Thalidomide Children

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South 12:00 am, 14th December 1972

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, The new offer by the Distillers Company to the thalidomide children. The House is deeply conscious of the heavy burden which you carry, Mr. Speaker, and appreciates that your acceptance or rejection of this application will in no way reflect your view of the merits of the application.

I make my submission because Distillers Company is attempting a gigantic confidence trick on unsuspecting parents. Today's headlines in the Press proclaim: Distillers' offer £11 million to thalidomide victims. and Distillers make thalidomide offer of £11 million. and Distillers say 'We'll double it.' I am not blaming the Press, because it appears at first sight that Distillers has increased its last offer of £5 million to £11 million, but it has done nothing of the sort. The new offer will not cost Distillers one penny more than its previous offer of £5 million.

We must debate the offer now to show that Distillers is still acting as Scrooge but now in the guise of Santa Claus. The matter is urgent because harassed and distressed parents, living in poverty, are under great pressure to accept the new offer. They want a speedy settlement, as does the House, but there should not be such a settlement at the expense of justice. The matter is important because the Government are being asked by Distillers to pass legislation which will enable it to fob off its responsibilities on to the taxpayer.

I welcome the new structure of the fund. But I have always claimed that the Government have a role to play. The time has now arrived for the Government to give a lead with a new initiative to meet all the interested parties. But we must first debate the matter to ensure that the company faces up to its moral responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, The new offer by the Distillers Company to the thalidomide children. With his usual courtesy, the hon. Gentleman told me of his intention, and I have therefore had an opportunity to consider his application. He has also stated that my decision on this would not reflect my views on the merits of the case, but I have to decide on purely procedural grounds whether this is the proper way to pursue the matter and whether I should give it preference over other business. I regret that I cannot grant the hon. Gentleman's application.