Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, speaking in the House of Commons in response to the Government’s Commons statement on the grant to help thalidomide survivors, said:
"Thalidomide survivors waited far too long for governments over many years to address the appalling physical and emotional difficulties they faced as a result of Thalidomide prescribed by the NHS from 1958 to 1961.
"The last Labour government took the first steps towards addressing this unacceptable situation. In January 2010, the then Minister of State for Health rightly offered our sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those whose expectant mothers took the thalidomide drug. I want to repeat that sincere regret and sympathy today.
"As importantly, the previous government acknowledged the urgent need for extra help for thalidomide survivors to meet their care and support needs by putting in place a three year pilot scheme. This pilot has helped thalidomide survivors improve the quality of their lives and their ability to cope with the increasing loss of mobility and independence as they get older – helping them to buy and put in place the things that they say make the most difference to their lives.
"I welcome the Minister's announcement that the Department of Health will continue this scheme for 10 more years with a grant in the region of £80m. This will mean a huge amount to the 431 Thalidomide survivors still living in the UK today.
"As the Thalidomide Trust says, this will allow one survivor with no arms to buy the special adaptations she has been unable to afford, and a man with no legs to make a down payment on a van adapted so he can drive it from his wheelchair. And it will allow a deaf Thalidomide survivor to continue to employ someone to be her ‘signer’ when she goes out, so she can retain her confidence and her ability to remain active and mobile.
"I have a number of questions I hope the Minister will be able to answer about the scheme. He will be aware that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland made proportionate contributions to the fund set up by the last government. Will the devolved administrations make similar contributions to the fund he has announced today?
"The Minister says the grant will be reviewed annually. There may be some concern that this isn’t as stable as some survivors would like. Will he guarantee that the views, needs and concerns of survivors are absolutely at the heart of these reviews? Will he explain why he thinks they need an annual review?
"Will the reviews specifically look at the increasing needs of thalidomide survivors as they get older? And because of these increasing needs – will the Minister today commit to ensuring there will certainly be no less funding in the years ahead?
"I want to finish by thanking and paying tribute to the work of the Thalidomide Trust, its National Advisory Council and to all those campaigners who have fought for successive governments to face up to their responsibilities."