HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc987-8
Q5. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister how many ministerial broadcasts he has made this year.

The Prime Minister

Two, Sir.

Mr. Ashley

Without commenting on the legal problem of thalidomide children, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a broadcast calling on the Distillers Company to face up to its moral responsibilities, thereby endorsing the view expressed on both sides of the House? Will he announce in that broadcast that he has asked the Secretary of State for Social Services to convene and chair a conference between the company and the children's parents so that they can seek to expedite a solution, because the Government, having distributed the thalidomide, have their share of responsibility for this tragedy?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the last part of the hon. Gentleman's statement. In the circumstances of the legal proceedings which he has described, I do not think that it would be right for me to broadcast or to make a public statement. But the hon. Gentleman has his Early-Day Motion on the Order Paper, and the Government will consider the question in the light of that Motion and Mr. Speaker's Ruling.

Mr. McCrindle

I do not suggest that my right hon. Friend should emulate his predecessor in the frequency of his television appearances, but would he accept that many of us on this side of the House and many people throughout the country would welcome more frequent appearances than has been his recent practice?

The Prime Minister

It is very gratifying that, in two days, both sides of the House should be in agreement on at least this one issue.

Mr. Bidwell

If the Prime Minister decides to make another broadcast, will he explain to the old-age pensioners, in particular, why the Government's policy on negative income tax, which is supposed to do them a good turn, must wait for five years, because many of them will be dead long before that?

The Prime Minister

The Green Paper itself has to be discussed, but I think that the whole House recognises the immense administrative problems of changing over the whole of our tax and social services payment system in the way proposed. We have always been prepared to look at the timing of this, but I do not think anybody would underestimate what is involved in it. From the point of view of old-age pensioners, we have accepted what no Government have accepted before, that is, an annual review. What is more, since we have been in office we have increased their pensions by approximately 33 per cent., a very considerable increase.