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Teratological Research

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, in view of the public cost attributable to 2 per cent. of all children being born severely deformed, he will take additional measures to combat the effects of the two commonest teratogens, alcohol and nicotine; and if he will make up to £1 million available for commissioning teratological research.

I am advised that there is no evidence of the magnitude of risk which the hon. Member suggests. It is not established that alcohol or nicotine is the agent responsible for the most prevalent congenital abnormalities, that nicotine is a teratogen at the levels obtained through smoking, or that moderate use of alcohol during pregnancy is harmful to the foetus. The Department supports the Health Education Council's "Mother and Baby" campaign which advises mothers-to-be not to smoke and to keep their drinking to a minimum.The main Government-funded body supporting research in teratology is the Medical Research Council from its grant-in-aid under the science budget of the Department of Education and Science. The council, in the management of its programme, takes into consideration the views of the Health Departments. These have identified teratology as a priority and the council is already supporting studies in this field.

Scale rates as a percentage of average net male earnings*
November 1980November 1981†
Single Person22·628·822·729·0
Married Couple35·144·035·444·4
Couple with child aged 5–1140·549·140·849·4
Couple with 2 children, one aged 5–11, the other under 5†46·854·947·155·3
Couple with 4 children, two aged 5–11, the others under 5‡55·462·958·065·8


* Net average male earnings are derived from the gross earnings from the April New Earnings Survey estimates, using a three-month moving average of the whole economy index, less tax and NI contributions at the appropriate contracted-out rate, and adding child benefit in appropriate cases.

†November 1981 figures are provisional.

‡The figures include the age related heating addition for a child under 5.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what each of the supplementary benefit scale rates would now be if housing costs had been excluded from the retail price index for uprating purposes since 1966; and how this compares with the actual scale rates.

I regret that I cannot attempt an estimate, as in several years since 1966 factors other than the retail price index have affected the level of the uprating.