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Infected Blood Inquiry: Second Interim Report

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024

11. What progress he has made on considering the recommendations of the second interim report of the infected blood inquiry. (902498)

In January, I appointed an expert group to provide technical advice on the inquiry’s recommendations on compensation. The Government will provide an update on next steps regarding those recommendations as soon as possible following the publication of the final report on 20 May.

Justice is long, long overdue on this issue. A constituent affected by this issue told me what they had been through, which included a liver transplant, many antiviral regimes, ongoing health impacts and dealing with the fact that many of their peers—the children they spent time with when they were growing up—are no longer with us. There is simply no financial or political price high enough to cover the stress and impact on their mental wellbeing. This House has shown its will on this issue, so why are we still waiting and, importantly, when will people start to receive the compensation, given that on average one person dies every four days as a result of this scandal?

The hon. Gentleman makes absolutely the right points and I agree with his call for urgency. As I set out in my response to the urgent question a few days ago, my absolute priority is delivering this as quickly as possible. The legislation to set up the infected blood compensation authority is in the other place and will be debated next Tuesday. We announced on 17 April what we are doing on interim payments to the estates of the deceased infected. Further work is going on and I am engaging with the community over the first 10 days of May—so before 20 May, when the report will be published. His representation on urgency is heard by me and I am working on it as quickly as I can.

The amendment that was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) and passed by this House at the end of last year was to set up a compensation scheme within a strict time limit of three months. That time limit must remain in the Bill and victims need concrete action. Will the Paymaster General tell us when the Treasury will set out its detailed costings for the scheme? Secondly, and most importantly, when can victims expect their final compensation payments?

The costings will be a responsibility of the Treasury, but a joint team between the Cabinet Office and the Treasury is working to give advice to the Prime Minister so that we can make decisions in a timely way as soon as possible from 20 May. I am conscious of the fact that across all the different communities of infected and affected as much clarity is needed as possible. They have had to wait too long, so I am making sure that, as far as we can, when those final decisions are made there will be not only a headline decision, but clarity on process thereafter. It is those details I am working on now and I hope that a decision can be made as soon as possible from 20 May.

Having a child with a rare condition who continues to get sicker despite treatment is every parent’s worst nightmare. Recent revelations that children as young as three were immorally used as guinea pigs and given infected blood are truly horrific. Without payouts of compensation, how can any parent have faith that the UK Government will ensure accountability and that they will take real responsibility for this scandal?

The hon. Lady makes a powerful point. She refers to what has come out in the press in the past few weeks. I am anticipating that on 20 May Sir Brian Langstaff’s final report will reveal in harrowing detail not only the allegations and what happened a long time ago, but the consequences, which have been profound and life-changing for so many people in this country. I listened to her and the advice she gave me after the last oral questions, and I will be visiting Scotland and working with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have a United Kingdom approach.