HC Deb 19 October 1972 vol 843 cc463-4
Mr. Ashley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I sought to table an Early Day Motion on thalidomide children. You refused to allow that Motion, which was tabled in my name and in the names of Members of all major parties. While I respect your ruling, I respectfully ask you to reconsider it.

I am unable to detail the Motion to the House but I can say that it criticised the settlement proposed by the Distillers (Biochemical) Company to the children, and it also called for moral justice to be done. Already the Sunday Times has publicly condemned that proposed settelement in extremely strong language. It described it as being grotesquely out of proportion to the injuries suffered by the children.

The Attorney-General has written to the Editor of the Sunday Times to say that no action will be taken by the Attorney-General which indicates that the statement in the Sunday Times does not constitute a contempt of court.

Firstly, I submit that if the Sunday Times can make a statement of that kind, Members of the House should be able to make a statement which is at least less strong than that made by the Sunday Times, because we, too, think the proposed settlement inadequate. The, language used by the Sunday Times was stronger than that in my Motion, and I believe that if the elected Members of this Assembly are denied the right of expressing their views about something which has already been commented on in the Press, it will be a parody of democracy.

Second, in so far as the Motion sought moral justice for these children it was not asking for legal justice. Moral justice is not a question of law and, therefore, cannot be subjudice. I therefore submit that you should reconsider your decision, moral justice being a subjective concept beyond the jurisdiction of the most knowledgeable lawyer.

In conclusion, in view of the Resolution approved by the House on 28th June that reference may be made in Motions to matters awaiting adjudication in all civil courts, in so far as they relate to the essentials of life, I submit that for children without arms, some without legs, some without both, some with other appalling deformities, adequate compensation is an essential of life.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that with your discretion, you will see fit to reconsider your decision and allow the House to condemn the contemptible offer by Distillers (Biochemical) Company.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member was good enough to tell me that he intended to raise this matter. It was a decision of the Table with regard to his Motion.

I am conscious of the importance the hon. Gentleman attaches to it and of the issues involved. I will consider the hon. Gentleman's submission and rule upon it tomorrow.