Timetable for compensation scheme accepted by government

Written by Jeff Courtney, April 30, 2024

The government has accepted a three-month time frame for setting up a compensation scheme and will begin recruiting an independent chair for a new compensation authority immediately, it announced in the House of Lords.

During report stage of the Victims and Prisoners stage on 30 April, Earl Howe, deputy leader of the House of Lords, told peers that the ‘case for compensation was clear’. He added: ‘The government will pay compensation to those infected and affected by the infected blood scandal.’

Earl Howe provided more detail about the proposed Infected Blood Compensation Authority (IBCA) which would be set up in shadow form now and be formally established when the Victims and Prisoners Bill gains Royal Assent. Over the three month period that begins when the bill becomes law, the detail would be worked out to allow secondary legislation to be laid which would specify how the body should administer the compensation scheme. A shadow authority would be set up within weeks which could begin preparatory work such as appointing staff and setting up IT systems.

Peers spoke to urge the government to produce a compensation scheme in collaboration with the community to build much-needed trust and to ensure payments were delivered quickly. They included the Haemophilia Society’s President, Baroness Meacher, Baroness Brinton and two peers personally affected by the scandal, Baroness Featherstone and Baroness Campbell.

The other key points set out by Earl Howe were:

• IBCA would be ‘operationally and functionally independent’ but it will not set the compensation payment tariffs
• The government’s expert group will decide on tariffs which will be published ahead of secondary legislation needed for IBCA. The tariffs will then go to MPs and peers for approval
• The identity of the expert group will only be revealed once their ‘initial work’ has been concluded
• People eligible for compensation who are not already registered on a support scheme will be able to register once the government has given its ‘substantive’ response to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report
• This ‘substantive’ response will be made ‘as soon as possible’ after 20 May, when the report is published

• People registered with an infected blood support scheme and living with chronic infections will be prioritised in the compensation process
• There will be no duplication of the application process for those already registered on a support scheme
• Previous payments (except interim compensation) will not be taken into consideration when compensation is awarded.
• The new chair of IBCA may not be a high court judge, although government open to the possibility. Earl Howe said was important to keep the eligible field as wide as possible to get the best candidate
• The successful candidate for chair of IBCA will go through the Public Appointment Process, members of the infected blood community will be involved in the process. No further details given.
• IBCA should make payments ‘quickly and effectively’ but no timeline given
• Infected and affected representatives will be able to join IBCA’s subcommittees and committees. No further details given.
• No timeline given for payment of interim compensation to the estates of those who have so far not received compensation. Minister said he did not want to give a time frame that was ‘not deliverable’.

Kate Burt, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: ‘We welcome the government’s acceptance that a firm timetable is needed to ensure the new compensation body is ready to deliver payments as quickly as possible. We continue to be concerned that a largely anonymous and unaccountable group of people is deciding how much compensation should be paid and to whom behind closed doors. The government must be open and transparent about this process if the compensation scheme is to have any credibility with the infected blood community.’

There will be at least one more day of report stage where further amendments will be debated on 21 May. After that there will be a third reading debate in the Lords before the bill returns to the Commons to approve the amendments made in the Lords. There will be one final chance for changes to the bill when MPs consider Lords amendments which will take place in late May or June. If there is any disagreement between the Commons and the Lords the bill will go back and forth until this is resolved.

It is unclear how soon the bill will become law, this happens at a final stage known as Royal Assent, but we expect that this will happen by the end of June at the latest.

The Paymaster General, John Glen, begins his meetings with the infected and affected community this week. On 7 May he is meeting with Kate Burt and our Chair, Clive Smith. They will be pressing Mr Glen for more detail on the announcement made by Earl Howe and will be looking for more detail on how those infected and affected can have a meaningful involvement in the recruitment of IBCA’s chair and in the work of the compensation authority itself.

Clive and Kate will also be asking for confirmation that regular support payments are guaranteed for life. Our view is that this should be put on a statutory footing to ensure no future government reneges on any agreements made by previous administrations.

We are holding a webinar on Thursday 2 May to discuss compensation and any questions arising from this announcement. Details of how to join are here. You can email us at [email protected]