and not fluoride. In India, where there is a high incidence of fluoride in the water but no equivalent calcium residue as in Britain, there is major destruction of teeth and bones because of fluoridation.

Mr. Lawrence

In support of what my hon. and learned Friend has said, I should like to cite the figures for Hartlepool and York. Those figures are always cited by the pro-fluoridationists. Hartlepool water contains natural fluoride levels of 1.5 parts per million. York water contains natural fluoride levels of 0.22 parts per million. If the fluoride level of York water were raised to that of Hartlepool, the high standards of teeth care and safety that obtain in Hartlepool would be transferred to York.

York water contains calcium concentrations of 50 parts per million and magnesium concentrations of 43 parts per million. Hartlepool water contains calcium levels of 372 parts per million, which is more than double the amount of calcium in the naturally fluoridated York water, and magnesium levels of 254 parts per million, which is six times as much as in York water.

Whenever I cite those figures, the Department of Health and Social Security says that there is nothing in them, that calcium does not have good effects on teeth or counterbalance the effect of fluoride and that the magnesium concentration means neither one thing nor the other. I shall deal later with those fallacious responses.

Mr. Michael Brown

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my hon. Friend, although I shall not get far if I am interrupted, even by helpful colleagues.

Mr. Brown

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that fluoride has an affinity for calcium, combining with it to form the insoluble calcium fluoride? In that form calcium is deionised and rendered absolutely useless for all the many needs of the tissues, bones and teeth. Fluoride locks up any beneficial effect that calcium might have.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend seems to have been reading my speeches or the same studies and reports that I have read by the same scientists who are nuts, cranks and lunatics, even though they are considered to be important and responsible people in their own field.

I round off my arguments about scientists generally by answering the response that I expect we shall hear again from my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister, if he graces us with a reply. We have not always been graced with a reply. I do not blame him for that, because when the business managers say, "Get the boys to bed" my right hon. and learned Friend must jump. I do not know whether the public will hear the details of the response. Sometimes it is difficult for Ministers to reply.

In Committee I asked about the effects of fluoride on water pipes. The Department was going to look into that question. The Department intended also examining the assertion in a booklet issued by the Royal College of Physicians that most of the fluoride used would be derived from sources that would otherwise have been discharged to the sea as waste. I am afraid that, if I have received a response, I have not yet seen it. That explains why some of these important conclusions do not always percolate through to the people who make the decisions.

Mr. Fairbairn

As my hon. and learned Friend has said, not only does fluoride lock up calcium, but calcium locks up fluoride. Therefore, the effect of fluoride in the areas which we are discussing is entirely masked. In regard to the effect of all the matters that he is putting forward, has anybody considered that vegetables accumulate fluoride and that human beings accumulate fluoride? Therefore, the point about 1 part in a million is irrelevant because there are accumulators of fluoride. People on a specific diet get a large ingestion of fluoride which has nothing to do with the control which the Bill attempts to put upon the water supply. If we all drank nothing but water, it would, but we do not.

Mr. Lawrence

Every time I give way a future passage of my speech, which I shall be reaching later in the day, is anticipated by whichever of my honourable, learned and well-acquainted-with-the-subject Friends is intervening. By the time I get there I expect my audience will have forgotten the points that have been made, so they will bear repetition, although I will not repeat them for repetition's sake.

To come back to the point that I was trying to make before I allowed myself to be misled by various hon. Friends, the response of my right hon. and learned Friend is that all these studies were considered by Lord Jauncey. To begin with, some of the more recent studies were not considered by him because he reported at the end of 1983 and some of the reports came out in 1984 and some even in 1985. Therefore, even Lord Jauncey is now water under the bridge. There may be further information to add to that. The real answer to Lord Jauncey is that this was one man's view of a body of evidence which he considered.

Against Lord Jauncey can be set the views of three men, because three other courts of law in the United States of America—who is there amongst us who can say that the legal system in the United States of America does not throw up as good judges as our legal system throws up in the British Isles—considered the same kind of evidence. In most cases the very same experts were speaking on both sides both for and against fluoride in the water. This is what three of them have said.

In 1978 in the Philadelphia case Judge Flaherty, who was no slouch because he is now in the State Supreme Court following his judgment in the fluoridation case, said: This court is compellingly convinced of the evidence in favour of the plaintiffs. Those who were complaining about the addition of fluoride to the water brought an action against the water authority and the water authority lost. Those who brought the action persuaded the judge of the strength of the anti-fluoride case.

As though that was not enough, in 1982 in the Houston case in Texas the judge said that artificial fluoridation of the public water supplies may cause or may contribute to the cause of cancer, genetic damage, intolerant reactions and chronic toxicity, including dental mottling in man … and may aggravate malnutrition and existing illnesses in man. This is another judge, a learned gentleman, who has had a lifetime of experience in analysing witnesses and evidence; he came to the conclusion that I have just read out, which shows that none of the mass of evidence that he saw and heard caused him to believe that fluoride was safe.

6.15 am

My third example is Judge Niemann in the Illinois case in February 1982, who concluded: The artificial addition of fluoride to the public water supply may have adverse health effects and, exposes the public to a risk uncertain in its scope of unhealthy side effects. In those three cases, the findings of fact were more or less identical: thumbs down to the safety of fluoride. One must put that against the judgment of the judge in the High Court of Session in Scotland, who said, "Thumbs up to fluoride." Three down and one up. Surely there is a doubt. Surely we cannot put our hands on our hearts and say, "It is all safe". All those judges could have said of the witnesses, "They are all nuts; they are all crazy; they are all posturing. They are not worth the money that has been invested in them or their positions in universities." The judges could have said that, but they did not. They saw those witnesses, and they did not, because there is at least a reasonable basis for the arguments that they advanced on the unsafeness of fluoride.

Mr. Best

Is it not important to bear in mind the fact that Judge Flaherty found in favour of the plaintiffs, on whose shoulders rested the burden of proof? It was for them to prove on the balance of probabilities—my hon. and learned Friend will correct me if this is not the burden of proof in the United States. If that is so, it was for the plaintiffs to prove their case, and they did so.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend is, as usual, right. I do not believe that it is about the balance of probabilities. The evidence produced by those scientists is much more persuasive than that. It is comforting to know that wiser legal people than myself agree with that.

Mr. Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my very wise hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Fairbairn

I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will address his mind to this point. It is all very well in an ordinary civil dispute for a judge to come to a conclusion as to which side he believes. That may be so in an adultery case if a woman claims that she is a virgin and half the obstetricians say that she is, and half say that she is not. The judge must decide whose evidence he accepts. I had a case in which half of Harley street said that a woman was a new tyre which had never been on the road, and another lot said that her tread had vanished and that she was contrary to the construction and use regulations—[Laughter.]

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) must not laugh. This is an important matter. Whatever else we want judges to do, we do not want them to make scientific judgments. Whether Lord Jauncey was right or wrong, and whether these American gentlemen are right or wrong, they are not the people to make scientific judgments. On one side, huge scientific evidence shows that fluoride is dangerous to health; on the other side, some say that it is beneficial to children's teeth. Who is the Minister to sit in judgment on a scientific matter of such complexity?

Mr. Lawrence

Again, I am driven to accept the force of my hon. and learned Friend's logic and sense, and I use it to advance my argument a step or two further.

A number of other developments in scientifc research into and analysis of the subject of fluoride followed the report of the Royal College of Physicians. One report was concerned with the effects of fluoride on flora, fauna and aquatic life. Reference to that was made in Committee and it was cited earlier in this stage of the Bill, so I will not weary the House with it, except to quote this short passage from the report about frogs: The embryonic development of their eggs is delayed when they are submitted to a concentration of 1 part per million of fluorides. Similar effects are observed in tadpoles. Lava of the frog are exposed— [Interruption.] I gather that some hon. Friends find that humorous. I suppose that it is, except to those who consider that the flora and fauna of the United Kingdom are important. There is the additional fact that if it poisons the water for the flora and fauna, it also poisons the food chain which is grown in a natural form.

The report goes on: The eggs of trout do not hatch when they are exposed to concentrations of 1.5 parts per million of fluorides. Again, some may consider that amusing. [Interruption.] The Minister always laughs when those who put forward the anti-fluoridation case say that it causes mongolism, wet feet, bad tadpoles and all manner of ills. The report adds: Although there is a lack of information regarding the effects of the accumulation of fluorides along the food chain, there is enough evidence to conclude that the actual presence of fluorides above certain levels in the aquatic environment is causing important biological damage to both plant and animal systems. Reporting there was a committee set up by the Government of Quebec in 1978. Was that committee comprised of nuts? Known as the departmental committee on fluoridation its members were the master of science in hydrology; chairman of the Public Hearing Board on Environmental Impact Studies; the assistant director of the Minister of the Environment's Office; the master of sciences in civil engineering; a staff member of the drinking water division of the environment protection services—every one a good, hard-working scientist and bureaucrat earning his crust from the local or regional government organisation — the scientific adviser, Advisory Council on the Environment for Quebec; director of the research centre, Laval hospital, Quebec; the Engineer, environment protection services; the chief of the air pollution control division, the environment protection services; the legal adviser for the environment protection services for Quebec; the technician in water sanitation, environment protection services; a doctor of medicine; and a senior adviser to the Minister of the Environment for Quebec.

There were 10 or more lunatics or nuts, people who were prepared to stop the children of Quebec from having the wonderful benefits of pain-free teeth because of some tadpoles, frogs and an accumulation of a ridiculous mixture in the food chain. They were not just stupid but criminal, for they sentenced children in Quebec to a lifetime of pain, misery and suffering because of some stupid story which had been told to them and which they accepted.

Mr. Fairbairn

I recall the term which was used by the Minister. It was "idiot" and not "nut". He was talking about idiots in hush-puppies, as I recall. He is making a dangerous suggestion, which is that I should use two better adjectives than the one that I had in mind. I think that he should rest partly on his tadpole Bench. I ask my hon. and learned Friend why the Minister of Health, of all Ministers, should mock research. He was no doubt featured in the Division list for the in vitro embryos. It is supposed to be terrible to touch human embryos upon whom we undertake research. The Minister is saying that we must not carry out research on anything lesser than humans and we are not allowed to undertake research on those who are humans. How is research to be undertaken?

I have a suggestion to make which my hon. and learned Friend may consider to be useful. Let us stuff fluoride into the Minister. Let us put it into his shoes, his ears, down his throat and up whatever he gets AIDS from and observe what happens. If he is still with us tomorrow and if he is still willing to believe in Christianity—I understand that those who have fluoride put in those places cease to do so—we shall have been able to carry out an experiment. The rest of us will have to rely on tadpoles.

Mr. Lawrence

I do not know what those who read my hon. and learned Friend's intervention will make of his contribution to a serious argument. I am indebted to him for lightening the tedium of the early hours and the dreadful monotony of my voice as I drag out reports of scientist after scientist and research group after research group. I am delighted that my hon. and learned Friend is still with us.

Mr. Golding

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that I shall not attempt to cross-examine him. I thought that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) was merely providing him with time to study his papers. I should like to hear what the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) can tell us about trout. In Committee, the junior Minister said: Turning to the important issue of fluoride and aquatic life, those assiduous people who advised me were unable to help me much on trout in fresh water".—[Official Report, Standing Committee H; 5 February 1985, c. 95.] That was the advice given to the Minister in Committee. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that he has better information than that which is available to the junior Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security?

Mr. Lawrence

The hon. Gentleman has not said that that was my hon. Friend's response to the Quebec survey, which I read to the Minister. He toddled along to the officials who advise him and asked what information they had on trout, confidently expecting, no doubt, that they would provide some information to enable him to say that certain suggestions were a load of rubbish and give him a long list of other research projects throughout the world to show that there is no damage to tadpoles and trout, for example. All that he could come up with at short notice was the answer that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has read to us. It seems that he has not come up with anything more.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security has been assiduous in sending me letters with additional information that arose from our deliberations in Committee. However, I know that I have not received anything to tell me that the Quebec environment committee's report on the effect on flora and fauna—and fishes, if they are different from fauna—is wrong or has been superseded.

Let us suppose that trout fishermen sitting in the Box have noticed no harm as they fish in the fluoridated waters of Hartlepool, Anglesey or anywhere else. What does that prove? What does it prove if research is undertaken by them and they find that it does not tally with that carried out by the Quebec committee? It proves not a clean bill of health but that people of integrity and knowledge have conducted experiments and reached different conclusions. Who is to say which is right and which is wrong?

6.30 am
Mr. Fairbairn

Two matters embarrass me. First, I call my secretary Trout, and I would not want an experiment to be done on her. Secondly, I have done my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister another insult. I had forgotten, but have remembered that, far from being on the wrong side of the test tube, he is on the right side. He does not want us to bother with any of this nonsense about trying things out on tadpoles, trout, my secretary and others but on real live human beings in test tubes. I have a list of dangerous chemicals all of which he can try out. We have a minister for Health who wants to experiment on real live human embryos in test tubes. I look forward to him answering his mail—and may I not get it—when it is revealed that he wants to study the effects of various concentrations of fluoride and to see whether it is cumulative in in vitro embryos. He obviously has a collection of in vitro embryos—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Is this an intervention or a speech in the guise of an intervention? In either case, it seems to have little relevance to the subject under discussion or to the speech in which it is being made.

Mr. Lawrence

I was beginning to get interested in my library of information. Once that happens I am lost to the House, and I should not like that to happen.

Mr. Best

My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister said that fluoride occurs in concentrations of one part per million in the sea. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend could address his mind to that. What my hon. and learned Friend is saying is cause for concern and the Bill should enable a statutory water provider to reduce the level of fluoride—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That might be a matter which the House should consider, but it is nothing to do with the amendments under discussion.

Mr. Lawrence

I can reply only be reading from the Royal College of Physicians' book entitled, "Fluoride: Teeth and Health" which says: The level in the sea, 10.8 to 1.4 mg per litre, would be little affected both because of the enormous dilution that would occur"— the dilution in the sea is enormous.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The point that my hon. and learned Friend is reading is merely that, if more fluoride is put in tap water, the concentration in the sea will not be raised significantly as it is already at the level to which it is proposed that authorities be empowered to raise it. My hon. and learned Friend said that I was not able to answer questions about fish. I am anxious to know his sources about fish. I have to admit that those who advice me can answer questions on bees and cattle and people, but they are a little stuck with fish.

We are not sure that there is any study concerning fish, apart from the one in Quebec. That study was not followed because fluoride is added to water there as a result of studies that have discredited that which my hon. and learned Friend quoted. Can he give any authority for the alarming picture that he is portraying of the threat to the nation's trout? Perhaps he has at last opened a new avenue which we can explore and we can commission yet another epidemiological study to assuage his fears on this new and rather unexpected trap.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for giving me some information that I did not have before, which is that his Department has not even looked at the Quebec study. It is no answer to say that the Quebec study has been discredited. I should like to see some of that discrediting. I have not yet seen any in any publication. However, as a result of that study, the Quebec Government declared a moritorium on compulsory water fluoridation, which started in August 1977 and was still in force until quite recently. For a number of years, people took that study seriously. I look forward to receiving the documents and references that my right hon. and learned Friend will give me, which show that an equivalent study has come up with diametrically opposed conclusions.

Such a move would do no harm to my argument, which is that if there are two groups of scientists that support diffferent ideas there is at least a doubt. It does not reassure me to hear that some bureaucrats and scientists in Quebe have reversed the policy, because here the policy is being reversed. It was illeal to fluoridate water. They may have pretended till the cows come home that it would be lawful, but they all knew in their heart of hearts that it was not, and as a result the Bill is making fluoride lawful. As a result, there will be not 10 per cent. of fluoridation, but 20, 30 or 40 per cent., or perhaps even 50 per cent. that is compulsory mass medication, whichever way one looks at it, for at least half the population.

Mr. Fairbairn

My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has made a great error in his concession. He says that the Bill allows for one part of fluoridation in a million in the water supply. He takes the view that that is the maximum safe level. He then tells us that in the sea water surrounding our coasts, there is already one part in a million. Salts do not evaporate, and water does, so every time the rivers flow out, they will be taking the fluoride into the surrounding seawater. Therefore, it will have an ever increasing volume of fluoride in it. Who lives in the sea? Apart from Neptune and the mermaids, it is the fish. Who eats the fish? They are eaten by human beings on land. Accumulated fluoride in fish will be fed to people who will already be having accumulated fluoride in their water and vegetables. There is already the maximum amount in the sea, and my right hon. and learned Friend wants to add to it.

Mr. Lawrence

As my hon. and learned Friend was no doubt making a strong contribution to the debate, I was looking at a reference book that has a number of pages on the influence of fluoridation on man's environment. It quotes a number of sources, such as the International Society of Research on Nutrition and Vital Substances in 1967, and a number of reports from a number of scientists concerning lettuce and parsley. In 1977, it was found that the accumulation of fluorine in plants is affected by factors other than fluorine in the soil—for example, with plant nourishment—and that there are plants that are fluorine accumulators, such as spinach, lettuce and parsley. There is something about Valencia orange trees and the effect that fluoride has on those. I shall copy these pages and send them to my right hon. and learned Friend so that those who advised him so wisely on this matter can go through all these researches, all of which seem to throw some light on the question.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

May I put it to my hon. and learned Friend that the Minister for Health is demonstrating that the Bill is a typically totalitarian Socialist measure by the fact that for the last four minutes he has been sitting on the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Lawrence

I think that that is a little unfair of my hon. Friend. The Minister is probably only exercising his brothel creepers — the trouble with them is that they need air every so often to allow the feet to breathe.

To refer again to the quotation from the Royal College of Physicians on the subject of the dilution of fluoride in the sea water, an interesting point is the side admission made therein—it may be that it wishes that it had not made it — that most of the fluoride used in the fluoridation of water would be derived from sources that would otherwise have been discharged to the sea as waste. That appears to mean that, if this stuff was not used in the public water supply, it would have no other use, but as a waste product that could not be put into the air or into the soil, because it would be water soluble, and must be towed out to sea and dumped as waste like many other deadly poisons.

This raises another interesting aspect. Those in the so-called anti-fluoride lobby — they would not call themselves a lobby because they are not working to inflict anything on anybody—have nothing to gain. There is no financial end that they can achieve by arguing that fluoride ought not to be put anywhere. There is no money to be made out of having water which is fluoride-free. But somebody must make money out of selling to water authorities this product which otherwise would have to be put in boats, expensively towed out to sea and dumped as waste because it has no other value.

I have received a letter from the Minister saying that no manufacturer of aluminium in the country provides fluoride for fluoridation processes. In the example that I gave of aluminium producers producing fluoride which could be used for fluoridated water, I added phosphate producers. The letter that I received from the Minister said nothing about phosphate producers. I can only assume that, on the need-to-know basis, it was embarrassing for the Department to tell me that, while aluminium producers do not produce fluoride for water supplies, phosphate producers may do. Fisons may produce fluoride as an outcrop of its manufacturing process.

Some of those who want to put fluoride in the water supplies may be able to make some money out of it or to save expenditure which would otherwise be incurred in dumping the stuff in the sea as waste. I have no evidence that any company is making £1 million out of fluoridating water. If one weighs up the two sides, the anti-fluoridationists have nothing to gain, and some pro-fluoridationists may have something to gain. That is what is interesting about the reference on which I just stumbled as I tried ineptly to answer a question.

6.45 am
Mr. Best

May I return my hon. and learned Friend to the sea? The intervention by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) surely was wrong. He said that the fish would have stronger teeth as a result of fluoride in seawater. He said that the Minister proposed to have a maximum of one part per million in the water supply. That is wrong. Clause 1(5) states that the one part per million should apply so far as is reasonably practicable". That does not mean an absolute maximum of one part per million.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Another study has come to hand since the Royal College of Physicians reported and since Lord Jauncey made his report. That report was sent to me during the Committee stage of the Bill—

Mr. Fairbairn

I presume that English lawyers move with a logic which deals with one thing at a time. I shall assist my hon. and learned Friend about the matter which he was leaving, but about which I do not think he was right. The process of smelting aluminium produces vast amounts of waste fluoride which has to be dumped in the sea or somewhere else—or has to be sold. The most dishonest aspect is that the Bill states that there will be no effect on public expenditure—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. An intervention must relate either to the speech to which we have been listening or to the amendments under consideration.

Mr. Fairbairn

I do not think that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) was accurate. The aluminium industry produces vast amounts of fluoride which it sells—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with the amendments.

Mr. Lawrence

In fairness I must tell the House about a letter that I received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. He said: The compounds used in the United Kingdom fluoridation schemes — namely, hexafluorosilicic acid and disodium hexafluorosilicate—are manufactured, as I explained at the Committee stage of the Bill from natural mineral sources. They are both produced by the phosphate fertiliser manufacturing industry. Hexafluorosilicic acid is manufactured in this country and disodium hexafluorosilicate is imported from the USA. The raw materials for the manufacturing process are mineral rocks containing both phosphate and fluoride. Finally, there are two further points which it might be helpful if I made on this issue. First, neither of the compounds of fluoride used in the UK derived, as is often alleged, from the aluminium smelting industry. Secondly, I should like to stress that the manufacturers of the compounds of fluoride have not sought in any way to influence Government policy over fluoridation. They were quick off the mark, but I do not know how reliable the information is. We shall have to ensure that it is not just a question of someone saying to someone else, "I have never tried to influence you".

The potentiality is there, is it not, for any manufacturing company—and I am not saying that this has been done, I have no evidence that it is being done —wanting to sell off fluoride to subsidise or give some support for some scientific investigation which may have nothing to do with fluoridation but which a grateful scientist, now being able to be funded in a discipline for which he despaired of getting funds, might find helpful. I am not saying that anything like that has happened here, but the potentiality is there.

My hon. and learned Friend and I—and all my hon. Friends who practise in the courts—know that that sort of thing has been known to happen. We know that it has happened in the United States. I hope it does not happen here and never has happened here, and maybe my hon. Friend is right in saying to me in the letter that no manufacturer has sought to influence Government policy in any way over fluoridation. Maybe they do not influence policy; maybe they influence some scientists. I do not know. I come back to my point that the only people who have anything to gain are some of the pro-fluoridationists; the anti-fluoridationists have nothing to gain.

I come now to a report that I received during the Committee stage from—my hon. and learned Friend is quite right — Mr. C. W. M. Wilson, M.A., M.D., B.Sc., D.Ph, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh and Fellow of the Royal Society. He is a consultant physician at the department of geriatric medicine at Law hospital, Lanarkshire, and the department of physiology and pharmacy at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland — no doubt another crank, another nut, another idiot.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that this gentleman was not refused an honorary degree at Oxford?

Mr. Lawrence

That was a blindingly helpful contribution to the argument, for which I am grateful to the Opposition Front Bench spokesman on this subject. It tells us something about the seriousness with which this subject is taken by Opposition Front Bench spokemen, does it not, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

I will read the letter sent to me, with the report, of which I will send a copy to my right hon. and learned Friend so that his worthy advisers can pore over it to find faults. They always pore over these reports to find faults to discredit them. I have not yet heard of an example of their poring over any report and not managing to find faults. It is wonderful that all these reports are faulty and defective. They lack scientific reason or there are errors of fact. The letter reads: We carried out some animal experiments in Strathclyde University. This controlled investigation demonstrated that sensitivity to fluoride ions could be induced in guinea pigs and that the resulting allergic effects could be equally effectively produced by fluoridated tap water. This fluoride sensitivity could be potentiated by simultaneous challenge by food protein. Attention is drawn to the possibility of enhancement of food-induced allergic symptoms by preparing and cooking food in fluoridated water. The major scientific conclusion which can be drawn from these results is that evidence is now available which shows that fluoride can exert pathophysiological disordered function effects by virtue of its immune sensitising action rather than through its toxic action. A relatively high proportion of the population is food and water contaminant sensitive and in consequence is potentially vulnerable to allergic challenge. These allergic individuals are not protected by limiting fluoride ion concentrations in mains water to one part in 1 million. That is another of the harms that apparently result from fluoridated water. That is a recent study, produced in a learned and respectable publication. We should pay attention to that, unless Dr. Wilson is another of those not just idiots but people who have a wish to inflict pain and suffering on children who, but for this kind of report, would be blessed with the benefit of fluoride in their teeth which would take away all pain when they go to dentists because their teeth would be perfect. Anybody who does this is the worst kind of inflicter of pain on children. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister to pay a little attention to such reports that appear in ever-increasing numbers from the various universities and places of learning throughout the world.

Mr. Marlow

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Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my hon. Friend, who must have woken up when my alarm went off.

Mr. Marlow

Goodness gracious, no. I have been following my hon. and learned Friend with great interest. I may not have been in the Chamber all the time, but I have certainly been with him in spirit. I know from the look on the face of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister that he has been following my hon. and learned Friend—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address himself to the point that he has raised or resume his seat.

Mr. Marlow

I was just coming to that point. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) introduced me in such a way that I had to be polite in response.

My hon. and learned Friend was talking about the great harm that can be done to children by this somewhat harmful chemical that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister is insisting on throwing into our water supply. The terrible and dreadful harm that could be done could be reduced if the concentration of this chemical to be inflicted on our society were to be at a lower level than the Government are suggesting. All the points that my hon. and learned Friend has been making with such flair, dignity, veracity and distinction at this time of the night, would be reduced if my hon. and learned Friend could only persuade the House that the concentration of the chemical should be reduced.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I did him scant justice with the remark with which I greeted his intervention. I apologise. He has tabled a subsequent amendment which will add considerably to our discussion on that point.

Why is harm caused from fluoride at one part per million in the water supply?

Mr. Fairbairn

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Mr. Lawrence

Will my hon. and learned Friend close his eyes, relax and perhaps refresh himself so that I can get on with my argument for a few minutes before I give way to his learned and most useful interventions.

The reason why one part per million in the water supply is unsafe is because nobody knows what anybody is getting. One part per million in the water, or 1 mg per litre, does not mean that Tom, Dick and Harry will ingest only one part per million of fluoride in his water consumption every day. One moment's thought should make us realise that that optimum dose of one part per million is utterly meaningless. Firstly, every person is different. One person can take one part per million, another cannot.

I have read out Dr. Wilson's letter to me about allergies, but I have not wearied the House with the long line of scientific evidence that this evil substance causes allergies in people. This is just the most up-to-date and recent report. People can be allergic, and have allergic reactions at one part per million in their total ingestion when their next-door neighbour and friend may not. That is the first point about the meaninglessness of the one part per million optimum dose.

The second point—

7 am

Mr. Holt

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment. It depends on how much water a person drinks. There is no such thing as drinking only half a pint of water. Some people drink two pints, some people do not drink any at all. Workers in industry may drink 20 times the average amount of water, and a child may drink half the amount. In fact, small children drink very little tap water. They are the ones who are supposed to be benefited by having fluoride put in the water, but there are not many children who drink a lot of tap water. Young children mostly drink milk, fruit juice, Lucozade or pop—some sugar-saturated preparation — and very little water is drunk.

Mr. Marlow

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Mr. Neil Hamilton

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Mr. Holt

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Mr. Lawrence

I shall come to all my hon. Friends in a moment. Perhaps I can clear them all up together, because I know that they are all bursting at the seams, but my argument does not make much sense unless I complete it stage by stage.

The third reason why the figure of one part per million is meaningless is that the fluoride that we ingest comes not only through drinking water. As we have already heard, it comes through the food that we eat. It depends on whether the food has been grown or processed in fluoridated water. It comes in the air that we breathe because there is fluoride in the air. If we drink tea, it has a high level of fluoride in it. Beer has fluoride in it to a reasonably high level. There are all sorts of ways in which the ordinary human being ingests fluoride, and it has nothing to do with the fluoride in the water being at an optimum dose of one part per million.

Mr. Holt

While my hon. and learned Friend was developing the argument about dosage, I was interested in the response from the Minister when he said that the dosage suggested will not do any harm to normal people. That suggests that it may be harmful to those who are not normal. I wonder at what age one becomes not normal. according to the terms used by the Minister. The introduction of the one part per million is detrimental to the health of aged people, according to the Minister's words.

Mr. Lawrence

I have not yet come on to the accumulation of fluoride. I am just talking about a daily ingestion. Later on, if there is time as the day wears on, I hope to deal with accumulation in the system of that poison. Age has nothing to do with it. A child may be born with a kidney disease, with certain allergic conditions, with diabetes, with a thyroid abnormality, even with arthritis. Some children die of cot deaths in the first 12 months of life, and nobody has the faintest idea what causes it. Of course, one area at which people will not look is fluoridated water because they do not wish to see any harm. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health is off again laughing. He cannot laugh because he does not know.

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Lawrence

Will my hon. Friend be silent for a moment?

My right hon. and learned Friend does not know any more than the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). No doubt if I had stood here years ago and said that thalidomide caused harm, the Minister would have laughed and said that it was utterly safe.

If I had said that debendox causes harm the Minister would have laughed. It is easy to laugh. I am not saying that there is evidence that cot deaths have been caused by fluoridated water. All I am saying is that nobody knows what causes cot deaths. I shall deal later with how fluoridated water causes distortions in normal body functions and will explain to my right hon. and learned Friend how it is possible that even cot deaths could result from the ingestion of fluoridated water.

My hon. Friend asked whether there is any age at which abnormalities occur. There is no specific age. There are many diabetics whose health will not be improved by drinking fluoridated water. There are also many people on kidney machines and many people of all ages with allergies whose health will not be improved by drinking fluoridated water. These facts are well known because they are well documented. They have not just been plucked out of the air. Nothing that I say is a figment of my imagination. Everything that I say is derived from the reports of scientists. That is one of the reasons why I say that this substance is so awful and its ramifications so wide that we ought to be very careful indeed before we introduce it into our water, let alone force it upon people who do not want it and who do not need it.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. and learned Friend is moving at such a speed that he is in danger of leaving the House behind, because he has touched upon some very important points. He referred to the possibility of harm being caused to children. Any suggestion of that kind would cause great distress to the House. Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the fact that a child who is fed with milk powder mixed with tap water which has been fluoridated is subjected to an intake of fluoride about 100 times greater than would be the case if that child were fed with its mother's milk? Yet again my right hon. and learned Friend on the Front Bench is smiling, but I am sure he would be the first to recommend that babies should be fed with their mothers' milk. The fact that some babies live in areas where the water supply is already fluoridated is a matter of potentially great concern. I should be grateful if my hon. and learned Friend could deal with that point, but while I am on my feet I should be grateful if he would take note of one or two other points.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Interventions should be brief. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman could be permitted to deal with one point at a time.

Mr. Marlow

Could I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, finish my points in order to prevent me from having to speak again?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman wishes to raise one or two other points in addition to the point he has already raised. His first point seemed to take up a great deal of time. Perhaps he will allow the hon. and learned Gentleman to deal with that point first.

Mr. Marlow

Can I say, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Lawrence

I had forgotten that the proportion was as high as 100 times greater if babies are fed with powdered milk made with fluoridated water rather than breast fed, but the proportion is substantial and I propose to give to the House some figures that are culled from respectable sources about the level of fluoride that is ingested.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

With regard to what my hon. and learned Friend said about cot deaths, is he aware of at least the coincidence in Australia and New Zealand between heavily fluoridated areas and the number of cot deaths? Is he also aware of a number of theories that exist as to the cause of cot deaths? Many of them can be traced to an inherited fluoride-caused enzyme deficiency in the infant provoked by long-term exposure of the parents to environmental fluorides including those in the water supply. Will he advert to that in any great detail?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that anything to which any hon. Member adverts will be contained in or relevant to the amendments that are before the House. The hon. Member is stretching my patience and that of the House.

Mr. Lawrence

With respect to my hon. Friend, if fluoride causes cot deaths it is the unsafeness which is referred to in the amendment. I shall not weary you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by going in greater depth into the point which my hon. Friend makes so well and powerfully. The point has been made, and I can perhaps move on to other pastures in the same field.

Mr. Marlow

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Mr. Lawrence

If I may be allowed to get on, because I see the clock moving very fast and, alas, I have hardly begun my analysis of safety in fluoride.

I shall deal with the figures. To my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister there is no more reputable source than "Fluoride: teeth and health", that wonderful vade mecum of all knowledge on the subject of fluoride in which we are told that there is no evidence of harm. Even that says at page 23: Where there is little fluoride in the water, the average daily intake by adults is less than 3 mg with a maximum of less than 8 mg, while with 1 mg per litre in water the average daily intake is less than 5 mg with a maximum of about 12 mg. That should frighten anyone who thought that one part per million—the optimum dose—was safe, because there are the great and the good talking about a maximum of 12 mg in the daily ingestion of some people. I shall come on to why that is dangerous in a moment.

I shall refer to two scientists, Dyson Rose and John Marier, of the National Research Council of Canada— of course they are nuts, lunatics and idiots like everyone else—who in their recent publication "Environmental fluoride 1977" said One of the major factors thought to be contributing to the increased human exposure to fluoride is the increase in the fluoride content of food. They give typical examples: Gouda cheese normally contains 0.27 mg per kg of fluoride but after processing with water fluoridated with one part per million contains up to 2.16. That is almost 10 times as much fluoride.

Some ready to use baby foods are shown to contain between 4 and 12 mg of fluoride per kg, and variations of the fluoride content of lettuce range from 39 to 226 mg per kg … Such an increase can arise from three main sources, namely, the use of fluoridated water in food and beverage processing, the exposure of crops to airborne fluoride and waterborne fluoride in areas irrigated with fluoridated water and the use of fluoride-containing fertilisers. I had forgotten that. It is not just the food processed or grown in fluoridated water, it is the fluoride in the fertilisers in which that food is grown. Those scientists tell us that in north America the adult fluoride intake from food and beverages is 3.5 mg per litre to 55 mg per litre a day where the water is fluoridated at a level of one part per million. The scientists warn that that dose may be exceeded by people exposed to hotter environments, those who drink lots of tea and individuals who suffer from excessive thirst.

7.15 am

In Britain the highest total fluoride intake for children is 6 mg per litre a day where drinking water is low in fluoride and 7 mg per litre a day where water is fluoridated. Professor Hardwick of Manchester university points out those facts in the British Dental Journal of 15 April 1975.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend has given way to me when dealing with the evidence of Professor Hardwick. My middle name is Hardwick, which is a matter that I hope fluoride will not erode. The intake of fluoride from lettuce, spinach or even your steely glance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is not predictable. I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will be able to give the number of people who eat Edam cheese. No doubt, they have teeth like Reynard the fox—lovely teeth coming out of their ears and eyes — if they eat Edam, which has more fluoride than anything else in it. If this marvellous poison is so good for us, why does not the Minister have teeth on those hideous shoes which he shows off on the Dispatch Box? Do we have evidence that these edamised, lettucised and spinachised people with fluoridated teeth are the descendants of the rhinoceros and the buck hog, with teeth that stick around their heads, proud, glorious and ivory?

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. and learned Friend might have to wait millions of years before he sees any of his hon. Friends turned into these dream animals in the land of "Edam and Ave".

There are other sources of flouride ingestion, including fluoride-containing drugs, such as fluphenazine, fluoroacil and fluorothene — no doubt all on the restricted list, since they are obviously vital for life. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will tell us whether any of those drugs are on the restricted list because they greatly contribute to people's health. Indeed, they may be vital to health. If those drugs are not being used, they may be clinical eqivalents of drugs in use. My right hon. and learned Friend has the cornucopia, or pharmacopoeia, which would give us the answer.

Other sources of fluoride ingestion are fruit sprayed with fluoride-containing insecticides — Dr. Waldbott points out that large apples sprayed in that way provide about 1 mg of fluoride—aerosols containing fluorocarbon propellants, teflon-coated pans, which can add a fair amount of fluoride ions to foods cooked in them, methoxyflurane anaesthetics, asbestos, which contains up to 579 parts per million of fluoride, certain brands of Japanese and American cigarettes, fibreglass, which contains up to 1,250 parts per million of fluoride and fluoride-polluted air from factory emissions. That excludes fluoride tablets and toothpastes and the other matters that I have referred to.

We have been told by those who have studied the subject that the average daily intake in Canada amounts to 5.5 mg while a level of 11 mg per day has been recorded in Japan. Dr. W. A. Canell, in his "Medical and Dental Aspects of Fluoridation", tells us that a daily intake of 2.8 mg of fluoride during the first eight years of a child's life will cause an unsightly mottling of its permanent teeth, while 6 mg or more will so disorganise tooth structure as to make it more vulnerable to decay attack.

Even the Royal College of Physicians says that the intake could be almost 12 mg per day. When it was questioned at a press conference on the release of its report, it was unable to offer any opinion on the safe daily dose of fluoride and insisted that it had only been asked to assess the risks up to and including the level of 1 mg per litre ingested in fluoridated water. That is the answer we get from the Minister. When I have asked successive Ministers over the years what a successful daily dose is, I have got no answer as to whether it should be one part, five parts, 10 parts per million, or whatever.

The 1969–75 resolutions of the World Health Organisation specifically stated that drinking water should be fluoridated only where the fluoride intake from water and other sources for athe given population was below the optimal level. May I remind the House that the optimal level was one part per million? In its 1970 monograph the World Health Organisation expressly stated: People living in fluoridated areas should avoid foods high in fluoride content. In the 1953 report to the United Kingdom mission to America it stressed the danger of high fluoride products like bone meal tablets and dentifrices to which fluoride had been added. It said that they should be scrupulously avoided.

Mr. Marlow

Obviously some of us are more at risk than others. For example, to take up the points made by my hon. and learned Friend, those amongst us who eat apples and then use a fluoridated mouthwash, propelled by a fluoridated propellant, and who have been brought up not on mother's milk but on powdered milk in an area where the water supply has been heavily fluoridated should have most cause for concern and should be most worried because we are obviously most at risk. May I ask my hon. and learned Friend whether there is anything in particular that those of us who have most to worry about should do, particularly if we are living in an area which my hon. and learned Friend might envisage as being fluoridated in the future? Is there any antidote or prophylactic that we can take? My hon. and learned Friend has said that possibly there is fluoride in beer. Are there perhaps other trace elements in beer which would react against the poison which has been inserted and thereby neutralise it? Does my hon. and learned Friend suggest that those of us who are most at risk should drink a pint, two pints or even three pints of beer a day, or that we should perhaps take a wee tot of something a little stronger every night before we go to sleep? Would that have the effect of neutralising this poison that may well in future be inserted in water in the areas which are not yet subject to fluoridation?

Mr. Lawrence

I shall come a little later in the day to the antidote to fluoride which, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbaim) has already said, is calcium. I encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) to drink as much beer as he possible can. That would be good for my constituency. It would be good for the brewing economy. It would even be good for the Chancellor at a time when he is anxious to find ways of cutting income tax. I cannot leave the point without making the observation that, regrettably, nothing in the Bill will entitle anyone who lives in an artificially fluoridated water area as a result of the Bill to have automatic access to non-fluoridated water. That is very worrying.

In response to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), may I give an example of the sort of illness that is affected by high concentrations of fluoride in the intake. This is contained in an article in the British Medical Journal of 10 September 1983 by Dr. J. C. Gerster and his colleagues at the rheumatology and rehabilitation centre of the University hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. They describe two patients who were treated for several months with 40 to 60 mg per day of sodium fluoride in an attempt to counter thinning of the bones—osteopetrosis. They record that both patients suffered spontaneous fractures of the necks of both thigh bones, which broke under the weight of the patients' bodies. The authors suggest that that was due to changes in the mechanical properties of the bone induced by the accumulation of fluoride in the bone tissue. Both patients were suffering from a mild degree of kidney failure, so they were not able to excrete fluoride normally, with the resultant build-up of fluoride in the bone. I note that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister is not laughing at that example. It is equally absurd, is it not, to laugh at the fact that fluoride causes harm to others, including tadpoles, trouts' eggs and whatever else he may find funny. The dose of fluoride—40 to 60 mg per day—is of course much larger than the estimated daily dose from fluoridated water, but in the discussion paragraph, the Swiss doctors state: Cases of skeletal fluorosis have been reported in patients with severe renal failure, even with a daily fluoride intake as low as 4 mg. The House will recall that I referred it to the fact that even the Royal College of Physicians said that the daily dose may increase to as much as three times what causes skeletal fluorosis.

The final paragraph of the abstract of the article in the British Medical Journal, which has been produced by Dr. Yellowlees, who will be well known to the ladies and gentlemen who advise the Minister that everything about fluoride is perfectly safe, states: As bilateral femural neck fractures are very rare, these data suggest a causal link between fractures and fluoride in patients with renal failure. Thus fluoride should be given at a lower dose, if at all, to patients with even mild renal failure.

Mr. Michael Brown

In support of the evidence that my hon. and learned Friend has adduced, may I draw his attention to what the science editor of the American Saturday Review said: Bones and teeth are not simply fixed fence-posts of the body. They are in a constant state of flux, now giving of this substance to tissues and organs and now taking away. Bones, especially, are storehouses of elements critical to life. Since the bones are the emergency storehouse, should any risk be taken of attaching padlocks to the storehouse doors?

Mr. Lawrence

That is very graphic. It might almost have come from the mouth of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross, but it came from an even greater scientific authority than my hon. and learned Friend.

7.30 am

I now move on to the way in which the medical evil of fluoride works upon the body. I hope that everyone in the House knows by now that fluoride is a deadly poison, along with arsenic, lead and cyanide. The 24th edition of the United States Dispensary states: Fluorides are violent poisons to all living tissues because of their precipitation of calcium. They cause fall of blood pressure, respiratory failure and general paralysis. Continuous ingestion of non-fatal doses causes general cachexia and permanent inhibition of growth. There are analogous changes in teeth. Bones become hard and fragile. Dr. Gerald Cox, the biochemist, who was the first person to promote public water fluoridation, has said: Fluorides are among the most toxic substances. This is a passage from the British Pharmaceutical Codex: Fluorides are cumulative and the continuous ingestion of small quantities in food leads to wasting, weakness, nausea and diarrhoea. It is easier to cause serious symptoms by administering small doses over a prolonged period than by giving a single large dose. Its presence in wines, beers, butter and so on should be prohibited. It is unlawful to add fluoride to certain foods, because of its toxic qualities. I refer hon. Members to the reference in the Pharmaceutical Codex to fluorides being cumulative. That is the answer to the question, asked earlier in the debate about why one part per million should be toxic. The answer is that it is cumulative and that the continuous ingestion of small quantities in food causes more serious symptoms than giving one large dose.

When, therefore, the Minister says that the study is not worth much because those who conducted it did not put one part per million under the skin of a hamster but 10, 20, 30 or 40 parts, the answer is that small doses over a prolonged period produce worse results than a large single dose. In other words, if a large single dose over a period produces a tumour or some other ill effect, a worse effect may be produced by a smaller dose over a longer period.

That is what the scientists say, not what I say as a politician or lawyer. Nothing that I have said comes out of my imagination; it comes out of the writings of the idiots, lunatics and mad scientists who are all on our side. There is not one mad scientist on the other side. Not one report on the Minister's side contains a fault. If it did, there would be a doubt. If a mad scientist says that something is safe, one must have a doubt about it.

Mr. Best

It is fair to point out that, while fluoride is cumulative, it is also excreted from the body at a certain rate. Is it not a fact, however, that even those biochemists who are in favour of fluoride express grave concern because the margin of difference between what they regard as the optimum level, of one part per million, and a concentration which leads to dental fluorosis and the other problems to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred is, in their opinion, too narrow? That is the view even of biochemists who are in favour of the artificial fluoridation of the water supply.

Mr. Lawrence

It is even worse than that. This is not the amendment on which to discuss the difficulties faced by water authorities which are letting into the water supply precisely one part per million. On a later amendment we may discuss those difficulties, which add point to my hon. Friend's intervention.

Mr. Michael Brown

My hon. and learned Friend is in danger of being misled by the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys M×n (Mr. Best). He has failed to take into account the fact that, according to Professor Orville-Thomas, the human body excretes only one third of the fluoride which it takes in. Two thirds of the fluoride stays in the body and accumulates.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The effect of the deadly poison that we call fluoride is cumulative in larger ingested doses than the one part per million which is the optimum dose in water. That is what the medical men tell us. We heard about this from my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) an hour or two ago. It deprives the body of calcium because fluoride combines with it and locks it up. That leads to damaged heart function. Ha-ha, that is funny! I do not hear any chuckles and no one is rolling around in laughter so my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench may not be concentrating on what I am saying.

Who makes the claims which I have recited? "The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics" in its third and fourth editions entitled "Goodman and Gillman" states that fluoride has a direct toxic action on cardiac muscle. professor J. D. Ebert in Scientific American of March 1959 showed that low concentrations of fluoride blocks the region which develops the heart muscle of the unborn child. My right hon. and learned Friend and others might like to know that Professor Ebert is not a lunatic. He is not a nut or an idiot. He is noted for his brilliant work on the embryo. I have no doubt that in another guise he will be of great use in advising my right hon. and learned Friend on the future of that problem which his Department is about to face.

I refer also to the view of Professor Dewey Stayn who is the American professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Pretoria university. He writes: Fluoride ingestion undoubtedly aggravates the calcification of arterio-sclerotic blood vessels. It is therefore not surprising that there have been many reports of an increase in deaths from heart disease in American fluoridated towns. After nine years of fluoride in Narburgh, New York, deaths from heart disease have become 73.9 per cent. higher than the national rate. Within four years of the beginning of fluoridation at Grand Rapids, Michigan, deaths from heart disease increased by about 50 per cent., yet the city's population increased by about 8 per cent. After 20 years of fluoridation in Antigo, Wisconsin, heart deaths rose spectacularly to seven times the national increase. Before fluoridation started in Antigo, heart deaths were 86.4 per 100,000 population and below the national average. I am indebted for those figures and for much of what I am about to say to Doris Grant for her work in assembling this information.

Mr. Fairbairn

Before my hon. and learned Friend leaves the distinguished work of Professor Evert, who no doubt, in the opinion of the Minister, who is such a distinguished physiologist himself, is an idiot, I ask him to concentrate on the work that he did on the effect of fluoride on cardiac muscle. I am sure that you will recall, Mr. Speaker, that there are three types of muscle in the body. I do not know how many types there are in the Chamber. I am sorry if I have given you the shakes, Mr. Speaker. I did not want to do that. There is what is called smooth or voluntary muscle, which some of us can still operate.

There is involuntary muscle, which is to be found in some repulsive organs which the Minister might have heard of. The third type is cardiac muscle. Fluoride has an effect on the latter, which has the immense and amazing capacity to keep tensing and flexing. Those who do not understand should try to flex their hand 24 hours a day to see how tired the heart ought to get. The professor's work on cardiac muscle and the effect of fluoride on it is the most important point that my hon. and learned Friend has made all evening.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful for that support. History will decide whether my speech has been useful. My right hon. and learned Friend's advisers might decide whether I have made good or bad points, but as I quote only the words of lunatics, nuts and idiots, they probably will not find what I have said acceptable. Some scientists say that the heart is damaged by fluorine. Bone growth is also damaged, as calcium, which is locked up by fluoride, is good for bones. We have bone fluorosis, deformed cows and the horrible results found near factories that spew out fluoride. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) gave an interesting account of the effects of large-scale ingestion of fluoride.

Bones and joints are affected even by low concentrations. Ligaments tend to calcify, as do joints and muscle attachments. They are symptoms characteristic of osteoarthritis, in which microcrystals are formed. That is not me but Schumacher and other researchers, in a study of 1977.

There is also a problem with accumulation. The pro-fluoridation World Health Organisation says that 50 per cent. of ingested soluble fluoride is retained in the body. Professor Orville Thomas says that the human body excretes only one third of the fluoride that it takes in and that the remainder accumulates. Dr. B. C. Saunders of Cambridge university, author of "Advances in Fluorine Chemistry" says that fluorides are prone to cause cumulative poisoning. Dr. W. A. Canell says that the cumulative effects of fluoride are uncertain and unpredictable—and that is someone who is cautiously in favour of fluoridation.

Of special importance is a statement from Dr. J. Forman, on behalf of the United States of America medical-dental committee on evaluation of fluoridation, whose findings are sponsored by over 1,600 physicians, dentists and scientists. He says: It is now known that such vital organs as the kidneys, thyroid, heart, liver and lungs can be sites of unusually high fluoride build up. No matter how small the dose, a part of it tends to accumulate in the body. Some individuals may store up to 100 times more fluoride in certain tissues than in others. What value can one place on the assurance of one part per million, when that is what is happening to the body? Not only is there, through the air and the water and the food, whether it is processed or natural, much more fluoride than one part per million, but once it reaches the body, it builds up cumulatively and only a half or a third is passed out. These scientists — nuts, lunatics, idiots, cranks, charlatans, peddling quack medicines — are all wrong when they say that these harms occur.

7.45 am
Mr. Fairbairn

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way on the point about idiots?

Mr. Dobson

He has superior knowledge.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am happy to claim a superior knowledge of idiocy, because I am a mere Scot. I do not have a beard like the hon. Gentleman. There is an important point to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister should address himself. How does he classify idiots? Here we have professors and scientists of the greatest distinction—PhDs, FRSEs, LRCPs, LRCPEs, MRCPGs. How can the Minister say that people of that distinction of academic qualification are idiots if they disagree with him, but are glorified by their qualifications if they agree with him? I do not understand, and I ask my hon. and learned Friend to address himself to the schizophrenia that my right hon. and learned Friend, the fluffy-shoed Minister, has been showing tonight.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would rather that the right hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) stuck to the amendment.

Mr. Lawrence

I shall do so, and no doubt you had confidence in that from the moment that you rose to your feet, Mr. Speaker. That was a warning to my hon. and learned Friend not to try to mislead me. I shall indeed stick.

Earlier in our proceedings, I was told to hurry the Bill through Committee, as there would be plenty of time on Report to deal with these arguments. However, it is only today that I have been able to make some kind of a speech, and that is because I have stayed until 5 o'clock in the morning; otherwise, there would not have been a chance.

I remember one Minister saying, in an irritated way, "This is ridiculous. We are talking about minute amounts of stuff. The sort of stuff about which we are talking cannot do any harm." I remind my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister that it is said that massive amounts of salt cause harm and kill, but small amounts do not. One can take a tablespoon of salt, put it in some water and drink it, and apart from a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth, one is all right. However, if one takes a teaspoon of fluoride and puts it in a beaker of water and drinks it, one would die in about five or six hours. Therefore, this sort of humorous disclaimer—the absurdity of talking about minute quantities as though, because a large quantity kills, a small quantity will not kill, and the suggestion that there is some equality between the various kinds of substances—is ludicrous. The second way in which fluoride has an evil effect, therefore, is cumulatively, by locking up calcium.

The third way in which it exercises an evil effect is by inhibiting enzymes, that is, the complex substances in the body that are essential to the life process and interact with vitamins, minerals and hormones. Among the enzymes that are found to be particularly susceptible to fluoride are those involved in bone and tooth development, in cellular oxidation processes, in the work of the thyroid gland and in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. The fat-splitting enzyme lipase, we are told by scientists — or nuts, cranks, idiots — is so susceptible that solutions of sodium chloride with a fluorine content as low as one part per 15 million can inhibit by as much as 50 per cent. That is 50 times lower than the solution that is being recommended for our water supplies.

What effect will that have? Fluoride will reduce the ability of the digestive system to digest fats. A study by the researchers McGowan and Suttie in Wisconsin showed that a high fat diet enhances the toxicity of dietary fluoride. This was presented in the Journal of Nutrition, 1974.

Fluoride is, of course, a potent poison of the enzyme catalese. That is of particular importance because the enzyme catalese protects the body against cancer and some viruses. It protects the body because it is vital to cell respiration, and the disturbance of cell respiration is known to cause cancer. Otto Warburg, the German scientist and Nobel prizewinner, has found that cancer can have 1,000 causes, but they all bring about the irreversible disturbance of cell respiration. That conclusion was the result of 30 years' work by Warburg on the respiratory mechanism of the cancerous cell.

If that is the route by which catalese can be inhibited by fluoride so that the cells do not breathe and do not repair, with the result that cancer is caused, it is the scientific justification for the epidemiological studies of Burk and Yiamouyiannis, which show that the 10 largest cities fluoridated in the United States compared with the 10 largest cities unfluoridated are subject to a substantial increase in cancer mortality. That is how it happens, if the scientific analysis is right, and I do not know whether it is—I am not a scientist.

Unless we postulate that all the scientists who say that some harm is caused by fluoride are lunatics, there may be something in what some of them say. Some of them are Nobel prizewinners, some are professors and some are reputable researchers. Therefore, as Burk and Yiamouyiannis point out, at least 10,000 Americans may be dying every year from cancer induced, if not caused, by drinking fluoridated water. That inhibits the enzyme catalese, which stops the repair mechanism of the cancer cells.

Mr. Fairbairn

Let us forget catalese for the moment and concentrate on an infinitely more disturbing characteristic of the effect of fluoride compounds. We are not talking about sodium chloride or calcium chloride. The only product considered in Lord Jauncey's verdict was sodium chloride. We are discussing two much more complex substances.

Established research of the most precise kind shows that fluoride disturbs the structure of the nucleus of the cell. It disturbs DNA—the cell structure which gives rise to its multiplication. Substances with fluoride radicals in it have been shown to disturb cells so that carcinoma is caused. Research is conducted in set proportions. The question is whether the same effect can be shown in larger proportions or whether cumulatively it has the same effect.

Mr. Lawrence

The House must again be deeply grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross for his medical training and knowledge. He can add depths to the shadow that I am sketching. I could go into the matter in greater depth only if I were prepared to speak until tomorrow's business is lost. Of course, I am not prepared to do that.

Mr. Best

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the amendment is very wide since it covers all safety aspects? I hope that he will devote sufficient time to another topic which he has not yet mentioned. I refer to the safety of employees who handle and carry fluoride, the safety of containers and the safety of everyone who comes into contact with fluoride. The question of protective clothing must be discussed. I hope that I shall be able to devote my speech to such matters.

Mr. Lawrence

Alas, I must disappoint my audience since I shall not have time to discuss those matters. They are covered by other amendments in the group and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys M×n, who is knowledgeable on such matters, will be able to address the House.

Mr. Golding

The hon. and learned Gentleman owes it to us, in the middle part of his speech, to deal with the technical details. I had an assurance that he would go into detail. You, Mr. Speaker, have missed much fine, literary stuff. We have witnessed the broad-brush approach, the eloquence and the compelling words, but not the detail for which we have looked throughout the night. I hope that in the second half of his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman will provide us with the detail that we need to confront Ministers later.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful for the compliments and the confidence. I was trying to provide more detail. I should not like the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to be disappointed because he has made sacrifices, not only to his home life — which he will regard as necessary to protect the country against the evils of fluoridation — but through his many trade union activities. This task was probably the most difficult to give up to support us on this subject, with his constant and determined efforts to bring some sanity into the party he represents. I hope that it will not lose him votes if I say that he is one of the most respected Opposition Members as far as we are concerned because he is so moderate and sensible. That is why we think that it is a great bonus to have him on our side, as it were, in this campaign. We may all be thought to be nuts, lunatics and idiots, but as long as there are some men of sanity and moderation among Opposition Members we cannot be completely condemned.

8 am

Mr. Marlow

My hon. and learned Friend was talking about sensible and moderate hon. Members, and I thought that that was a cue for me, Mr. Speaker. I started listening to his speech as somebody who has always been concerned with the civil liberties aspect of this business of stuffing some unwanted ingredient into the water supply and its potential for harm. However, I have been listening with my mouth opening ever wider while my hon. and learned Friend has been speaking to the accumulating evidence which he is putting before the House. We are all to an extent, I understand, psychosomatic and I must say that at this stage I am not really feeling myself. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree with Professor J. Orville Thomas that the human body excretes only one-third of the fluoride it takes in because the other two-thirds stays in the body and accumulates"? Is that really so, because if two-thirds of the fluoride that I have ingested has accumulated in my body I should like my hon. and learned Friend to let me know what I can do about it? I consider it a very worrying thing.

Mr. Lawrence

I would be very reluctant—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I think that we dealt with that shortly after I came back to the Chair, about three quarters of an hour ago. I think that we should move on to the other technical subjects.

Mr. Lawrence

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding me that that subject had already been covered. May I say how flattering I consider it that you have come at this really rather unpleasant hour for you, with all your responsibilities, and sat and listened to what I have said. If only some of our right hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen who helped to make the decision which is the basis of this Bill were to listen a bit more, not just to me but to the scientists who are using me, as it were, for the expression of their views, we would not be wasting our time over this obnoxious Bill, which most of the people in the country do not want. This is not merely because they do not need fluoride—17 million people have no teeth at all and cannot possibly benefit from it, not to mention those who will have come to fluoride too late to gain any benefit. There are also those people who are concerned about the mass medication aspect. The hundreds of people who have written to me—and no doubt to many of my colleagues in the House—and who are bitterly opposed to this would be very pleased to know that you, Mr. Speaker, were not the only person listening to the scientific evidence.

I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North to give some scientific advice. Scientific and medical advice is for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross. I do not offer that kind of service. Would that I could, but I cannot, and we have to face up to my deficiencies. I hope that at some appropriate moment my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross will be able to supplement what I have been saying in this particular area.

I was talking about the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study. I first came into the whole rotten business of fluoridation because of Burk and Yiamouyiannis. I was a member of the Select Committee on Social Services and we had reports on juvenile delinquency, unemployment and preventive medicines. There was a broad area of departmental study.

We considered preventive medicine and witnesses were called and came. They said that fluoride is the next best thing to apple pie and God and we were therefore in a position to ask them some questions. I asked some questions, as I recall, and my memory is a little hazy and I am also a little tired, and they were based on the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study.

Mr.Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Lawrence

Will my hon. and learned Friend allow me to continue my response before my concentration is completely thrown?

As I recall, we asked the witnesses what they thought of the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study. To our astonishment, the answer was that they had never heard of it. It is perfectly true that that was in 1976 and the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study had only been about for a year or so. But it was interesting that the Royal College of Physicians, while preparing its report which I have frequently fluorished during the debate, "Fluoride: teeth and health", published in January or February 1976, received a copy of the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study of the 20 largest cities in the United States, 10 of them fluoridated and 10 of them unfluoridated, in about July or August. So they had had it for several months. But it was too inconvenient to study it before it came to its conclusions.

There is only a scant reference in a footnote to the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study. Clearly it has not taken it on board and considered it seriously. It is the output of nuts and cranks and lunatics and idiots. As a result, Burk and Yiamouyiannis had to do without the benefit of the consideration of these great and worthy medics and scientists, the Royal College of Physicians, which produced the book.

In due course the establishment turned on Burk and Yiamouyiannis and discovered that some mistakes had been made. It accused them of making mistakes that they had not made. In due course, the accusers were themselves found to have made serious errors of calculation. Over the course of years all those matters were investigated and thrashed out, but still the stigma attached to Burk and Yiamouyiannis remained.

Why? Because they had produed the most thorough going analysis—epidemiological, not laboratory—of the functioning of the cancer mortality ratios and rates in large parts of the United States over 18 years. The critics said that the figures were wrong, that so many cancer deaths could not be caused by artificial fluoridation of the water and that the people had not been rated for age, weight and sex. It just so happened that the 10 fluoridated areas had the largest number of old people dying of cancer anyway. It just so happened that they had the largest number of blacks who had moved in from the country to the towns, and in doing so they somehow developed cancer. All the women were in the unfluoridated sector and that meant that the figures were distorted.

Burk and Yiamouyiannis said, "Come off it. There are not that number of women and men, and anyway the racial characteristic is bad, because how does one know that a man is black? Does one knock on his door and say, 'Hello, what colour are you?" The whole business of taking the demographic assessment of who is black and who is white in a mixed community was so difficult that the analyst said, "Look, for goodness sake, forget about race. Unless a man is really black or really white one does not know what it is, particularly if one goes knocking on doors in California in the summer, when everybody is brown."

Burk and Yiamouyiannis said, "Okay, if you insist, we shall weigh the report for age, race and sex." There came a time, when I was very new in this place, when I had an Adjournment debate on the Burk-Yiamouyiannis proposals. I could not have cared less about the stupid subject of fluoridation. What has got me is the cool, calculated attempt either to mislead people or to pretend that things are other than they obviously are. It worries me that we in this place should sit here and see such a Bill go through on the assurances of people who simply will not look at the evidence, or, if they look at it, it is always to pick holes or brush it to one side. If one stands back and looks at it all, one sees that every single report by the antifluoridationist professors, lecturers, researchers and Nobel prizewinners is rubbished, and every single report produced by the professors, Nobel prizewinners and scientists on the pro-fluoridation side is impeccable. Even when they cheat over some figures, that is neither here nor there, and I shall not go into the saga of how they had to pretend that they got some of the figures that they analysed themselves, when they had got them from the National Cancer Institute of America, so the same group of figures was used for two supposedly independent surveys. We shall not go into that. Apart from anything else, I find it distasteful to talk about such shenanigans by men of integrity and science.

I had my Adjournment debate, and I said to the then junior Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security, Roland Moyle, "I shall devote this Adjournment debate to the Burk-Yiamouyiannis proposals, because I should like the Minister to let us know precisely what the Government's reaction is" — it was a Labour Government at the time—"and I begin by saying that I shall now explain how they have been weighted for age, race and sex, so please do not say to me that the Burk-Yiamouyiannis survey is a load of rubbish because it has not been weighted for age, race and sex."

I delivered my speech lasting a quarter of an hour, and in due course I sat down, having deployed my case, and up stood the Minister at the Dispatch Box, and, reading from the brief that he had been given by the ladies and gentlemen who advised him in the Box, he said, "The trouble with the Burk-Yiamouyiannis survey is that it is a load of rubbish because it has not been weighted for age, race and sex." It had been weighted for age, race and sex, and still the Minister said that it had not. He did not say that it was a bad weighting, that it was wrong on age, race or sex. He said that the weighting had not been done. I said, "But I have just spent a quarter of an hour telling the Minister that I has been done. Not only have I done that but the documentation is with the DHSS." It was three years before I eventually received a letter of acknowledgement from the DHSS telling me that it accepted that the Burk-Yiamouyiannis proposals had been weighted for age, race and sex.

Therefore, it is very important that my hon. and learned Friend should tell the House, because there are certain areas in this country where there are greater racial concentrations than in other areas. If they are more susceptible to damage from this poison, it is important that the House should be told. It is a matter that the House would wish to take into consideration when it deals with the level of concentration of this poison that we should be permitted to put into our water supplies.

8.15 am
Mr. Best

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May first apologise to my hon. and learned Friend for interrupting him when he was speaking. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, will be aware that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. Furthermore, as I mentioned a few moments ago, many of the amendments have not yet been covered in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend. I mentioned one of them in a brief intervention I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, would give some guidance to the House. We have not yet heard the Minister. If the Government were to try to closure the debate on this amendment, which I should deprecate, may I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, about what your advice would be? It would greatly assist those hon. Members who wish to speak.

Mr. Golding

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been up and down like a jack-rabbit all night while the hon. Gentleman has waited patiently throughout to speak authoritatively on the subject. It is a great disappointment to some hon. Members who also have not spoken that the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to pressure his hon. Friend out of the debate in this despicable fashion.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been speaking for over three hours. I pay a great tribute to him for being mostly in order throughout that period. However, it has been indicated that a number of his hon. Friends and also a number of Opposition Members wish to take part in the debate. I hope, therefore, that he will not overdo it. That would be a pity.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you could confirm that as there is no time limit on this debate, unless the closure is moved, there should be no difficulty in allowing all hon. Members who wish to take part to do so.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know about closures. These are purely hypothetical matters. Naturally, I wish to call as many hon. Members as possible who wish to speak. I cannot do that if speeches go on for a very long time.

Mr. Michael Brown

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have just indicated that my hon. and learned Friend is now into the fourth hour of his speech. I wonder whether you might consider briefly suspending the sitting to enable my hon. and learned Friend to have a glass of water, bearing in mind that London water is not fluoridated and that he could probably do with a glass of water during a short suspension of the sitting.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman is indicating dissent. If he wants a glass of water, I think that one of his hon. Friends will bring one.

Mr. Fairbairn

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was not my understanding that in proceedings of this kind hon. Members who wished to catch your eye should come to the Chair in order to do so. If my hon. and learned Friend wants a glass of water, which in London has already passed through 14 other filthily fluoridated people, he can have one. However, I thought the tradition was that when we were dealing with amendments we did not come to the Chair in order to catch your eye.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Coming to the Chair is a procedure which naturally I deprecate. Catching the Speaker's eye is the right of hon. Members. However, in the position that I occupy I can sense when other hon. Members wish to take part in a debate.

Mr. Best

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to detain the House, but it may be that my right hon. and learned Friend can assist the House. I remember that he came to the Dispatch Box earlier this morning and said that after we had debated this series of amendments it might be appropriate for the Government to consider reporting further progress. If that were to be the case, it would be of great assistance to us and, I suspect, to the whole House.

Mr. Speaker

I know nothing about that.

Mr. Lawrence

I am most grateful for the concern for me that has been shown by hon. Members and yourself, Mr. Speaker. I dare not take any water because I am not sure how many friends I have left around this place. Although I am surrounded by a coterie of friends, even though some of them do not share my views on this subject, I am afraid that my eyesight is failing and I cannot see just how far back their serried ranks spread, and since I have a feeling that the water would come from that end I shall pass that one by, not pass the water, but pass the offer by. That reminds me, Mr. Speaker, that at some stage there is another function in which I might like to engage.

The thought that I might be flagging and would therefore need sustenance is wide of the mark because I am now getting into second if not third gear. It would be a bad thing to stop the momentum which has been building up behind me.

In response to you, Mr. Speaker, and your kind thoughts, and your observation that I have stuck pretty much to the terms of the amendment, I say that I have been most careful about that. If occasionally I have erred it has been only as a result of some temptation which has been lowered into my sights. I have been most careful to try to keep to the subject of safety. I realise that I shall disappoint my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn by only barely touching that part of the subject which is most dear to his heart — the lack of safety for the people who have to handle fluoride and the processes by which that is done.

I hope that we may be able to come to those matters in a later amendment on a later day. I cannot think that there will be many people here at 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock this afternoon who will want to hear me speaking, although I may be able to manage that.

It is not any desire to hear my own voice that motivates me—in fact, I cannot stand the sound of it—nor is it any desire to entertain my hon. Friends who I am sure can be entertained in a much better way. It is, first, a desire to try to put on the record as many of the facts as possible so that the people in this country and hon. Members who know nothing about health matters may at least have the opportunity to see that there is another side to the subject. Unless we were to postulate that every one of the 10s, 20s or 100s of scientists who have produced properly analysed and written up scientific work are all lunatics, crazy, nuts or idiots, then there may be something in the anti-fluoridation case.

The second reason why I am continuing is that I am afraid that I am, although not very old, sufficiently long in the tooth in this place to be able to trust my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench not to move the closure of the debate the moment that I sit down.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I shall give way to my right hon. and learned Friend in a moment. If I could have an assurance that if I were to sit down within the next hour or two my right hon. and hon. Friends would allow my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys M÷n, and any other hon. Friend who has a positive contribution to make about some of the aspects of these amendments, the opportunity to make it, I should gladly finish by, say 9.45 am.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) was putting him under pressure to come to a conclusion. I should not wish to join that. To enable my hon. and learned Friend to pace the remaining points of his speech to which he is now moving, I must tell him that I have a Standing Committee to go to at 10.30 am. That need not force him to rush through his concluding remarks, but it means that if he is still on his feet at that time he will probably have to have a reply from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Health and Social Security. He will have to rely on the scarcely legible notes that I have been keeping copiously for the past two or three hours. It would be a wrench to leave the debate and go to the Standing Committee because I am led to believe that a filibuster is planned there, and I should much prefer to take part in this pertinent and closely argued debate on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) give way?

Mr. Lawrence

Yes.

Mr. Golding

It matters not if the Minister is missing or if the Under-Secretary of State responds. I could read the speech of the Under-Secretary of State. He has only one speech to make in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Burton. It would be simple for any hon. Member to read that speech at any time. We know the speech that will come from the Dispatch Box, whether it is read by the Minister or the Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It would be for the benefit of the whole House if the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) were allowed to continue his speech without too many interruptions.

Mr. Lawrence

I hope that you will forgive me, Mr. Speaker, for saying that I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I can add to his statement by saying that there is no point in my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister being here, not only because we know what he will say, but because he may not have listened to a word I have said. He may occasionally out of friendship have listened to me. He listened but his ears were closed. It has become the pattern of this discussion that the ears of Ministers are all too often closed. If that were not the case, some concession would be made to the views of a long list of scientists, medical researchers, professors, Nobel prizewinners, lawyers and judges who have said that it is wrong to put fluoride in the water at a level of one part per million. One can assume that there is a solid wall of those who think that fluoride is perfectly safe. That can only mean that Ministers are not listening. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will not be insulted by my saying that it does not matter whether he, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State or another hon. Friend is present or whether the Government wind up a wooden man and put him in the Dispatch Box to spout what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has been reported in Hansard as saying.

There is no point in my standing here unless I proceed with the argument. I therefore move to the race, age and sex analysis of Burk and Yiamouyiannis. They examined fluoridated Birmingham, because Birmingham is the jewel in the crown of the fluoridated areas of Britain. We hear that the poor dentists of Birmingham have had so little to do since 1974, when the water was fluoridated, that they had to look elsewhere for patients and that that is proof positive that fluoridation is a great success in reducing dental caries. Because the analysts have no evidence—not that they have looked for any—that more people in Birmingham than anywhere else have died since fluoridation, Birmingham is, therefore, said to be the safest place in the world.

If one wants to find out why I am motivated to make speeches of such length on a subject that bores me silly when I have much better things to do, one needs go no further than examine the information that has come from Birmingham. It is claimed that the caries rate in Birmingham has fallen tremendously. It has; but the caries rate has fallen tremendously in a number of other parts of Britain where there is no fluoride in the water. The conclusion of scientists and dentists saying, "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" is a load of rubbish. We all learnt when we did logic or during our sixth form classes that that was a fallacy. It is proven here to be a fallacy.

8.30 am

That is what is wrong with so much of the so-called pseudo-science of the pro-fluoridationists. They will say what happened from the moment the place was fluoridated to now, but they can seldom say what happened in the run-up to fluoridation. One of the reasons why they are so hateful of the Burk and Yiamouyiannis research is that it actually stretched back to before the fluoridated areas were assessed.

That is not all. The fluoridationists are not above a little jiggery pokery with the figures. It is true that anaesthetics for dental treatment in Birmingham have been wiped out and that some of the figures indicate a substantial reduction in dental caries. What was the position in regard to the decay of children's teeth in the first 12 years after 1964? It is in the first 12 years of life that fluoride is supposed to help children's teeth.

Mr. Fairbairn

Nine years.

Mr. Lawrence

Well, nine to 12. It is not so much use after that. Its main effect is in the first 12 years. After that, if it is continued, it is said to be beneficial. The figures show that for temporary teeth, that is, the teeth that the children lose, there was a threefold increase in fillings over the first 12 years when the fluoride was supposed to be working on the children's teeth. With permanent teeth there was no decrease in fillings. As one statistician from the Royal Society interpreted the figures, there was no good effect from fluoride—there may even have been a bad effect—on children's teeth in the years when there should have been an effect. That was a scientific assessment of the figures. I do not know whether that is right or wrong; I am not fitted to make that kind of judgment. All I pass on to the House is what statisticians and medical people have said — that the figures do not bear out the boast.

I took part in a debate on fluoridation at a dental school — a debate which we won, incidentally, against a lot of students in their last year who had been told by their professors that fluoridation was good. A professor said candidly to me, "We are a little worried about the figures that are cropping up in other parts of the country like the Isle of Wight where there are massive reductions in caries in children's teeth which has nothing to do with the fluoridation of water because the water there is not fluoridated." That reduction had taken place perhaps because of the consumption of fewer sweets, the greater use of toothbrushes and even the use of fluoridated toothpaste. What one knows is that it had nothing to do with fluoridated water, since there was not any.

It is a little ingenious in this day and age to attribute every reduction in dental caries in children's teeth to fluoride in the water when we all know as young parents what pressure there is upon us from dentists, from doctors, from the media and from what we read to make sure that our children eat sensible food, brush their teeth regularly and go to the dentist before too much trouble manifests itself. One can have anecdotal experience both ways, but many people whom I know report much better teeth in their children than they enjoyed when they were children, although they live in non-fluoridated areas.

Mr. Fairbairn

As my hon. and learned Friend will know, many dentists say that they favour fluoridation. If their recommendation was accurate, it would depress their incomes. I have never heard of a dentist anxious to depress his income. It is claimed by all scientists, and would not be disputed by the supine Minister were he listening—I have given him a new adjective — that fluoride causes brittleness in teeth which increases with age, thus causing teeth to break and to fall out as one reaches the massive age of 30. I do not know whether my hon. and learned Friend has figures to cover those matters, but, as I understand it, that is the undisputed effect of one part per million of fluoride in water, even if it could be controlled by Hush-Puppy Ministers to that level. Even if it could be controlled, the undisputed evidence of all scientists is that, whatever it may do for the teeth of children aged under nine, it makes the teeth of older people more brittle and likely to crack, break off and fall out. Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that that is the reason why dentists are so happy to support fluoridation?

Mr. Lawrence

I can certainly confirm from my reading that the effects of fluoride may be as my hon. and learned Friend describes. I have no personal knowledge of that, but it is the view of scientists, academics, professors and the important people who busy themselves with such matters. As to whether it is one reason why dentists are so much in favour of fluoride, I take leave to doubt my hon. and learned Friend. First, many dentists support the anti-fluoridation case. Secondly, most of the dentists who support the pro-fluoridation case do so only because they take their lead from the British Dental Association, which takes its lead from the Royal College of Physicians, whose report is very out of date, as those who attended the opening part of the debate will have heard me say.

Thirdly, the most highly fluoridated country in the world is the United States, although the amount of artificial fluoridation of the water supply is shrinking, because, during the past four or five years, hundreds of towns have come off fluoride. America, which is still the most fluoridated country in the world, still shows the greatest increase in tooth decay and in dentists. There is an argument for saying that the more fluoride is put into the water, the more dentists there are.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Before my hon. Friend leaves the Burk and Yiamouyiannis report, I am anxious that he should deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Mr. Marlow) before the solicitude of my hon. Friends, who interrupted proceedings about half an hour ago. He will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North drew attention to the analysis of the Burk and Yiamouyiannis report by age, sex and race. He was particularly interested in the racial aspects. Is there any evidence to show that the effects of fluoridating the water supply affect one race to a greater extent than another? Could that be an aspect of discrimination against races in Britain? Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend would inform the House of the results of the analysis by race that was carried out. Was it done on the basis of parts per million of pigmentation, for example, and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) is continually interrupted—one might say fed — with further thoughts, he is likely to lose the thread of the excellent speech that he is making. It also means that hon. Members who wish to speak later may be denied an opportunity to do so. I hope, therefore, that the hon. and learned Member will be allowed to get on with his speech without interruption.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful for that compliment, Mr. Speaker, and I assure you that I will not be deflected.

I should be grateful for an indication from the Minister that the debate will not be closured the moment I sit down. If I knew that hon. Members who wish to contribute will be permitted to do so without the closure being moved, I would be happy to curtail my speech. When I last put that question to the Minister, no answer was forthcoming.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have no wish to go down the road I was invited to travel by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). I know only one race — the human race — and I am not interested in any variations of pigmentation of people's skin.

Mr. Michael Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that you might like to be made aware of the fact that my hon. and learned Friend has made the longest speech in the House this century.

Mr. Speaker

I doubt whether that is true. I seem to remember the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) making a very long speech. However, I hope that we are not in the business of breaking records. This place is about logical, sound debate and winning the argument. The hon. and learned Member for Burton is doing well and I suggest that he be allowed to get on with his speech without interruption.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful for your remarks, Mr. Speaker. The record to which my hon. Friend referred is not one that I should like to carry with me for the rest of my days. It would not have been so long had I not given way so many times to hon. Members on both sides who thought that they were helping me, whereas they only helped me to establish a record of which I am not particularly proud, a record that I hope will speedily be broken in our debates on this measure, perhaps by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, of whom we have great hopes.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

I have listened with interest to references to previous records. When I spoke from the Back Benches and made the longest speech since 1828, I did so in defence of the safety of a community of some 30,000 souls. My hon. and learned Friend may be proud of his achievement today, but the result, if he has his way, will be to deny dental health to the children of this country and, by definition, to the whole of the nation of the future. That is a big distinction. He may be proud of it. I am not.

Mr. Lawrence

I am speaking in defence of the safety of 55 million people. If my right hon. Friend had not only recently entered the Chamber — I think that he has not been in his place for more than five minutes of the many hours that we have been debating these matters — and had he listened to the debate, he might have felt some modesty and might not have intervened in such an outrageous, outlandish and over-the-top manner, which is quite uncharacteristic of my right hon. Friend, whom love and admire.

8.45 am
Mr. Christopher Hawkins

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) has not heard all the evidence which my hon. and learned Friend has put before us and has not had the chance to be convinced by it, perhpas my hon. and learned Friend could provide him with a summary of the four hours of his speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

It is only five minutes since Mr. Speaker said that he was anxious to hear the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and that interventions were taking him away from the amendment.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not welcome further interventions. I understand that my hon. Friends may think that I am more tired than I feel. I can assure them that I am now going into third gear and that there are two more gears in my body before I reach top, or aerobic drive. I have no need of sustenance but I am most grateful to those who thought that I might have.

When we discussed these matters previously in the Chamber, my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health referred, to my great surprise, to the 11-year study in support of the proposition that no harm was discovered in areas of fluoridation, especially Birmingham. I was surprised that he did so because the report has been dead and buried for a long time. It has been surpassed by masses of other evidence of harm and some evidence of benefit. It can now be said to be water under the bridge, and that is one reason why it is dead and buried.

The main reason for that happening is that it contained a message which was unwelcome to the pro-fluoridationists. The message was not that fluoridation reduced dental caries in teeth by 50 per cent. or by a massive percentage. The message was — I have an extract from the report in my hand — that the only beneficial effect of fluoridation was to delay the onset of dental caries in children's teeth between the ages of eight and 11 years—it may have been children between the ages of 11 and 14 years—by two years. In other words, fluoride did no good except to delay the arrival of the caries, and that as soon as the age limit had been exceeded the individual reverted to the same rate of decay. That happened only two years later than would have been his misfortune had there been no fluoride in the water.

Mr. Marlow

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way. I think that I would be irritating those about me, and certainly Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I were to do so. I do not intend to take interventions at this moment. I shall indicate to my hon. Friend when I wish to take interventions, but at the moment I do not.

It was a great surprise to me to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health resurrect the 11-year report. It is the one study that no one can dispute for its thoroughness, care and scientific approach. It shows only that dental caries in children's teeth between the ages that I have mentioned is delayed.

Mr. Fairbairn

May be delayed.

Mr. Lawrence

If we take the report at its highest, dental caries is delayed by two years. The difference is 2.1 years or 2.4, which is minimal. Let us take the risk of dying from cancer or from many other diseases, because we shall be able to save half of one decayed or missing tooth in our childhood! Of course, the figures may be wrong.

The 11-year study might be a load of rubbish, but it is interesting that the Minister has been advised to resurrect it. It is obviously not considered to be a load of rubbish. Even if it is rubbish, it shows how dangerous scientists are. In 1969 they say one thing and, a few years later, they say another, and bury the original report because it is inconvenient. I remember going to a seminar where nobody had heard of the 11-year study. Scientific fashion is cyclical. That is what we should worry about before we legislate for the permanent addition of fluoride to the drinking water of people who do not want it, do not need it and cannot possibly benefit from it and to whom it might well be dangerous.

Another of the nuts, the cranks, the crazy people—

Mr. Fairbairn

The idiots.

Mr. Lawrence

—the idiots, happens to be the retired chief dental officer in Auckland, New Zealand, Mr. John Colquhoun, who went on a world tour to find evidence of the benefit of fluoridation to teeth. He always favoured fluoridation but is now reviled and condemned as a charlatan, a crank, a nut and an idiot. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend called him an idiot the other day. He certainly said that his report was idiotic. Why? The man was perfectly acceptable to the establishment until he went on his tour and reported: I found on my study tour that new better designed research was under way, which I reported to the health department on my return and which I, along with other believers in fluoridation, hoped would finally prove the superiority of fluoridation over other methods of prevention. But the results of this research, though often presented in guarded and ambiguous ways, have not supported the case for fluoridation at all. They show that dental decay rates have dropped dramatically in most developed countries whether they practise fluoridation or not, and in fluoridated countries it dropped in unfluoridated places as well. Also, in the European countries which discontinued fluoridation some years ago, there are no reports of an increase in dental decay as a result. One of the greatest pieces of nonsense that I have heard today was my right hon. and learned Friend trying to argue that fluoridation was spreading throughout the world. Perhaps he will be good enough to tell us the names of some of the countries, with about 50 people in them, which are fluoridating water. No European country except Eire and the United Kingdom fluoridates water. It is interesting that West Germany, Holland and Sweden have stopped fluoridating.

I do not want to take up the time of the House reminding hon. Members of what I said in our previous debate some time last week — it seems a million years ago. Why have countries of any size stopped fluoridating? The bureaucrats in the DHSS say it is because those countries are worried about freedom and political pressures. When asked whether it is anything to do with safety they say, "No, no, no, no, no." If there is any hint of safety playing a part in the decision, we are told that those countries have been advised by cranks, charlatans, knaves and—

Mr. Fairbairn

Idiots.

Mr. Lawrence

Precisely.

Mr. Fairbairn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that it is early in the morning, but is it in order for hon. Members of the feminine nature to use their chests as advertisement boards for the Trent and Mersey carnal society?

Mr. Lawrence

I will not have any evil said of my Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). Whether she finds my hon. and learned Friend attractive is a matter of taste. The only fault or flaw in her character and personality is her support for the mass medication of the public water supply.

In response to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme who complained that all that I was doing was sketching in and that I did not go into any detail, I shall repair the omission by giving more detail. I shall read more fully the important summary of John Colquhoun the chief dental adviser for Auckland, New Zealand, now discredited as a result of his lack of success at proving that fluoridation worldwide was a good thing. It says: Evidence that there is now no dental benefit related to water fluoridation. The Health Department's own statistics show that water fluoridation is not related to any significant differences in child dental health. Statistics from Auckland Health District indicate

  1. (a) children's filling rates are related to the income levels of the suburbs where they live and not to fluoridation.
  2. (b) fluoridation merely accelerates temporarily a decline in dental decay which was occurring anyway.
Statistics from the Greater Auckland region, that is three health districts containing over a quarter of New Zealand's population, show:
  1. (1) where any unfluoridated area is compared with a fluoridated area of similar income level, the percentage of children who are free of dental decay is consistently higher in the unfluoridated area.
  2. (2) As well as the above, decayed, missing and filled teeth scores show, when socio-economic differences are allowed, child dental health is better in the unfluoridated area.
What my hon. and learned Friend was saying to the House is right. If anything, teeth are better in the unfluoridated areas than in the fluoridated areas, and probably for a good reason. If there is fluoride in the water, there is that less pressure on the parents to enforce a regime of teeth brushing and teeth care on their children. The water will look after it, just as the state will look after the education of our children and the care of the old, and we do not have to bother about it.

The trouble with not bothering about dental care is that if fluoride does not improve the teeth, and is harmful, as so many scientists in the world seem to think, then my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point has got the boot on the wrong foot. I am saving the health of the nation, and he is the one, by virtue of his support for fluoridation, who is helping to weaken it.

This is only a summary of John Colquhoun's report. I resist the temptation to read the full text. It says: 4) The Health Department's collected statistics, as well as controlled surveys, show that the above is true for the rest of New Zealand also. 5) Early fluoridation research in the 1940s and 1950s was very defective. New and better research, which I noted on my world study tour for the Department of Health in 1980; which has since been published, shows that in most developed countries, dental decay has declined whether fluoridation was practised or not. In the countries in Europe which discontinued fluoridation some years ago, there have been no reports of an increase in dental decay as a result. If fluoride in the water is so good for children's teeth, why has there been no increase in dental decay in any of the countries in which fluoride was added to the water but has now ceased to be added? One is driven to the conclusion that the whole campaign is bogus, that fluoride does not improve children's teeth and that, if one removes it, children's teeth do not deteriorate. New Zealand has an excellent dental service, and all children can receive regular surface applications of fluoride to their teeth. There is a continuing scientific debate about fluoridation with many scientists strongly disputing that fluoridation is perfectly safe and effective, as the health department claims. 9 am

Here is the chief dental officer, pro-fluoridation, being sent, at the state's expense no doubt, to bring back world evidence of the benefits of fluoridation, who says that many scientists strongly dispute that fluoridation is perfectly safe and effective, as the New Zealand authorities claim. If fluoridation in the food chain is a benefit in unfluoridated areas, as the health department claims, it must be above optimal in fluoridated areas. That point has been laboured at some length in the course of my remarks. Evidence of chronic fluoride intoxication related to water fluoridation: First, Auckland school dental nurses and I observed and reported high levels of dental fluorosis—chronic fluoride intoxication—among children in the fluoridated areas, some of it disfiguring, but not in unfluoridated areas. Read carefully, the health department report, which claimed to discredit these findings, supports them. From around the world, there are reports of an increase in dental fluorosis. International scientific literature supports our claim that what the health department calls diffuse white opacities is dental fluorosis; so do the results of the recent survey initiated by the health department. Recent scientific evidence has increased the credibility of earlier claims of harm from low fluoride intakes. I shall not burden the House further with the remainder of the summary of the report. There are two possibilities only. One is that this man is a nut, a lunatic, a crank and an idiot. The other is that he is a perfectly sane, balanced, reasonable, observing dental officer. If he is the former, it is strange that for a considerable number of years he should have been employed by the Auckland health department and his lunacy, his absurdity, his crankiness and his idiocy should have gone undetected until the moment when he went roaming the world to try to uncover such evidence as he wanted to find—that was his brief, and that is what he believed in—that fluoridation was safe. That seems to be a somewhat far-fetched consideration—at any rate, it is uncanny.

The earliest moment at which he was detected as being insane — the kind of person who wanted to hurt and harm the poor young people in the various countries of the world who would benefit from painless teeth if only there was fluoride in the water— the very first moment at which this blinding light of revelation descended upon the authorities was the moment at which he came back with the report which stated that fluoride was unsafe, unnecessary, unpleasant and should be stopped.

I wish to deal next with the extent of the Burk and Yiamouyiannis report which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. It was ascertained beyond any peradeventure that the report had been weighted for age, race and sex, and findings were made by three courts of law. In fact, I think that two of the court decisions came after recognition of age, race and sex, but the timing does not matter now. Three courts of law in America have accepted the Burk-Yiamouyiannis findings. Conclusions were reached about Birmingham.

If anything motivated me to this campaign in general, and to this speech in particular, it was the deception about Birmingham. I say that in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South in whose constituency I have the pleasure to live. She has been taken in. It is sad that those who are taken in never stay to listen to the reasoned arguments. I understand. It takes time and I apologise, but the case cannot be presented in a short time.

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Lawrence

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend did not seek to intervene. He has done sterling service throughout the night—which is more than I can say for my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South, who has been getting her beauty sleep.

Mr. McGuire

The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to a matter of vital importance. He had an abundance of evidence in Committee and he hardly touched some of it. Will he not skip the detail, but educate those whom he accuses of not staying to hear the argument? If he discussed the matter in depth, I am sure that he would convert fluoridaters to our view.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Makerfield for his confidence in me. I have modest views about my powers in this matter and I do not wish to labour my views at length. I hope those who have stayed with me through the night will understand that my main motivating force is to put the anti-fluoridation case clearly on the record for everyone to see and to stop us rushing headlong into the mass medication of our population.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) has been of sterling value throughout the night. I pay a tribute. Not only is my hon. and learned Friend a man of distinction and authority in politics and the law, but he is extremely knowledgeable about medicine—and, I believe, trained. He has been of great value to hon. Members on all sides of the argument. His interventions have been mostly—although not always—constructive. They have always been amusing and frequently they have added to our fund of knowledge about the details with which mere politicians and lawyers cannot come to grips.

Yiamouyiannis and Burk examined Birmingham and what did they see?

Mr. Marlow

The Bull ring.

Mr. Lawrence

This is not a matter for humour because they discovered something very sad. The reaction of the authorities to what they found was even more sad.

In fluoridated Birmingham they noticed that there was an 8..2-fold increase in the cancer death rate against a 1.5-fold increase in non-fluoridated Manchester's cancer death rate. That was the case although, before fluoridation was begun in Birmingham, Manchester's cancer death rate was the higher of the two cities.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may be that Labour Members need their breakfast but is it necessary for them to pass it around among themselves? Were they to do so, would it not be in order for them to offer you some and perhaps Conservative Members as well?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have no doubt that hon. Members have taken in what has been said. I had not noticed anything untoward.

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There has been constant reference in the proceedings to the fact that the Minister takes cough drops. We, too, need our cough drops.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that assistance.

Let me repeat the figures again, because they are important. There was an 8.2-fold increase in cancer deaths in Birmingham — [Interruption.] — as against only a 1.5-fold increase — [Interruption.] — in non-fluoridated Manchester's cancer death rate, although before the fluoridation was begun in Birmingham, Manchester's death rate—[Interruption.]

Mr. Fairbairn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I cannot hear what my hon. and learned Friend is saying. Not only is the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) using her chest to advertise, she is also rabbitting on in such a way as to prevent me hearing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I could hear the hon. and learned Member quite clearly.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I could not hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is rabbitting on. It is difficult to hear from my position.

Mr. Lawrence

I do not want to repeat—

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There may be those in the Chamber who would rather hear my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence).

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That may be because some people prefer to listen to rubbish rather than sense.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the House would be well advised to get back to the amendment.

Mr. Marlow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) obviously has something to say, because she has been saying it at great length behind my left ear for the past 20 minutes or so, would it be in order for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) to give way so that she can give the House the benefit of her comments?

Mr. Lawrence

If my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) will allow me to do so by remaining quiet for a moment, I can relay what she is saying. While I was describing to the House that, according to the Burk and Yiamouyiannis study, there had been an 8.2-fold increase in Birmingham at the same time as there had been a 1.5-fold—[Interruption.]—increase over the same period in Manchester, although the cancer death rate had been higher there before fluoridation begin, my hon. Friend was saying that that was nothing—[Interruption.]—to do with fluoride but was to do with a polluted atmosphere—

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is still rabbitting on. It is very difficult to hear. Will you ask her to shut up and listen? She might then learn something.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is for the Chair to decide when another hon. Member is out of order.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South says that that is nothing to do with fluoride, that it is to do with pollution of the atmosphere, and cigarettes. She will correct me if I am wrong.

Mrs. Currie

And half a dozen other things as well.

Mr. Lawrence

If my hon. Friend catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to hear what those are. Meanwhile, all that I can do is analyse the three explanations that she has given. If she had taken the time to listen to what I have just said, she would have noticed that Manchester had the higher of the cancer death rates before Birmingham was fluoridated.

Mrs. Currie

Perhaps they all moved to Birmingham.

Mr. Lawrence

Now we have the addition, "Perhaps they all moved to Birmingham." This is important.

9.15 am
Mr. Michael Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to listen to a speech. I seem to be listening to a conversation between my hon. and learned Friend who has the Floor, and the hon. Lady, who does not have the Floor. I am trying to listen to a speech, and I do not want to listen to a conversation.

Mr. Lawrence

I think that this interchange between my hon. Friend and me is very useful. It shows how pro-fluoridationists think, or do not think, and it shows how they behave to anti-fluoridationists who are trying to put a case with evidence.

My hon. Friend's first response was that the reason was pollution. Her second response was that it was cigarette smoking. Her third response, when I said that before fluoridation Manchester had the higher cancer death rate of Birmingham and Manchester, was that they must have all moved to Birmingham. There is a lesson in that. First, my hon. Friend does not want to hear what the facts are. Secondly, when the facts are explained to her, she simply turns a deaf ear and does not listen. She is a very bright lady. What did not allow to sink in is the fact that Manchester had a higher cancer death rate before Birmingham was fluoridated, which shows that, whatever it was that gave Manchester a higher cancer death rate before, it may have been pollution or it may have been cigarette smoking, but those elements were equally present in Manchester and Birmingham before Birmingham was fluoridated.

The increase in Birmingham is substantial—8.2-fold, and even if the figure is 100 per cent. wrong, it is still many times the increase in cancer death that there was in Manchester. My hon. Friend has some explaining to do—how in the face of such figures, she can both not listen to the figures being explained—

Mrs. Currie

But I am.

Mr. Lawrence

—or if she listens, not bother to take them in, or if she does bother to take them in, try to laugh them away by saying that the people in Manchester all moved to Birmingham—[Interruption.]—and took with them their cancer death rate, and that that is the reason why the rate has risen.[Interruption] I think that the House will draw its own conclusion because the essence of the debate—

Mr. Fairbairn

It is a very difficult matter for those of us who are trying to listen to my hon. and learned Friend. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) appears to be totally incapable of shutting her mouth. I do not mind whether that is a capability that she does or does not have, but it is very disturbing to the debate when she constantly attempts to correct my hon. and learned Friend during his speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) really wants to intervene, she should stand and catch my eye.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) does not want to intervene—

Mr. Marlow

Then she should shut up.

Mr. Lawrence

One can assume only that my hon. Friend has nothing constructive to say about the matter. It is self-evident to any objective person in the House, is it not, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if there are two cities, both heavily urbanised, both heavily populated, in the midlands area of England, both of which had a roughly comparable—but Manchester had the greater—cancer death rate before fluoridation, and then there is fluoridation, and the cancer death rate in Birmingham goes up alarmingly while Manchester's barely rises at all—

Mrs. Currie

It has nothing to do with it.

Mr. Lawrence

—it may conceivably be that the explanation is the same as the explanation in the 20 largest cities in the United States of America—

Mrs. Currie

And it may not.

Mr. Lawrence

—and the same as the explanation would be seen to be, if my hon. Friend had been here, as we discussed the countless research inquiries that have brought out the results that fluoride is detrimental to health and may cause cancer. It may even be possible that cancer has been caused by the fluoridation of Birmingham.

The objections that have been thrown al the Yiamouyiannis and Burk analysis have got nothing to do with more pollution in Birmingham, or with more cigarette smoking in Birmingham, or with those in Manchester who are prone to cancer coming to Birmingham. The attack on Yiamouyiannis and Burk is, as it always has been and always will be, that they have not weighted the figures for age, race and sex.

Mrs. Currie

That makes no difference.

Mr. Lawrence

It will be shown that they—

Mrs. Currie

Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Lawrence

—are opposed by mindless, ceaseless chattering—

Mrs. Currie

My hon. and learned Friend must watch whom he calls mindless.

Mr. Lawrence

—of people who are deaf to the arguments—

Mrs. Currie

Nonsense.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must stop providing a running commentary on the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. If she wants to address the House, she must stand up and catch my eye.

Mr. Lawrence

That is how it will always be. One simply cannot penetrate to those who will not hear.

In response to the criticism of the non-weighting by age, race and sex Yiamouyiannis and Burk have been through all the figures again. I have charts and pages of detail which, if I wished to prolong the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would read out so that they were on the record. Instead I shall read out only two conclusions. The first relates to the conclusion which Dr. Burk has reached with regard to Birmingham: Upon fluoridation of the Birmingham public water supply in October 1964 its population of approximately 1 million showed one of the most abrupt documentable increases in the observed cancer death rate of any large city in the world, far greater than reported for any non-fluoridated English city such as Liverpool. Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Coventry, Bradford, Sheffield, Greater London, et cetera, or any of 20 previously studied large American cities, whether fluoridated or not. In a summary of responses to the criticisms in the Knox report of 10 February 1985, Yiamouyiannis and Burk said: You can have it either way. You can have it weighted for age, race and sex, with standardised mortality ratios, or you can have it not weighted for age, race and sex, or you can have it not weighted for age, race and sex without standardised mortality ratios. However you want to arrange it, you come back in the end to a very substantial increase in cancer deaths in Birmingham following fluoridation which is not observed in Manchester or any non-fluoridated city in the country. I want to read the details, with or without standardizing adjustments for the factors of age, sex and race: There is a large increase in the cancer death rate trends in the ten largest fluoridated American central cities compared to an equivalent matched ten cities that were not fluoridated. The increase amounted to 31.5 excess cancer deaths per 100,000 population over the period of 1950 to 1970 in the unadjusted data, and after standardisating adjustment by conventional methods the adjusted excess still amounted to the large value of 21.8 cancer deaths per 100,000 population over the period of 1950 to 1970. In short, standardising adjustments for age, sex and race reduced the observed cancer death rate trend by only 30.8, not 100 per cent., leaving 69.2 per cent. thereof ascribable to artificial fluoridation, clearly harmful to human health in terms of increased cancer mortality alone. That is what they said only last month about the American figures.

Those who made that report have been upheld in their veracity, in their integrity and in the depth of their scientific research by three courts of law in the United States of America which found their case to be sufficiently proved. It is a matter of very great regret that, faced with figures of that kind, all that the pro-fluoridation lobby, as represented by my hon. and very dear Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South can do is to mutter, not to listen, to pour scorn and, when invited to give a response, to fail to do so. That, I am afraid, sums up, does it not, the whole picture of this fluoridation debate?

To begin with, the pro-fluoridation lobby says that no one in their right mind can be against fluoridation. It then says that in so far as there is anyone against fluoridation they are lunatics, nuts, cranks and — [HON MEMBERS: "Idiots."]—In so far as the product of their research is laboratory tested, showing that tumours are caused by ingestion of fluoride into animal and human cells; in so far as there is epidemiological evidence, if we take whole cities and study them, that there is harm; in so far as there is medical or scientific evidence that, for example, fluoride locks up calcium and thereby causes heart and bone afflictions; in so far as there is evidence that fluoride is massively cumulative in the system and does not pass out at anything like the extent necessary for safety; in so far as it accumulates in the ligaments, bones and muscles, causing some of the worst ageing illnesses in our society; in so far as it inhibits the enzymes, in particular, the repair enzymes, there is an explanation as to how it happens. In so far as there is now evidence about hydrogen bonding which works in live yeast cells, that is positive evidence that fluoride is dangerous, as it has never been known to be before in live cells. All that evidence is rubbish. It is all adduced by charlatans, knaves, idiots, cranks—[HON MEMBERS: "Idiots."] I have said idiots.

It does not matter how many Nobel prize winners, professors, lecturers, mathematicians, statisticians and dentists affirm the evil of fluoridation—it is safe. There is no doubt about that, and we cannot understand how every country in Europe except Eire and the United Kingdom has stopped fluoridating or has never fluoridated.

I have been scrupulously careful to confine my remarks during the few minutes that I have been addressing the House to safety and benefit. The larger audience that has gathered here after breakfast came in no doubt expecting to see a man on his knees dripping with perspiration, hardly able to open his mouth, still less dressed ready for battle in the courts. It will be bitterly disappointed because at last we have managed to get on the record a fair amount — not all by any means — of the somewhat limited exposition of the case — I apologise for limiting it—against the ridiculous assertions of complete safety and benefit, which are not made out in the scientific evidence.

I have not talked about freedom, dealt with in the other amendments in this group, the safety of people who handle equipment—

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I shall give way to my hon. Friend because he shares a room with me.

Mr. Colvin

The fact that I share a room with my hon. and learned Friend establishes a special bond between us. He has referred to the case that he must defend this morning. I offer this advice to him in the best and most helpful way. I warn him that the traffic is bad. He is appearing at the Old Bailey in about half an hour all dressed up in his gear. If he is deciding to embark upon a new argument, it might best be kept until next time.

9.30 am
Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his commiserations. I was hoping that my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South would give me a close shave before I left the building and set foot in public. That matter would have been negotiated. I think that my hon. Friend is a little angry with me — that can only be because she has not listened to any of my arguments. If she had done so, she would have been pleased with me because she would at last have been drawn from her one-sided preoccupation with and unjustified support for evidence not borne out by the facts.

Mr. Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my hon. and learned Friend. I take the opportunity to compliment and thank him for his stalwart performance during the debate.

Mr. Fairbairn

I would not be competent to take my hon. and learned Friend's place at the Old Bailey, because, of all the people from member states of the Common Market, the only person who cannot be called to appear in English courts is a Scotsman.

I want to advise my hon. and learned Friend, because he is clearly upset by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). My hon. Friend has offered to stuff me full of water when I am spreadeagled on the Floor of the House. I should have thought that if my hon. Friend lay down, rather than sat down, she might even do that for him.

Mr. Lawrence

I knew that I could count on my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross to raise the level of my peroration, which otherwise would have been indescribably dull. I was referring to freedom, and freedom is dull. The freedom of the individual to choose for himself whether this poison will be thrust down his throat—whether or not he needs it or wants it or whether it is good or bad for him — is the type of freedom in respect of which the House has already sold the pass. I hope that we shall consider the harm done by fluoride to the infrastructure. This debate is occurring within days of the time when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to consider whether to spend our money on tax cuts or the infrastructure. The harm done to pipes not only in people's houses but in water production plants and the streets where the pipes are old and much corrosion occurs should be considered before my right hon. Friend the Chancellor delivers his speech on 19 March.

My hon. Friends who have been with me stalwartly during the night and those who have been and gone, been and gone and come back again will not credit the fact that I have touched on only a small part of the case against mass medication.

Mr. Golding

May I say first in the presence of the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir. B. Braine) that I was present to hear his carefully constructed and well-delivered intervention.

It has been a pleasure to listen to the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). He has made a considerable achievement after a night spent up attending the debate. My grumble is that the hon. and learned Gentleman has not yet dealt with the amendments. Amendment No. 98 states: insert 'a compound of fluorine which has been tested and found to be safe to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State'. We have never seen the Secretary of State during this debate. Let us assume that the Secretary of State gives the job to the Minister of State. How can the hon. and learned Member for Burton advocate that the matter of safety should be given to the Secretary of State or the Minister of State when the hon. and learned Gentleman has spent four hours proving to us that Ministers would not know safety if they fell over it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) has made his point. He should let the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) continue his peroration.

Mr. Lawrence

I am full of sadness that in the few minutes in which I have taken the time of the House to deploy a small fraction of the case against fluoride I have dealt with only one of the five amendments to which I was asked to speak. Perhaps I can now move on to—

Mr. Colvin

The Old Bailey.

Mr. Lawrence

—the Old Bailey.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I am afraid I never had the pleasure—

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to raise a point of order at this stage, but, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said, he spoke to one amendment. The amendment to which he has been speaking deals with the testing of chemicals which would be put in the water supply—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think I have the hon. Gentleman's point. The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) moved the amendment. It was for him to make his speech. I have now called the Minister.

Mr. Marlow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No speeches have been made about the other amendments. How is it possible for my right hon. and learned Friend to answer the debate, otherwise the debate has not taken place yet?

Mr. Clarke

As I was about to say, I never had the pleasure of being able to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on his maiden speech. I now have the pleasure of being able to congratulate him on the first speech he has made of the present length. I hope he will understand if I do not follow the convention with maiden speeches. Although I have sat through his entire speech with pleasure, I hope I am not present when he makes his next speech. Obviously it would not be right for me to inquire into his professional affairs, but I trust a long, hard-fought trial lies ahead of him and not a quick plea of guilty, otherwise I am afraid it is possible that this debate will still be going when he gets back.

I join in the praise to the two masters of the art who have been intervening late in the debate, having helped my hon. and learned Friend throughout. Certainly it was a long speech. I am sure that at least one Opposition Member did not have a beard when the speech started. The speech was exceedingly cogent and well argued. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) came in as he saw his record, established in defence of his constituents some years ago, for the longest speech in the House since, I think, the 1820s, go sailing by.

I regret that my hon. and learned Friend's skills were used as part of an attack upon a Bill which is a valuable preventive health measure which offers great benefits for dental health. I shall address myself to my hon. and learned Friend's arguments. Again I am genuinely sorry that my hon. and learned Friend devoted most of his argument to a repetition of that part of the scientific and medical evidence, as he described it, upon which he so particularly relies. I shall try to avoid repeating the attempts I made before to draw his attention to the vast quantity of scientific and medical evidence that has been produced by more distinguished people than those he cited, many of them in later studies, and many of them financed by the Government who were genuinely seeking to answer the fears stirred by the studies to which he referred.

If my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, I should like to illustrate the kind of errors which I think he made He referred extensively to Burk and Yiamouyiannis, well known experts in this subject to that hard coterie of people who stick through the night talking about fluoride in water, which is not a hobby that I expected to take up until recently. Burk and Yiamouyiannis are very familiar names to the aficionados of the subject. They were, I am afraid, heavily rejected by Lord Jauncey in the recent Scottish case after he had heard all the evidence against them.

We commissioned and published a study for the purpose of the Bill, chaired by Professor Alderson in the first place and then by Professor Knox. We brought together all the leading epidemiologists in the country to study the evidence on the fluoridation of water and cancer. A substantial part of the report is devoted to a detailed refutation of Yiamouyiannis and Burk. My hon. and learned Friend, like all the other opponents of the Bill, has never referred to a solitary word of that detailed refutation.

My hon. and learned Friend said that, unlike our judges, three judges in the United States upheld Burk and Yiamouyiannis. I hesitate to say this as he is about to go to the Old Bailey to pursue his distinguished forensic career, but his use of the American authorities was a little lax. I hope that he will be more careful in his citing of precedent when he appears in court this morning. There have been 15 court cases on fluoridation in the United States during the past five years. In 12 of those, fluoridation has been upheld on various grounds. Two appeals are pending, and in a further case in Allegheney, Pennsylvania, an unfavourable first judgment was reversed by a higher court on jurisdictional grounds.

No court of last resort has ever ruled against fluoridation, in the United States, and fluoridation has never been halted in the United States as a result of court judgments. The matter has been taken to the United States Supreme Court at least eight times, and those who agree with my hon. and learned Friend have lost on every occasion. I hope that he will understand why I say that he was a little selective in his evidence when he found three judges—no doubt elected judges in some hick state in the mid-west—who found against fluoridation, and cited them as an authority for rejecting the mass of medical and scientific evidence in this country.

Mr. Lawrence

My right hon. and learned Friend has done less than justice to the point. As a lawyer, he should know that the grounds for appeal were on jurisdiction and the burden of proof; they were nothing to do with the facts. In those three cases, the judges found in favour of the facts on the basis of the evidence and the witnesses who were called on behalf of those who oppose fluoridation. Those cases were presented not simply because they were successful, which shows that there is an analytical doubt, but because the same witnesses gave evidence in those cases as gave evidence before Lord Jauncey.

There is a fair basis for comparison, but even were it not so, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that when three courts of law hear the same witnesses and they come out in favour of the facts which those witnesses state, there must be a doubt about those who say that those witnesses are charlatans, cranks, crazy and idiots, and therefore cannot be relied upon? All that we say is that there is a doubt. Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that, in view of the weight of evidence that has been deployed this morning and earlier, there is an overwhelming case for doubt?

Mr. Clarke

Fluoridation has never been halted by a court in the United States. Burk and Yiamouyiannis have been reviewed repeatedly there, we reviewed their evidence in the Knox report, and they have been reviewed in the British courts. My hon. and learned Friend knows where to find detailed arguments refuting the methodology used by Burk and Yiamouyiannis, which is not acceptable.

I shall not go into the arguments about the Japanese studies to which my hon. and learned Friend referred. I attempted to deal with those on Second Reading at column 80 of Hansard, when my hon. and learned Friend made precisely the same points. He knows that our advisory committee on mutagenicity is considering the Japanese studies as well as everything else.

My hon. and learned Friend and some of my hon. Friends went into the arguments about the substantial difference between fluoride occurring naturally and fluoride in tap water, trying to attack our argument that all we are doing is increasing the level of fluoride in some areas, or enabling authorities to do so, to bring it to the level that prevails naturally in other areas. He argued that calcium effectively neutralises fluoride. There is no evidence to support that. No epidemiological study shows a difference in effects between areas which have fluoride naturally in their water and those where it is included artificially. High fluoride levels occur naturally both where the water is hard and where it is soft, which means that it has low calcium and magnesium levels. There is no objective evidence to support the assertion about fluoride and calcium.

9.45 am

A study in Quebec was cited with particular care by my hon. and learned Friend, but I regret to say that I have not been able to find the details of that. I can find only four other Canadian studies, all of which came to the flat opposite conclusion to that which he cited. The Quebec study does not appear to carry much weight in Quebec. There was a stage in 1977 when a moratorium was declared on a measure that had been passed by the Quebec Parliament which had made fluoridation mandatory.

My hon. and learned Friend was right to say that that moratorium against mandatory fluoridation has prevailed ever since. However, municipalities there remain free to put fluoride in the water in Quebec. About 750,000 people in Quebec receive fluoride, and it has even been subsidised by the provincial Government. I suggest, therefore, that my hon. and learned Friend puts too much weight on that Quebec study.

The most amazing things were said about a link between fluoride and cot deaths. It was claimed that nobody had ever investigated the matter. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council carried out a study in 1979. It examined death rates in respect of cot deaths and found no association with fluoridation. Indeed, the city of Sydney has had fluoridated water since 1968 and has the lowest cot death rate in the whole of Australia.

The question of allergic reaction to fluoridation was raised at enormous length by my hon. and learned Friend. The American Association for the Study of Allergy stated in 1971: There is no evidence of allergy or intolerance to fluoride as used in the fluoridation of community water supplies. In this country, Professor Lessoff said in 1982 that that was also the unanimous view of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The question of fluoridation in relation to bottle-fed babies was raised. I shall not bore the House with all the details about that. There is no substantial or significant increase in the fluoride levels ingested by babies who are breast fed in areas where fluoride is added to the water. Infant mortality in fluoridated areas and in areas with high natural levels of fluoride is not higher than in low fluoride areas.

In Committee, my hon. and learned Friend referred to fluoride in relation to women on the pill. Indeed, that was the only argument that he did not repeat again in the course of his four-hour speech. In Committee he quoted an authority, which was a paper published in 1966 by Dr. Wynn and Dr. Doar. So anxious are we to follow up every word uttered by my hon. and learned Friend that we traced Dr. Wynn, who is now Professor of Human Metabolism at St. Mary's hospital, London. He was asked whether his present opinion was that the fluoridation of water could harm women on the pill. His reply—which I hope I am permitted to quote—was, "Absolute bloody nonsense." That is the present view of that authority whom my hon. and learned Friend cited in that important matter.

My opponents chanted a word that I recall using; occasionally I spoke of people trying to raise further idiotic studies over obscure effects on plants, fish, animals and people in various parts of the world. That led to my opponents in the last few hours chanting that all such people were cranks, charlatans, idiots and so on.

I have tried to compress my answers to my hon. and learned Friend. He will, no doubt, consider them dismissive. I appreciate that he spoke with considerable passion and skill on a matter about which he feels strongly. I hope that I have explained why he is wrong to keep asserting that we will not listen, that we dismiss all the scientists whom he cites, that we do not answer his arguments and that we place trust in the — by now almost certainly bloodless—bureaucrats in the Box who have been sitting all night listening to the debate, or in people outside.

Every assertion—some of them sensible, some of them cranky and idiotic, some put forward by charlatans — has been carefully examined in the light of British medical evidence and answered by the Government. It is not necessary, therefore, to accept any of the amendments in the group that the House is discussing. I accept that my hon. and learned Friend was not able to get round to all of them and to do justice to them all in his speech.

Amendment No. 98 tries to remove from parliamentary scrutiny the choice of which fluorines we put in the water. I should have thought that my hon. and learned Friend would have preferred to keep to the two specified in the Bill and not to give my right hon. Friend unfettered discretion to add more, which his amendment would do.

There is no point in reducing fluoridation from 1 mg per litre to ¼ mg per litre as amendment No. 52 suggests. There are no dangers that it is necessary to guard against and a reduction to that level would have no effect on dental caries.

Amendment No. 29 is a similar attempt to reduce the level of fluoride and my rejection of it relies on the same argument. The arnendment is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).

Amendment No. 11 seeks to say that tests must be carried out with any new fluorine compound to ensure that it has no adverse effects on anyone before the Secretary of State can lay an order before the House under clause 2 to add the new compound to those already authorised. There are 50 separate inorganic chemicals and numerous products based on nine groups of organic chemicals that may be used in the treatment of water for human consumption. I dread to think of the parliamentary time that would be taken if any of my hon. Friends found a great issue of principle on any of the 50 inorganic chemicals and demanded that they should be removed from the list. All the chemicals and products are approved by the appropriate committee in the Department of the Environment and I think that there is no need for amendment No. 11.

I am sorry that I lack the ability to give the full weight to my arguments that my hon. and learned Friend did to his. I am not able to sustain over such a long time the case against his arguments. However, I believe that if he turned away from his campaigning literature, on which he draws so extensively, and studied the vast bulk of medical and other literature with which we have tried to provide him, he might at least find that there are two sides to the argument. I hope that the House will agree that our side of the argument is the one that should prevail.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Cope

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg(seated and covered) (Hampstead and Highgate)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was sitting at the end of the Bench below the Gangway and I distinctly saw my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) rise on a point of order and heard him get out the words "point of order" before my hon. Friend the Deputy Chief Whip moved the motion on the Question. On a previous occasion Hansard records the fact that a point of order was raised and that only after that was the Question put. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North clearly raised a point of order before my hon. Friend the Deputy Chief Whip moved the motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I had a similar point of order to deal with at the beginning of the debate. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) was present on that occasion. The answer is that the closure always takes precedence.

Mr. Marlow

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Had both interventions been coincident, no one would seek to ask for an interpretation or a further expression of judgment. However, it was recorded in the Official Report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) has said, that I raised the point of order before my hon. Friend the Deputy Chief Whip got to his feet. I have not been in the House for very long—some five years—but it is my understanding that it has always been the habit in the past that when a point of order has been raised the Chair has taken it before proceeding with the Question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Question is, That the Question be now put.

The House having divided: Ayes 162, Noes 83.

Division No. 144] [9.52 am
AYES
Alexander, Richard Fletcher, Alexander
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Ancram, Michael Fox, Marcus
Arnold, Tom Garel-Jones, Tristan
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Batiste, Spencer Goodlad, Alastair
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Gow, Ian
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Gower, Sir Raymond
Biffen, Rt Hon John Greenway, Harry
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gummer, John Selwyn
Bottomley, Peter Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Harris, David
Bright, Graham Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Browne, John Hayes, J.
Bryan, Sir Paul Hayhoe, Barney
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Henderson, Barry
Burt, Alistair Hordern, Peter
Butler, Hon Adam Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jackson, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jessel, Toby
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cockeram, Eric Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, Michael Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Coombs, Simon Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Cope, John King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Couchman, James King, Rt Hon Tom
Cranborne, Viscount Knowles, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knox, David
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Lamont, Norman
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lee, John (Pendle)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Lilley, Peter
Dunn, Robert Lord, Michael
Durant, Tony Lyell, Nicholas
Eyre, Sir Reginald McCrindle, Robert
Favell, Anthony Macfarlane, Neil
Fenner, Mrs Peggy MacGregor, John
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Shersby, Michael
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Major, John Soames, Hon Nicholas
Marland, Paul Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mates, Michael Squire, Robin
Maude, Hon Francis Stanley, John
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Stern, Michael
Meadowcroft, Michael Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mellor, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stradling Thomas, J.
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Moore, John Thome, Neil (Ilford S)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Thornton, Malcolm
Moynihan, Hon C. Thurnham, Peter
Needham, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nelson, Anthony Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Neubert, Michael Tracey, Richard
Newton, Tony Trippier, David
Nicholls, Patrick Viggers, Peter
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Waddington, David
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Waldegrave, Hon William
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Walden, George
Pattie, Geoffrey Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Penhaligon, David Wall, Sir Patrick
Pollock, Alexander Waller, Gary
Porter, Barry Walters, Dennis
Powley, John Ward, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Watson, John
Renton, Tim Watts, John
Rhodes James, Robert Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Whitney, Raymond
Rifkind, Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wood, Timothy
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Yeo, Tim
Roe, Mrs Marion Young, Sir George (Acton)
Ryder, Richard Younger, Rt Hon George
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Scott, Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Peter Lloyd.
NOES
Ashdown, Paddy Garrett, W. E.
Ashton, Joe George, Bruce
Beith, A. J. Grist, Ian
Bellingham, Henry Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Best, Keith Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hardy, Peter
Blackburn, John Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Blair, Anthony Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Boyes, Roland Haynes, Frank
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hayward, Robert
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bruinvels, Peter Hughes, Simon (Southward)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hunter, Andrew
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cash, William Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Chope, Christopher Kirkwood, Archy
Clarke, Thomas Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lamond, James
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Lawrence, Ivan
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Loyden, Edward
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) McGuire, Michael
Crouch, David McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dalyell, Tarn Maclean, David John
Dixon, Donald McTaggart, Robert
Dobson, Frank Marlow, Antony
Duffy, A. E. P. Maxton, John
Eastham, Ken Monro, Sir Hector
Fairbairn, Nicholas Norris, Steven
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Ottaway, Richard
Fisher, Mark Radice, Giles
Fookes, Miss Janet Richardson, Ms Jo
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Forth, Eric Skinner, Dennis
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Speller, Tony
Stanbrook, Ivor Wilson, Gordon
Steel, Rt Hon David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Straw, Jack
Terlezki, Stefan Tellers for the Noes:
Wainwright, R. Mr. Gwilym Jones and
White, James Mr. John Golding.
Wigley, Dafydd

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Fairbairn

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will there be separate Votes on the amendments in this group, as they are matters of substance and are different?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have looked at the amendments and I am prepared to allow a vote on either No. 52 or No. 29. Presumably it will be on amendment No. 29, which will have to be moved formally later.

The House having divided: Ayes 72, Noes 169.

Division No. 145] [10.03 pm
AYES
Alton, David Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Ashdown, Paddy Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Beith, A. J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bellingham, Henry Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Kirkwood, Archy
Blackburn, John Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Knowles, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Lawrence, Ivan
Bruinvels, Peter Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Loyden, Edward
Campbell-Savours, Dale McGuire, Michael
Cash, William McKelvey, William
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Maclean, David John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) McTaggart, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cormack, Patrick Monro, Sir Hector
Crouch, David Norris, Steven
Dixon, Donald Ottaway, Richard
Duffy, A. E. P. Penhaligon, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Rost, Peter
Fallon, Michael Skinner, Dennis
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Fookes, Miss Janet Stanbrook, Ivor
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Stern, Michael
Forth, Eric Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Terlezki, Stefan
Golding, John Thornton, Malcolm
Greenway, Harry Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Grist, Ian Wigley, Dafydd
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Hardy, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Winterton, Nicholas
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Haynes, Frank
Hayward, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Mr. Keith Best and
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Mr. Tony Marlow
NOES
Alexander, Richard Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Peter
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Arnold, Tom Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Bright, Graham
Batiste, Spencer Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Browne, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Bryan, Sir Paul
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Meadowcroft, Michael
Burt, Alistair Mellor, David
Butler, Hon Adam Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Moore, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Moynihan, Hon C.
Clarke, Thomas Needham, Richard
Cockeram, Eric Nelson, Anthony
Colvin, Michael Newton, Tony
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Nicholls, Patrick
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Onslow, Cranley
Coombs, Simon Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Cope, John Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Couchman, James Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Cranborne, Viscount Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Pattie, Geoffrey
Dalyell, Tam Pollock, Alexander
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Porter, Barry
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Dobson, Frank Powley, John
Dorrell, Stephen Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Renton, Tim
Dunn, Robert Rhodes James, Robert
Durant, Tony Richardson, Ms Jo
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Eyre, Sir Reginald Rifkind, Malcolm
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Fletcher, Alexander Robertson, George
Forrester, John Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Foulkes, George Ryder, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Sackville, Hon Thomas
Fox, Marcus Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Freeman, Roger Scott, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, Tristan Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Goodlad, Alastair Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gow, Ian Shersby, Michael
Gower, Sir Raymond Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Gummer, John Selwyn Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Soley, Clive
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Harris, David Squire, Robin
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Stanley, John
Hayes, J. Steel, Rt Hon David
Hayhoe, Barney Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Henderson, Barry Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Home Robertson, John Stradling Thomas, J.
Hordern, Peter Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thome, Neil (Ilford S)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Thurnham, Peter
Jackson, Robert Tracey, Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Trippier, David
Jessel, Toby Viggers, Peter
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Waddington, David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Wainwright, R.
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Wakeham, Rt Hon John
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Waldegrave, Hon William
King, Rt Hon Tom Walden, George
Knox, David Wallace, James
Lamont, Norman Walters, Dennis
Lang, Ian Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lee, John (Pendle) Watson, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Watts, John
Lilley, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Lyell, Nicholas Wilson, Gordon
McCrindle, Robert Wolfson, Mark
Macfarlane, Neil Wood, Timothy
MacGregor, John Yeo, Tim
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Young, Sir George (Acton)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Younger, Rt Hon George
Major, John
Marland, Paul Tellers for the Noes:
Maude, Hon Francis Mr. Michael Neubert and
Maxton, John Mr. Tony Lloyd.
Mayhew, Sir Patrick

Question accordingly negatived.

10.15 am

Amendment proposed: No. 29, in page 2, line 10, after 'one' insert 'half of a'.—[Mr. Lawrence.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 73, Noes 164.

Division No. 146] [10.16 am
AYES
Alton, David Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Ashby, David Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Ashdown, Paddy Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Ashton, Joe Hunter, Andrew
Beith, A. J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bellingham, Henry Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Kirkwood, Archy
Blackburn, John Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Lamond, James
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Lawrence, Ivan
Bruinvels, Peter Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Loyden, Edward
Campbell-Savours, Dale McGuire, Michael
Cash, William McKelvey, William
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Maclean, David John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) McTaggart, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Marlow, Antony
Crouch, David Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Dickens, Geoffrey Monro, Sir Hector
Dixon, Donald Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Duffy, A. E. P. Norris, Steven
Fairbaim, Nicholas Skinner, Dennis
Farr, Sir John Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Stanbrook, Ivor
Fookes, Miss Janet Steel, Rt Hon David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Stern, Michael
Forth, Eric Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Golding, John Terlezki, Stefan
Greenway, Harry Thornton, Malcolm
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Wigley, Dafydd
Grist, Ian Winterton, Mrs Ann
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Winterton, Nicholas
Hardy, Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Hargreaves, Kenneth
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Tellers for the Ayes:
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Mr. Bill Walker and
Haynes, Frank Mr. Keith Best.
Hayward, Robert
NOES
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Simon
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope, John
Ancram, Michael Couchman, James
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cranborne, Viscount
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Barron, Kevin Dalyell, Tam
Batiste, Spencer Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dobson, Frank
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dunn, Robert
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Eggar, Tim
Bright, Graham Eyre, Sir Reginald
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bryan, Sir Paul Fletcher, Alexander
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Forrester, John
Burt, Alistair Foulkes, George
Butler, Hon Adam Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fox, Marcus
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Freeman, Roger
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) George, Bruce
Clarke, Thomas Goodlad, Alastair
Cockeram, Eric Gow, Ian
Colvin, Michael Gower, Sir Raymond
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Gummer, John Selwyn
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Renton, Tim
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Rhodes James, Robert
Harris, David Richardson, Ms Jo
Hayes, J. Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hayhoe, Barney Rifkind, Malcolm
Henderson, Barry Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Robertson, George
Home Robertson, John Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Hordern, Peter Ryder, Richard
Hunt, David (Wirral) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Jackson, Robert Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Scott, Nicholas
Jessel, Toby Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Shersby, Michael
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Soley, Clive
Lamont, Norman Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lee, John (Pendle) Squire, Robin
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stanley, John
Lilley, Peter Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lyell, Nicholas Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
McCrindle, Robert Stradling Thomas, J.
Macfarlane, Neil Taylor, John (Solihull)
MacGregor, John Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thurnham, Peter
Major, John Tracey, Richard
Maude, Hon Francis Trippier, David
Maxton, John Viggers, Peter
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Waddington, David
Meadowcroft, Michael Wainwright, R.
Mellor, David Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Waldegrave, Hon William
Moore, John Walden, George
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Wallace, James
Moynihan, Hon C. Waller, Gary
Needham, Richard Walters, Dennis
Nelson, Anthony Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Neubert, Michael Watson, John
Newton, Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wheeler, John
Onslow, Cranley Whitney, Raymond
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Wilson, Gordon
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Wolfson, Mark
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Wood, Timothy
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Yeo, Tim
Penhaligon, David Young, Sir George (Acton)
Pollock, Alexander Younger, Rt Hon George
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Powley, John Tellers for the Noes:
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Mr. Ian Lang and
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Mr. Tony Durant.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Marlow

I beg to move, That a further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned. As you will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the debate has gone on long, hard and fast throughout the night. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been involved in the debate and would wish to be involved in the next subject. However, it is late, and it has beem a long night. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are now past their best.

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not argue the case.

Mr. Marlow

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I did not hear what you said.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member must not pursue an argument.

Mr. Marlow

I should not wish to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask you to consider, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned. We should now report progress so that we can come back fresh another day, and so that the Ministers can go about their proper business. As we know, many Ministers do not really support the Bill. They are required to do so by the exigencies of their position.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am not prepared to accept the motion. I call Mr. Lawrence.

10.30 am
Mr. Lawrence

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 39, at end insert— '(9) No statutory water undertaker shall accede to an application by a health authority pursuant to subsection (1) unless the said water undertaker is satisfied that it can continuously and effectively discharge its obligations under subsection (5) as to the concentration of fluoride in the water supplied without employing directly or indirectly, additional manpower.'. First, may I say that I resent the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). I am by no means past by best. I was just getting going in the last debate when I found it necessary to take a short break, and at that point the Division was called. That is life. My hon. Friend says that we are past our best. I remind him of the words of the poet Browning: Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made". I move the amendment in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who cannot be here. My speech will be even shorter than was my last brief contribution. I can also tell my hon. Friends and my supporters in this important and justified cause that I think it almost impossible that my hon. Friend will resist the amendment. We may therefore proceed much faster. I say that for two reasons. First, the amendment does no more than add to the Bill what my hon. Friend has left out through sheer inadvertence. That inadvertence is apparent on the face of the Bill. The explanatory and financial memorandum states: The Bill has no effect on public sector manpower. It is usual to enshrine in a Bill what is set out in the explanatory and financial memorandum. As those words appear on the front page of the Bill, it was clearly intended that they should be given effect in the Bill itself.

I give due allowance to my right hon. and learned Friend and to my hon. Friend. It may be that the omission was caused for the same reason as appears at the top of the front page of the Bill where we read: This Bill is being re-issued because Mr. Secretary Fowler's name was omitted as the Member presenting the Bill. A mistake was made in the preparation of the Bill. Mr. Secretary Fowler's name was left out of the list. Perhaps there was a typographical error or a slip in the office. Perhaps the ladies and gentlemen who advise the Minister were so preoccupied with the guts and heart of the Bill—the indescribable harm that might be caused to those who have to ingest fluoride that they do not want and which cannot possibly benefit them—that they omitted to be careful about the original drafting. No doubt that is why the name was omitted and no doubt that is why the financial provision, the effects of the Bill on public sector manpower, was left out.

Those words are intended to be included in the Bill to make up the deficiency—I bear no ill will and am only too pleased to help—that the overworked staff at the DHSS and the overworked person of the Minister missed when the Bill was produced. I can confidently say that this is the amendment that the Government would have wanted included. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor specifically said in the autumn statement that water authority borrowing was part of the public sector borrowing requirement. Since that is indisputable, this measure must find a place somewhere in the text of a public Bill.

I am of innocent mind and prefer to think that — I hope that the House will forgive me for using this expression—sod's law rather than any other type of law works. This means that certain deplorable incidents are not noticed. For example, in November 1979, in one incident in Annapolis, a waterworks employee accidentially caused a discharge of 1,000 excess gallons of fluoride into the drinking water, increasing the concentration of fluoride to 15 times its normal level. As a result, eight patients at a private kidney clinic suffered nausea, vomiting, weakness and burning sensations in the chest. After about an hour or so of treatment, they were all taken off the machines, but, in spite of the treatment, one patient died.

Doctors did not know the cause of the terrible affliction until the mistake at the waterworks was reported. The information was not officially released. As one official said, "We do not want to jeopardise the fluoridation programme." A report in 1979 in the Evening Capital, the Annapolis newspaper, showed that the state authorities had admitted the accidental— it was not deliberate—spillage of 1,000 gallons of fluoride into the city's drinking water. They said that the spillage might not have been detected had not illnesses been reported at the kidney clinics. Thank goodness there were suffering kidney patients in the area, or the position could have been worse. Doctor George Waldbott an American expert on fluoride poisons, was invited to Annapolis. He found tht a vast amount of harm resulted from the accident. he found that 90 per cent. of the 108 residents whom he interviewed had suffered fluoride poisoning to some degree.

One does not want to make too much of it. Such mistakes can happen at any time or in any place—it is one of the facts of life. If one starts playing about with a poison and someone makes a mistake, things go wrong.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The amendment deals with a narrow point about the employment of extra manpower. I am listening carefully. Frankly, I think that until now the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) has not spoken to the amendment.

Mr. Lawrence

I apologise. I am sorry that you had to pull me up, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was going to say that extra care is needed to supervise all these instrumentations, so that such accidents do not occur. That means an increase in manpower and the public sector borrowing requirement.

I suppose that the Minister was in a dilemma. I have no doubt that the matter was discussed in the Department and that the Department had to settle for an unnecessary and unfortunate compromise. Down the road at No. 11 was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think he is an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill, any more than half the Cabinet or half the Government are. We know that the Bill would never get on to the statute book if there were a genuine free vote. One can imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer telephoning the Minster for Health and saying, "Okay, Ken, you can have your Bill, but not a penny out of public expenditure because we are making cuts; we are not in the business of making increases." Then Ken was under pressure from all those well-meaning, do-gooding doctors, dentists and bureaucratics in his Civil Service and he did not know which way to turn.

I cannot be sure about it, but it may be that an uneasy compromise was arrived at—"We will not put in the Bill anything about public sector manpower expenditure. In fact, we will put in the explanatory memorandum on the front of the Bill that it has no effect on public sector manpower. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will look only at the outside, see that and not notice that within the Bill there is no such provision." That is why it is necessary to make the amendment.

It may be that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is not happy about the amendment. If he is not, we shall know that it was all a ruse. If he is happy with it and accepts it, we shall know that it was not a ruse but a genuine mistake which he will want to correct so that there will be no increase in public expenditure. That will all be to the good and we can go on to next business.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

I believe that my hon. and learned Friend is being unduly optimistic. In his characteristic way of wishing to help the Government and Ministers in the predicament in which they find themselves, he is understating the potential increase in public sector manpower. He referred to the Annapolis case. That would never have come to light had it taken place in a centre where kidney dialysis machines were not available. If, as a result of the fluoridation of the water supply, there is an increase in the number of kidney failures or other kidney complaints, that will lead to an even greater demand for kidney machines. The Government have been embarrassed quite enough in recent weeks about the failure of the National Health Service to provide facilities of that kind. I believe that the National Health Service manpower figures will also need to be increased. Has my hon. and learned Friend considered that?

Mr. Lawrence

I do not want to be taken down the path of considering ever-increasing public expenditure. Although I am known by many people as a Left-winger, my views on public expenditure and the financing of the economy are very much to the Right. I would be extremely sympathetic to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he wished to curb public expenditure on this unnecessary measure and very unsympathetic to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister if he wanted to spend more.

I shall draw attention to another case because the Minister will say, "We have heard about Annapolis before. That is the only example that the antis can produce, they have no other examples of breakdown." There are other examples. I should like to cite one which comes from the superintendent of Wilmington water system, Wilmington, Massachusetts. On 28 February 1962 he wrote to his fellow townsmen as follows: As Superintendent of Wilmington's water system, it has been my responsibility to add sodium fluoride to our water since 1955. Having had close contact with this toxic material and feeling a deep concern for the people of Wilmington, I am compelled to report to you on this situation before you vote next Saturday on whether or not to continue fluoridating our water supply. Since the installation of the fluoridator at the pumping station, there has been a series of breakdowns of that equipment due to corrosion of the metal parts. I have been asked how much longer it will be before the same thing happens to pipes, meters, hot water tanks and household plumbing, even though the concentration in the fluoridator is much stronger than in the system. It is my duty to report that I have already observed an increase in corrosion throughout the town since we started adding fluoride to our water. I must also notify the townspeople that it has been impossible to maintain the recommended one part per million. This is the concentration which we add to the water at the pumping station; but tests of fluoride in the lines have fluctuated from 0.4 to 1.4 parts per million, dangerously close to 1..5 parts per million which according to the US Public Health Service makes the water unsafe for drinking purposes. 10.45 am

Wilmington abandoned fluoridation by a substantial vote on 3 March 1962. That shows that such accidents can happen in the best organised systems, and they are always expensive. There must always be additional manpower. No doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will say that that was a long time ago and that we have better systems now, with more people employed to supervise those systems.

Mr. Marlow

I think that I am right in believing that my hon. and learned Friend was a member of the Committee on the Bill. Therefore, he will have been presented with the pristine version of the Bill. He will have noted that on the front page, under the heading "Financial effects", it states: The Bill involves no additional public expenditure. Under the heading, "Effects of the Bill on the public sector manpower", it states: The Bill has no effect on public sector manpower. I presume that that means no direct or indirect effect on public service manpower. We know that some water authorities are in the public sector and some are not. Is the Bill more likely to have an impact on the private sector than on the public sector? In Committee, did the Government introduce amendments which, when accepted by the Committee, would lead to a change in the commitment made by the Government on the front of the original Bill that there would be no implications for public sector manpower and finance? If that is not the case, does my hon. and learned Friend find fault with the original commitment of the Government, believing that it is something up with which they cannot keep?

Mr. Lawrence

All those questions could be answered more authoritatively by my hon. Friend the Minister, who I know has been paying close attention to them. I would only be taking the time of the House unnecessarily if I embarked on a fruitless path to deal with this matter.

Sir Dudley Smith

I followed closely what my hon. Friend said. From what he told the House, it is crystal clear that manpower must be increased because of the Bill's emphasis on fluoridation. It could be argued that we should double our supervision of fluoridation. It will be essential to have extra manpower in the public interest. My hon. and learned Friend told us about two incidents in America. In those circumstances, does he believe that it is impossible for the Government to accept his amendment or to state, as the front of the Bill does, that extra public expenditure will not be incurred?

Mr. Lawrence

I cannot give my hon. Friend any such assurances. I saw my hon. Friend the Minister listening closely to the question. Of course, cost is involved.

I do not wish to be accused simply of talking about Annapolis and Wilmington. There was a fairly thoroughgoing review in Seattle of the cost of fluoridating as a result of plumbing corrosion after the city's water supply was fluoridated. We must bear in mind the fact that fluorosal acylic acid is highly corrosive and toxic, as a byproduct of phosphate fertiliser manufacture, and there was a dramatic increase in Seattle in corrosion and plumbing failures. They had to be paid for, and of course they involved manpower expenditure. The problems were at first attributed by city officials to the effects of dissolved oxygen and augmented fluoridation. A study was set up by a firm called Kennedy engineers, and in 1970 it was conservatively estimated that, by 1976, plumbing and corrosion costs in Seattle would be more than $7 million a year, or about $30 per dwelling. That led to the conclusion that fluoride corroded pipes, and a report on the subject stated: Especially important for domestic plumbing are the total immersion or standing water tests, which indicate that fluoridation increases the rate of corrosion for copper and galvanised steel pipe by a greater margin than the addition of an equivalent concentration of chlorine to cold water"— which was river water nearby— and to a lesser extent than additional chlorination for Cedar water. In the overall summary and conclusions of the extensive studies on the effects of chlorination and fluoridation on internal corrosion, the report said: Chlorination and fluoridation both significantly increase the rate of corrosion for copper, galvanised steel and black steel piping. In their conclusions, Kennedy engineers pointed out that as well as the serious health hazards of those contaminants, there was the danger of toxic fluoride accumulation in the pipes, and the report stated: Obviously, if a substantial portion of the scale breaks loose"— referring to sediment in the pipes— and is accidentally ingested, it could be quite toxic. Moreover, such levels indicate that fluoride distribution in the water is far from uniform and even. The Kennedy report showed water fluoride concentrations ranging from 0.62 to 1.55 parts per million in the Cedar river distribution system.

A number of problems arise. For example, the report went on: The problem is when fluoride is released into a reservoir. The higher regions retain the fluoride and the lower regions do not"— perhaps it should have been the other way round— and further down the supply they get, there is more … or less … fluoride and it is not equally distributed. That is the well known problem of distribution. It must be supervised and that involves manpower.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

rose

Mr. Lawrence

That involves manpower, and as I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) wishes to intervene, I gladly give way to him because he knows more about the manpower considerations involved in these matters than any other hon. Member.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My hon. and learned Friend is saying that these issues are becoming more complex. The Minister may try to dismiss some of his argument by saying that the problems he has raised are 20 years old and that more modern equipment exists. It follows that because the equipment is more modern, it is more complex and requires even more highly skilled manpower to operate it. The cost of the salaries—because past a certain level such operatives have salaries rather than wages — will mean not only that costs will be substantially increased but that the technical knowledge needed will be that much greater.

Mr. Lawrence

Precisely, and my hon. Friend, having been a Minister at the Department of the Environment, knows much more about these matters than those of us who have not been privileged to serve in a spending Department—or indeed in any Department—or who may never serve in one in view of our opposition to the Bill.

Lest the Minister, when replying, says that I am providing scant information, it might help if I cite a few other examples. The Journal of the American Water Works Association for 1951 said: Sodium silicofluoride solutions have been found to destroy steel pipes very rapidly. The newsletter of the Plumbers of Australia in 1956, under the heading Fluorides in Industry Effects on Water Pipes", wrote: In a large steel tank, protectively painted, corrosion had taken place … removed the baked enamel … penetrated the steel … In a cement tank, the cement had deteriorated, causing the sand to sink to the bottom. The report added: Fluorides are doing a real cleaning job on the inside of the underground water mains of the town of North Andover's public water supply! Their corrosive action will soon require their replacement. Fluoridation is softening the heavy rust formation that has collected on the inside of the town's watermains over the years to a semi-soft consistency. As it frees itself it carries along with the water. The water brings this semi-soft sludge to our filters. If we are to stop that happening, there will have to be a little man at each end, as it were, with another man in the middle. Perhaps it will be necessary to have a large man supervising them. We know that the cost of supervision is considerable. I have said nothing, of course, about the cost of replacing the infrastructure, which is becoming rotten as a result of the corrosive effect of this highly toxic and corrosive chemical. These are financial considerations that we cannot afford to brush to one side. They cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored because they have been drawn to the attention and interest of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That has been stated clearly and it was unfortunate that when we read the Bill we could find no reference to them.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I must be careful, as my hon. and learned Friend is talking about little men. I hope that he will recall the danger of the strange commission outside the House that might take him to task. Presumably he means little persons.

Mr. Lawrence

Unless we have done something about people's pay, the cost of employing little women will be rather less than that of employing men. I hope that we have done what we no doubt undertook to do in the Conservative party manifesto, although that is not proof of anything. I hope that we have gone out of our way to ensure that women earn as much as men in the Department. That will mean that there will be no cost differentials. The cost of little people or big people, men or women, has to be reflected in the Bill in some way.

Mr. Fairbairn

My hon. and learned Friend has raised a number of questions in our minds. He has, for instance, described certain matter so engagingly as soft sludge. In a constituency such as mine, the distance that water travels from its source will sometimes be vast, so that the pieces of fluoren phthalamic acid, or anything associated with it, will gather in greater quantities the greater the distance that it travels, so the dosage will increase with the distance.

I have never come across a more extraordinary concept than the one which the Bill promotes. We are told that there will be no increase in manpower and no increase in expenditure. It is not my experience that those who have this filthy stuff—fluoride—are anxious to give it away free, to deliver it free, to put it in free, to measure it free or to feed it in free. I tabled an amendment, which was not selected by Mr. Speaker, which stated that no local authority or water authority—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing amendments which have not been selected. We are discussing a particular amendment and the hon. and learned Gentleman must relate his intervention to it. It has been a long intervention already and I hope that he will bring it to a conclusion.

Mr. Fairbairn

I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to assist my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). The Bill states, in effect, that an expensive compound is to be added to water and that the addition will not cost anything. How can that be so? If it is so, the Government have solved all our economic problems. They should apply the same idea to every other Bill and to every concept. I want my hon. and learned Friend to concentrate his mind on how it can be that non-existent people will put free fluoride in non-existent lorries which are driven by no one, at a strength which nobody tests, but which everyone knows is correct, with no salaries being paid so that none of us suffers. It is a marvellous concept. If it is right, we shall all be able to go to the Smoking Room and have free drinks served by nobody in a glass which does not exist.

11 am

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot have an intervention on an intervention.

Mr. Lawrence

I should welcome an intervention, because I am looking for a letter from the Minister on this important matter.

Mr. Stanbrook

I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for giving way. I thought that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) had completed his intervention and that I was therefore in order to put a fresh point to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). My hon. Friend the Member for Burton has considered the possibility of an accidental excessive fluoridation of public water supplies and dangers that might result from transporting the water. Subsection (5) is precise and provides for the fluoridation of water as a statutory obligation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This intervention is developing into a speech.

Mr. Stanbrook

My hon. and learned Friend has not dealt with the amount of fluoridation provided for in subsection (5) when talking about other reasons for excessive fluoridation. Different scientists and different analysts of water supplies reach different conclusions on the same samples, so it is possible for there to be variations which would be in breach of the statutory obligations.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friend has made an interesting intervention. I am not sure whether I can answer it. It is perhaps best left to my hon. Friend the Minister, who knows more about these details than I do.

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) about costs. Dr. M. Harris of the University of Aston in Birmingham has said: when artificial fluoridation is commenced, lime water will also have to be added, especially to soft waters to stop iron leaking out of pipes". Lime water must be bought and its introduction to the system must be supervised. If hon. Members think that absurd, they should consider the fact that, in November 1974, the Seattle water department proposed adding between 200 tonnes and 500 tonnes of lime to cure the rising tide of corrosion complaints. The decision had to be revoked because no one knew what effect lime would have on people. That is a typical result of this unpleasant business.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for enabling me to find a letter, which I should now like to mention, in the wealth of literature in my file. The letter was written to me by my hon. Friend the Minister on 19 February 1985 concering the sources of hexafluorsilicic acid and disodium hexafluorosilicate. He assured me that they were manufactured from natural mineral sources, that both were produced for the phosphate fertiliser manufacturing industry, that hexafluorsilicic acid was manufactured in Britain and that disodium hexafluorosilicate was imported from the United States. At what cost is this stuff imported in ships from the United States? I do not have the costings of various ship sizes with me, but no doubt before this matter is exhausted I can get hold of them. However, it is clear that this service is not free. Nobody runs around saying, "Please can we give you our ships and our fuel and our"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am finding it a little difficult to relate the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks to additional manpower.

Mr. Lawrence

That reminds me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall have to be elsewhere in a moment, so I shall try to be brief. The point is that to staff the boat coming from wherever in the United States this stuff is loaded on to it, and to pay for the people who have to process the stuff and load it on to trucks, escort the stuff to the ports, where it has to be loaded on to the ships and ferry it across the north Atlantic, no doubt with a crew of some sort—this is not done automatically—where at this end it has to be unloaded and put in trucks, cannot cost nothing. There will be a cost in manpower and in much else.

Mr. Fairbairn

rose

Mr. Lawrence

I give way to my hon. and learned Friend, but he will have noticed that I am under pressure.

Mr. Fairbairn

I did notice that my hon. and learned Friend was under pressure. The phrase that he read out from the Minister's letter was as absurd as anything. It said that these organic salts come from pure organic sources. How the Devil can one get an organic salt if one does not get it that way?

Mr. Lawrence

I do not know the answer to that. I stay strictly within the terms of the amendment. I moved it because it is clear that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary's intention, or certainly that of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is that there should be no public expenditure, and therefore that must appear in the Bill. If it does not, there is a possibility that there will be public expenditure, the explanatory memorandum will be misleading, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will have been misled. There will have to be a paraphernalia to poison the water supply. Once the water authorities get their manpower directed to the repair of water works and the protection of the citizens who have to drink the stuff, it is clear that there will have to be considerable expenditure. I hope that my hon. Fri