Briston man 'lukewarm' over thalidomide apology

Ed FossA Norfolk thalidomide victim said last night he was 'lukewarm' about a long awaited government apology to him and his fellow sufferers - because it had come far too late.Ed Foss

A Norfolk thalidomide victim said last nighthe was 'lukewarm' about a long awaited government apology to him and his fellow sufferers - because it had come far too late.

There was a mixed reaction to health minister Mike O'Brien's apology, the first since the thalidomide scandal of 50 years ago.

Although keen to welcome the apology on behalf of those who had campaigned for it for so many years, for Peter Longstaff from Briston, near Holt, too many decades have passed for it to be relevant.

'The damage was done near enough 50 years ago,' said Mr Longstaff, who will be 49 years old in April.


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'So we have the apology now, but what is it supposed to do?

'I don't want to take anything away from the people who fought for it, but it's something which should have been done a lot of years ago if it was going to be done at all.

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'So yes, I suppose I am lukewarm about it.'

Mr O'Brien made the formal apology in an oral statement to MPs, while also confirming a �20m support package, announced last month, which will be administered through the Thalidomide Trust to help meet the continuing needs of survivors.

'I know that a lot of thalidomiders have waited a long time for this,' said Mr O'Brien.

'The Government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961.'

Pregnant women were prescribed the drug in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness or insomnia.

It was withdrawn from sale in 1961 after babies were born with limb deformities and other damage.

The drug's UK manufacturer, Distillers Biochemicals, paid around �28 million compensation in the 1970s following a legal battle by the families of those affected.

Mr O'Brien said 466 people were currently beneficiaries of the Thalidomide Trust which distributes aid to sufferers.

Thalidomide campaigner Guy Tweedy, 47, from Harrogate, described the apology as 'absolutely wonderful'.

'I'm highly delighted and so glad that it actually came, 50 years too late but never mind.'

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