MPs try to get contaminated blood compensation into law
Written by Jessica Bomford, November 29, 2023
A group of MPs, led by Dame Diana Johnson, is trying to get key recommendations of the Infected Blood Inquiry into law by adding amendments to proposed legislation currently going through Parliament.
Proposed new clauses to the Victims and Prisoners Bill focus on interim compensation for bereaved families, setting up a full compensation scheme and the need for bespoke psychological support in England. If chosen, these amendments could be debated in the House of Commons on Monday 4 December, although most of the focus will be on other aspects of the bill.
The aim of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which was introduced in March 2023, is to change the law on prisoners as well as how victims of criminal conduct are treated.
What’s in the bill?
There are three main areas covered in the amendments which affect our community. You can read the full wording further down this story, but if passed it would mean:
- The government has three months to set up an arms-length body to administer compensation
- This body would be chaired by a High Court or Court of Session Judge
- Interim compensation would be paid within a month to bereaved children, parents and siblings not covered by the first interim payment in October 2022
- Victims of the contaminated blood scandal, including families of those infected, fall under the scope of the bill
- Within one month the government would have to make provision for a bespoke psychological service in England. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have this service)
How would it work?
It is important to say again that these new clauses and amendments may not be discussed or passed. If they are, the detail of the running of the scheme and the eligibility for compensation will be determined by secondary legislation and should be based on the detail in the Infected Blood Inquiry’s Second Interim Report on compensation and redress published in April 2023.
What can I do?
We know many of you have done it before, but you can contact your MP by email or phone and ask them to add their names to support New Clause 27 and amendments 142, 143 and 144 to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The debate will be broadcast live on the BBC Parliament channel and at https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons.
How long will this take?
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.
Why doesn’t the government just pay compensation?
The government has refused to respond to the inquiry’s recommendations on full compensation, interim compensation and psychological support until after its final report is published in March 2024. The reason MPs have tabled amendments to the Victims Bill is to try to accelerate the government’s timetable and force some action.
The amendments in full
The full text of the proposed new clause and the amendments are below. Please note that these may be subject to further amendments:
New Clause 27
Compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal
(1) In accordance with section 2(3C), the Secretary of State must, within three months of the passing of this Act, establish a body to administer the compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal.
(2) The body created under this section must be chaired by a judge of High Court or Court of Session with status as sole decision maker.
(3) In exercising its functions, the body must—
(a) have regard to the need of applicants for speed of provision, simplicity or process, accessibility, involvement, proactive support, fairness and efficiency;
(b) involve potentially eligible persons and their representatives amongst those in a small advisory board, and in the review and improvement of the scheme;
(c) permit the hearing of applicants in person; and
(d) have an independent appeal body which will reconsider decisions of the scheme referred to it.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations make further provision about the body established under this section.
(5) For the purposes of this Act, a victim of the infected blood scandal means any infected or affected person whom the Second Interim Report of the Infected Blood Inquiry, as laid before Parliament on 19 April 2023, recommends should be admitted to a compensation scheme.
(6) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed.”
Clause 1, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(e) where the person is a victim of the infected blood scandal, as defined in section (Compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal)(5) of this Act.”
Clause 2, page 2, line 25, at end insert—
“(3A) The victims’ code must include provision requiring that all victims of the infected blood scandal, as defined in section (Compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal)(5) of this Act, are entitled to compensation.
(3B) Subject to subsection (3C), compensation must be administered by a body established for that purpose by the Secretary of State under section (Compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal).
(3C) The Secretary of State must ensure that an interim compensation payment of £100,000 is made within one month of the passing of this Act in the following circumstances—
(a) where an infected victim died as a child or died as an adult without a partner or child, the compensation payment should be made to their bereaved parents (split equally if separated);
(b) where an infected victim has died and there is no bereaved partner but there is a bereaved child or children (including any adopted child), the compensation payment should be paid to the child or children (split equally); and
(c) where an infected victim has died and there is no bereaved partner, child nor parent but there is a bereaved full sibling or siblings, the compensation payment should be paid to the sibling or siblings (split equally).”
Clause 2, page 2, line 25, at end insert—
“(3A) Within one month of the passing of this Act, the victims’ code must make specific provision for a bespoke psychological service in England for victims of the infected blood scandal, as defined in section (Compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal)(5) of this Act.”
We will be monitoring the debate and will let you know about any developments that affect our community.
If you have any questions or comments, contact us at [email protected].