One of the things I enjoy most about being a Member of Parliament is getting involved in many diverse campaigns.
From lobbying to improve our rail services and fighting for better broadband, to caring for our elderly, as an MP I have a platform where I can make a difference.
One such campaign I’ve got involved with is the campaign for justice for victims of thalidomide. Thalidomide was used in the 1950s and 1960s to treat nausea in pregnant women, before it became apparent that it caused significant birth defects in their children.
A Wealden resident, Mikey Argy from Forest Row, has been campaigning on this issue for forty years. By working with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Thalidomide, of which I have been re-elected as the vice chairman, I am proud to work alongside Mikey in her inspiring campaign for justice.
Following the thalidomide tragedy, international regulatory agencies introduced more stringent testing protocols for testing the toxicity of drugs, but the company originally responsible, Grünenthal, only apologised for its role in 2012. For a company responsible for such a failure in good practice to take so long to show any remorse is damning – indeed, a report from the University of Münster in Germany condemned Grünenthal for organising a deliberate campaign of misinformation, when the possible side effects became apparent.
That is why the work Mikey does is so important. I was delighted when she was given an MBE in recognition of her work. Seeking reparations from the German Government for shielding Grünenthal will never undo the tragic consequences of the unrestrained use of thalidomide, but it will go some way to achieving justice.
The Government has been supportive of victims of thalidomide, through a grant in the region of £80 million to the Thalidomide Trust, a charity which provides relief and assistance to people who have suffered as a result.
Earlier this month, the APPG on Thalidomide reformed following the General Election. Over the coming months and years, I am looking forward to working with the APPG and the Government, continuing to support the victims in their hard-fought and dedicated campaign for justice.