Government sets out plans for compensation scheme

Written by Jessica Bomford, April 18, 2024

The government has announced it is ‘absolutely committed’ to paying compensation to people infected and affected by contaminated blood products as it unveils its plans for a compensation scheme.

Three documents were published yesterday which give us more information about the compensation process:

  • A letter to campaign groups from Paymaster General John Glen MP announcing the government’s commitment to paying compensation and plans for a further interim compensation payment of £100,000 to bereaved families who have not already received a payment
  • The government’s amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which set out its own plans for an independent compensation body and compensation scheme
  • The Terms of Reference of the government’s expert group on compensation chaired by Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery.

‘Clear timetable needed’

Kate Burt, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: ‘The government’s firm commitment to pay compensation is a significant step forward. We also welcome its pledge to pay interim compensation to bereaved families who have so far not received any recognition of their loss and suffering.

‘It is already more than a year since the government was asked by the Infected Blood Inquiry to take urgent action to get a compensation scheme up and running. In that year a further 100 have died. Valuable time has been wasted.

‘We now need a clear timetable for the delivery of compensation payments and far greater transparency about decision-making within government and its advisory panels to build trust in this process. It is essential that the government works with people infected and affected by this scandal to ensure a workable and fair scheme is delivered.’

Summary of government’s compensation plans

There is a lot of detail in the government’s amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill and we are currently working through what this means. In December 2023, MPs from all parties backed an amendment by Dame Diana Johnson that would force the government to establish a compensation body within three months of the bill becoming law.

The government’s amendments would replace Dame Diana’s clause. In addition to this, the government has the Infected Blood Inquiry’s Second Interim Report on compensation to refer to, which was published in April 2023, and its own report on a compensation framework by Sir Robert Francis, which was published in June 2022. The government has not officially responded to either report.

According to the amendments published on 17 April, the government is proposing to set up an Infected Blood Compensation Authority (IBCA) which would administer a compensation scheme. Although this body is referred to as ‘arms-length’ from government, there is no reference to it being chaired by a High Court judge, as recommended by Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, and as originally mentioned in Dame Diana’s amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The government’s amendments to the bill will be discussed in the House of Lords on either 23 April or 30 April.

The key points in the government’s plans for a compensation authority and scheme are:

  • IBCA will become a legal body the day the Victims and Prisoners Bill becomes law
  • IBCA’s chair and three other members will be appointed by the Justice Secretary or the minister for the Cabinet Office
  • IBCA would report to government, who would then report to Parliament. Sir Brian recommended that the arms-length body should report directly to Parliament
  • A £100,000 interim compensation payment to the estates of people previously registered with a UK support scheme whose family have not already received an interim compensation payment
  • One payment will be made to the estate of each deceased person. The money will go to the person responsible for administering the deceased person’s estate. For children who were under 18 when they died, the payment would go to their parents.

The government’s plans don’t include:

  • Any reference to a timetable for when IBCA will be up and running
  • Any information on who would be eligible for full compensation
  • Any guidance on the amount of compensation that might be paid
  • Plans to consult infected and affected people on setting up IBCA.

Government’s expert group on compensation

We already knew that the government had created an expert group, chaired by Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery to advise it on compensation. The publication of its Terms of Reference tells us more about its role, but nothing about how many people are involved or who they are. The government has said that it will not publish the names of the other group members.

The government says the expert group’s duties include reviewing information from civil servants, giving advice on defining eligible infections and severities and advising on potential compensation tariffs.

Lack of transparency and independence

We note that Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, recommended that expert medical and legal panels were set up to discuss similar issues. However, he recommended that these panels were part of the independent compensation scheme’s work, not part of government. The government’s expert panel lacks transparency and independence, which is a significant concern.

There is a great deal of information which still needs to be considered and we are concerned that much of the practical detail is left to be fleshed out in secondary legislation. 

This is a summary of the main points but, as with every major announcement, the detail is crucial. We will continue to work on this and update you on developments.

If you have any questions or comments, please email us at [email protected]