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Legal case

Fluoridation of water supplies — an update

The government plans to transfer responsibility for water fluoridation to the Secretary of State to 'remove the burden from local authorities.'

We have reported previously on the provisions within the Health and Care Bill, as it then was, on changes to the rules governing the introduction or variation of schemes for fluoridation of water supplies. On 28 April 2022 the Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Health and Care Act 2022 and putting the new provisions on fluoridation onto a statutory footing.

The new provisions, which amend sections 87 to 91 of the Water Industry Act 1991, allow the Secretary of State, instead of local authorities, to establish new water fluoridation schemes, or to vary or terminate existing water fluoridation schemes in England.

There will be a legal duty on the Secretary of State to undertake a formal public consultation before introducing any new fluoridation schemes or before varying or terminating an existing scheme.

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a consultation, seeking views on the process of consultation which will need to be followed ahead of any introduction, variation or termination of fluoridation arrangements, and which will be set out in secondary legislation.

Under current legislation local authorities have had responsibility for consulting on fluoridation proposals. These have always been held at local level with individuals who would be directly affected by any fluoridation proposals and bodies with an interest.

The Department’s consultation paper proposes that the views of individuals affected and bodies with an interest should be taken into account, but that the views of individuals not directly affected and bodies without an interest would not be considered.

The Department states that public consultation will continue to be an important part of any future water fluoridation proposals.

The deadline to submit responses to the consultation was 3 June 2022.

For further information on the Health Care Bill, the consultation or to find out how we can assist you, contact our specialist water sector lawyers.