Stop delaying compensation for infected blood victims’ families, ministers urged
The Government must stop delaying and give interim compensation to survivors of the infected blood scandal and their families as soon as possible, ministers have been told.
MPs across the Commons urged the Government to put in place a compensation scheme as soon as possible to support the families and survivors of the scandal.
Ministers have previously insisted they will wait for Infected Blood Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff’s final report before setting up such a scheme.
The former High Court judge recommended in his second interim report that reparations should be extended to bereaved parents and children, and insisted the Government did not need to wait for his concluding remarks to make the move.
In the Commons Dame Diana Johnson (pictured), the Labour chair of the Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood All-Party Parliamentary Group, suggested there was no “political will” to roll out the compensation.
The Labour former minister went on: “Sir Brian Langstaff is very clear in his report. He says the scheme need not await the final report to begin work. It will clearly take political will to act quickly but the circumstances here warrant it.
“Can the minister explain to me and the thousands of people who will be watching this statement this afternoon, what exactly is the problem? Why isn’t there the political will from this Government to deliver justice to this group of people?”
In his response, Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin did not rule out paying out reparations ahead of the full report’s publication.
He said: “The nature of the report, the recommendations that Sir Brian makes, they are unprecedented for an unprecedented circumstance. But that does require detailed work and detailed analysis.
“We will bring forward a response as soon as we can. So we are focused on the inquiry’s conclusion. That doesn’t preclude coming forward before that if we are able to do so and if we decide that that is the right course of action.”
Mr Quin added that the Government is “considering intensely” all Sir Brian’s recommendations, and acknowledged many people would be disappointed that a “final resolution” has not been reached in the Infected Blood Inquiry.
He said: “I’m very conscious of the fact that there will be tens of thousands of people watching this statement today who are desperate to see a resolution of this.
“Every time there is another iteration, every time there is a cause for me to be in this place, it is a source of anxiety, and of concern, and of worry, and of, I’m afraid, I’m sure disappointment, every time there is another statement and we don’t have the final resolution.
“What I would say is, we have travelled a long way.”
Sir Peter Bottomley, co-chair of the APPG, called on the minister to come back to the Commons before the summer to say which of Sir Brian’s recommendations it would accept.
He also said the Government should set up a register for people who think they are eligible for compensation in order to update them directly.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson also urged the Government to move faster.
She told the Commons: “Justice delayed, continuing to be delayed, is justice denied. While we await the conclusion of the report and inquiry, those who were given contaminated blood products are dying at a rate of one every four days.”
SNP MP for Glasgow South West Chris Stephens said many bereaved parents and children of the victims had to give up their working careers.
Mr Stephens told the Commons: “Does the minister accept that the uncertainty of when the Government will fully respond to this report risks damaging people’s mental health?”
He went on: “Does he also accept the principle of making interim payments to bereaved parents and children, many of whom gave up their working careers, many of whom did not reach their educational and academic potential because of the years they were caring for the loved ones?”
Thousands of people are estimated to have been infected with HIV and hepatitis by contaminated blood between 1970 and 1991.
In July last year, the inquiry into the scandal recommended that victims should receive initial compensation payments of £100,000.
But in his most recent interim report, inquiry chairman Sir Brian said that some family members remain “unrecognised” when it comes to compensation.
Sir Brian said that he was taking the unusual step of publishing the recommendation ahead of the publication of the full report into the scandal so that victims would not face any more delays.
Des Collins, a senior partner at Collins Solicitors, said in a statement: “The Government’s assertion that it is moving ‘at pace’ to bring justice, rings hollow – it’s a snail’s pace and wholly unacceptable.
“Consoling words (though still no fulsome apology) do not cover the losses suffered by our clients – immediate compensation payments to those still awaiting recognition, would at least bring some financial relief.”
Clive Smith, chairman of the Haemophilia Society, also said: “By refusing to give a direct response to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s recommendations on compensation, this Government shows a callous disregard for the inquiry process and further compounds the suffering of those who have waited decades for politicians to take responsibility for what went wrong.”
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