Labour backs compensation campaign
Written by Jessica Bomford, December 3, 2023
The Labour Party has officially backed a move which could force the government to set up a body to administer a compensation scheme for people infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal.
Rachel Reeves MP, the Shadow Chancellor, wrote to her counterpart Jeremy Hunt MP on 2 December to invite him to ‘work together to begin to bring justice for the victims’. She told him: ‘This is not a party political issue. All of us have a responsibility to act now to address this historic wrong.’
Key amendments to proposed legislation
She was referring to amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill put forward by Dame Diana Johnson, backed by more than 140 MPs from all political parties. Labour has announced its support for her ‘New Clause 27’ which would force the government to set up a compensation scheme for people infected and affected by the scandal within three months of the Act being passed.
New Clause 27 would force the government to:
- Establish a body to administer a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal
- This body must be chaired by a High Court or Court of Session judge with status as sole decision maker
- Define a ‘victim’ as any infected or affected person whom the Infected Inquiry’s Second Interim Report recommends should be admitted to a compensation scheme
- Set up the compensation scheme within three months of the passing of the Act.
More than 30 Conservative MPs have signed the amendment, including former Cabinet Ministers Damian Green, Tracey Crouch and David Davis. A full list of MPs who signed up to the amendment is here.
This is the first time that the Labour Party, led by Sir Keir Starmer, has actively campaigned in support of compensation payments. Ms Reeves said in her letter to Mr Hunt: ‘The infected blood scandal is one of the most appalling tragedies in our country’s recent history.’
Dame Diana has also tabled other amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would force the government to pay interim compensation within a month to bereaved children, parents and siblings not covered by the first interim payment in October 2022. Another amendment would require the government to set up a bespoke psychological support service in England within a month of the Act being passed.
A New Clause 42 has been added to the Victims Bill by Kevin Brennan MP which would give a fixed 25 day deadline for the government to respond to that final report.
Government has failed to act
These amendments have been tabled because the government has so far failed to respond meaningfully to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s Second Interim Report on compensation and redress, published in April 2023. Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the inquiry, recommended a compensation scheme be set up before the end of the year, that interim compensation be extended to bereaved families whose estates were not covered by the first payment and that a psychological service should be established for England.
On 3 December, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins maintained the government’s position that it was ‘right that we take our time to wait for the report and think of the consequences of that’. The inquiry’s final report is due to be published in March 2024.
What happens now?
At this stage it is not clear what time these amendments will be debated on 4 December, although it is likely to be in the late afternoon or evening. It is possible that the government will table its own amendments or try to settle the matter rather than leave it to a vote. We will keep you informed of any developments. The debate will be broadcast live on the BBC Parliament channel and at https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons.
At the end of the debate, the bill, with any amendments, will be passed on to the House of Lords. The Lords will also debate the bill over a number of weeks and members of the House of Lords will be able to table more amendments and new clauses. The bill is passed back and forth between the Commons and the Lords until they have agreement. The final version, which may or may not include provision on contaminated blood and blood products, could be passed for Royal Assent around February next year.
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