Thalidomide pressure grows: A third victim has joined a hunger strike in a campaign for better compensation and a public inquiry. Nicholas Timmins reports
Thursday 03 March 1994
Freddie Astbury, 34, the oldest thalidomide victim and the Thalidomide Action Group's founder, yesterday sent a letter to Downing Street demanding a public inquiry into how the tragedy was allowed to happen, the abolition of tax on payments made by the Thalidomide Trust, and new guidelines on the drug's use.
As the Department of Health said Baroness Cumberledge, the junior health minister, would now meet the group next Wednesday, Mr Astbury said he would today join Kim Morton, 31, from Belfast, and Heather Bird, 32, from Motherwell, who are already on hunger strike.
Mr Astbury said compensation paid to the thalidomide victims was inadequate. Most of the 459 survivors were paid lump sums ranging from pounds 20,000 to pounds 30,000 (the equivalent of about pounds 120,000 to pounds 200,000 today) in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Distillers, the company that marketed the drug, prescribed to pregnant women for morning sickness.
In addition, pounds 28m was put by Distillers and the Government into the Thalidomide Trust, which has so far paid out about pounds 65m and has pounds 65m in trust, according to Neil Buckland, its director. The trust allocates sums that average about pounds 10,000 a year but range from pounds 1,000 to pounds 24,000, depending on the degree of disability. Capital payments are tax- free but income payments are taxed at 35 per cent at source with individuals able to reclaim the tax when they pay tax at rates below that.
Mr Astbury said that for many thalidomide victims, the lump sums had gone in buying houses or having them adapted. They were now dependent on state benefits and the discretionary payments from the trust. 'These are compensation and you should not be taxed on compensation.'
The group had decided on hunger strikes after John Major and Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, had failed to deal with their concerns in five or six letters over the past six months.
- 1 Kylie Jenner challenge: Bizarre lip suction device inspired by Kardashian sister goes viral
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 5 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
Electronic waste worth £34bn piling up in 'toxic mine', warns UN report
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...
£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...