Compensation response ‘not good enough’

Written by Jessica Bomford, June 22, 2023

The government ‘has not made a final decision’ on compensation but wants a ‘fair and equitable’ conclusion, a minister told disappointed MPs today.

MPs queued up to tell the Paymaster General, Jeremy Quin, about the devastating impact the contaminated blood scandal has had on their constituents’ lives and their urgent need for full compensation during a debate in the House of Commons.

But Mr Quin responded that the government was still grappling with issues such as whether to pay compensation through existing schemes or an arms-length body and uncertainty over how many people might apply for compensation.

It’s not good enough. Action is needed now. It seems to me that what is lacking is real political leadership to get this done.

Dame Diana Johnson MP

Initiated by Dame Diana Johnson MP and Sir Peter Bottomley MP, co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, the debate called on the government to announce what steps it is taking implement the recommendations of the second interim report of the Infected Blood Inquiry published on 5 April 2023.

Mr Quin said the ‘form and extent’ of the compensation scheme came down to ‘decisions of government’. He said that the government’s response was likely to be made public when Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, publishes his final report in the autumn. However, he said it could also be published earlier.

The key points made by Mr Quin were:

  • Sir Brian’s recommendation of an arms-length body to set and administer compensation which is answerable directly to parliament would be a ‘significant step’ and might require new legislation
  • He has set up a small ministerial group of ‘all interested departments’ including the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care
  • The ‘wide estimated range’ of the number of people who might apply for compensation was proving complicated
  • Victims are at the forefront of his mind ‘on a daily basis’
  • Government has agreed there is a moral case for compensation
  • Any scheme should avoid ‘unnecessary stress and duplication’ for applicants
  • Differences between Sir Robert Francis’ compensation report and Sir Brian’s were causing some complications, specifically whether to use existing schemes to administer compensation, as Sir Robert proposed, or adopt a centralised single delivery system, as Sir Brian recommended
  • Meetings are taking place with counterparts in Wales and Scotland as well as Northern Irish officials because health is a devolved issue.

Responding to Mr Quin, Dame Diana said: ‘It’s not good enough. Action is needed now. It seems to me that what is lacking is real political leadership to get this done.’

Kate Burt, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, commented after the debate: ‘MPs reflected the huge emotional, financial and physical toll that this delay is causing to their constituents who have already been so badly damaged by the contaminated blood scandal. The government’s deeply disappointing refusal to provide any details about what a future compensation scheme will look like means their appalling suffering continues. We urge the government to honour the Infected Blood Inquiry’s work and put in place a compensation scheme now.’

The Infected Blood Inquiry may call ministers and civil servants to give evidence if it appears that progress towards a compensation scheme this year has stalled. Mr Quin was asked if he had received requests from the inquiry for more information, but did not provide an answer.

The Haemophilia Society will be writing to the Prime Minister to demand his government accepts the recommendations of the inquiry. We believe that the complexities referred to by Mr Quin can be swiftly overcome, and will ask the government to update MPs and those infected and affected on its progress before summer recess. This update should include a detailed timeline for implementation of the recommendations and the creation of the arms-length body to run the compensation scheme.

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