MPs force government action on compensation

Written by Jessica Bomford, December 5, 2023

MPs from all political parties joined forces to compel the government to set up a compensation scheme for people infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal in a surprise victory in Parliament.

MPs voted by 246 votes to 242 on Monday night to support an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill tabled by Dame Diana Johnson which required the government to establish a compensation scheme within three months of the Act being passed.

Rebels defy party line

The government issued a ‘three-line whip’, a strict discipline procedure enforced by party managers, requiring all Conservative MPs to support the party line. The move backfired, with the government falling short by four votes, to cheers in the debating chamber. Twenty two Conservative MPs defied their party and backed the amendment, others abstained.

Last minute concessions

Earlier in the debate, Justice Minister Edward Argar told MPs that the infected blood scandal ‘should never have happened’. He said the government was prepared to give a commitment to respond to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report within 25 ‘sitting’ days (when Parliament is sitting) and promised the Paymaster General John Glen MP would update MPs about progress towards a compensation scheme before Christmas. He said the government was prepared to put forward its own amendments to the bill at a later stage which would set out a path to a compensation scheme. But it was not enough to convince MPs.

Speaking in the debate, Dame Diana said it was ‘shocking’ that the government was putting up such strong opposition to the amendment when it had already accepted the moral case for compensation. She said Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the inquiry, was ‘very clear’ that compensation should be paid, and paid quickly.

See how your MP voted

The Labour Party and the Scottish National Party officially backed the bill and it had widespread support across all parties. Former Conservative Ministers Damian Green, Tracey Crouch and Sir Robert Buckland were among the rebels. You can see how your MP voted here.

Prime Minister should be ‘ashamed’

Kate Burt, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: ‘The Prime Minister should be ashamed that it has taken cross-party political pressure and public opinion to force his government to do the right thing and commit to a full compensation scheme for people impacted by the contaminated blood scandal.

‘He fails to understand that compensation is about so much more than money. For the families of those who died, compensation is recognition of their suffering and an acknowledgement that their beloved child, parent, sibling or partner was valued beyond measure. We thank MPs from all parties for dragging the government towards urgent action in support of thousands of people who have already waited far too long for truth and justice.’

The new amendment, called New Clause 27, states that the compensation scheme must be led by a High Court or Court of Session judge. The full wording is here. The Victims and Prisoners Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords and could receive Royal Assent around the end of January, which is when the three-month deadline begins.

Lots of work ahead

There is still a lot of work to do in setting up a compensation scheme and many details to be finalised. The scheme should be based on Sir Brian Langstaff’s recommendations in his Second Interim Report on compensation which was published in April 2023.

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