The Prime Minister's disclosure that he would 'seek advice' from Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, comes in the wake of Mrs Bottomley's refusal to mount a national inquiry.
Peter Mandelson, Labour MP for Hartlepool, one of the areas where the defects have been identified, said during yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions: 'There is deep anxiety among parents and local communities in coastal areas as far apart as Scotland, the North-east, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall about the clusters of babies born with almost identical limb defects, in most cases without hands.
'The best way of getting to the truth of this disturbing development is to set up a properly resourced national investigation.'
Mr Major replied: 'I will certainly seek advice from Mrs Bottomley . . . Whether your proposition as to how it should be dealt with is the right one needs further consideration.'
Some doctors suspect marine pollutants may be responsible for the deformities and others that viral infection could be the cause. But the number of cases so far reported is small enough for the defects to have arisen by chance.