Government breaks pledge on compensation plans
Written by Jessica Bomford, November 25, 2022
The government will not reveal its plans for full compensation for those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal, despite promising to do so, a minister has told MPs.
Junior Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart told a parliamentary debate on the Infected Blood Inquiry and compensation framework yesterday that the government would wait until the final report of the inquiry before setting out its plans.
This leaves those infected and affected by the scandal in the dark about what full compensation is likely to be paid and how it will be administered. Although interim compensation of £100,000 was paid to all those registered with a UK support scheme in October, many have been left out, including bereaved parents and children. They were hoping for some clarity on their situation from the government yesterday.
Dame Diana Johnson MP told Mr Burghart she was ‘speechless’ that the Cabinet Office had broken its promise to publish its response to Sir Robert Francis KC’s crucial report which set out a potential framework for compensation. She warned him that the issue would be ‘relentlessly pursued’.
The Cabinet Office commissioned Sir Robert to prepare a framework for compensation in 2021 and, in April 2022, the then Paymaster General Michael Ellis MP said the government’s response to the study would be published at the same time as the report. But when Sir Robert’s report was finally published in June 2022 there was no government response. Yesterday’s debate was the first time a government minister had been publicly pressed on the issue.
Dame Diana called on the government to adopt Sir Robert’s recommendations in full, prepare a compensation framework and to pay fair compensation to those infected and affected. She told the debate in Westminster Hall: ‘Too many lives have been lost, too much suffering has been caused.’
It is shocking and unacceptable that government has broken its own promise to the infected blood community to publish a response to its own compensation study. The infected and affected have been repeatedly let down for decades.Clive Smith, Chair of the Haemophilia Society
But Mr Burghart, who has only been in post for a few weeks, replied that the government ‘fully expected’ Sir Robert’s wider recommendations to be ‘fed into’ the inquiry’s final report. He said: ‘Until that time, the government will continue to work in consideration of the broader recommendations of the compensation framework study so that we are ready to respond promptly when the inquiry concludes its work, as was our intention when we commissioned the study.’
Clive Smith, Chair of the Haemophilia Society, who was at the debate, said: ‘It is shocking and unacceptable that government has broken its own promise to the infected blood community to publish a response to its own compensation study. The infected and affected have been repeatedly let down for decades.
‘The inept and insensitive government response to such an impassioned debate is another example of why this community long ago lost trust in the empty promises of ministers. Those who have been excluded from the interim compensation process, including bereaved parents and children, need to know that the government will ensure their loss is recognised in a final compensation settlement. We urge the government to honour its pledge and publish its plans to implement full and fair compensation for all.’
A number of MPs spoke at the 90-minute debate yesterday, many of them describing the personal stories of their constituents. Chris Stephens MP pressed Mr Burghart on why the government was not setting up an arms-length body to administer compensation, as recommended by Sir Robert. Jessica Morden MP paid tribute to the ‘fortitude, dignity and bravery’ of her constituents Colin and Janet Smith, whose young son Colin was infected with HIV and died aged seven. She drew attention to the fact that they, like all bereaved parents, were excluded from the interim compensation scheme.
Ian Lavery MP told the minister: ‘This is not just a scandal and a tragedy but the biggest cover-up in the history of the NHS, and it is yet to be recognised by the government.’
You can watch the debate here.