Government accused of ‘playing for time’ on compensation

Written by Jessica Bomford, December 18, 2023

The government was criticised for failing to make progress on a compensation scheme for people infected and affected by contaminated blood products when MPs were updated on the issue on 18 December.

John Glen, the minister with responsibility for the Infected Blood Inquiry, gave a statement to MPs at the same time as the House of Lords was discussing the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would force the government to set up a compensation scheme within three months of the law being passed.

Mr Glen told MPs:

  • Legal and clinical experts were approached last week to help the government make ‘informed choices’ on compensation
  • They will begin work early in the New Year
  • A bespoke psychological support service in England will go live in early summer 2024. This service already exists in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
  • His ‘expectation’ is that this issue will be ‘resolved’ before Parliament is dissolved for the next general election
  • There are a number of ‘technical issues’ to be considered that would have a ‘significant impact’ on public finances
  • Government will respond to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report in March 2024 within 25 ‘sitting’ days of Parliament.

Mr Glen faced criticism from MPs on all sides for the lack of new information on a compensation scheme. The Infected Blood Inquiry published recommendations on compensation in April 2023 and urged action to be taken this year, but the government has not responded in any detail. Dame Diana Johnson MP said Mr Glen’s statement would fuel suspicion that the government was ‘still playing for time’ even though it had accepted the moral case for compensation. She said his statement would cause ‘huge anguish’.

The minister told MPs that this issue was his ‘highest priority’, he added: ‘The victims of the infected blood scandal deserve justice and recognition. It is our duty not only to honour those still living and campaigning but also those who have passed without recognition.’

In the House of Lords, Baroness Meacher, President of the Haemophilia Society, pictured, said a compensation scheme should have been set up a long time ago. She said ‘gaps in the compensation plan’ would need to be filled to ensure bereaved parents and children were recognised and said the numbers of those eligible for compensation should be clarified to ensure all those entitled to compensation received it. Lord Wigley of Plaid Cymru asked if the UK government would pay the compensation bill for victims in Wales.

Amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill will be considered at its committee stage, which starts on 24 January 2024.