Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—namely, the need for the Government to establish an independent public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, which is the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. In his valedictory speech to this House on 25 April 2017, the then right hon. Member for Leigh outlined a dossier of extremely serious allegations amounting to criminal conduct on the part of individuals involved in the contaminated blood scandal. He said that, if the Government did not commit to a public inquiry
“by the time the House rises for the summer recess, I will refer my evidence to the police”.—[Official Report, 25 April 2017; Vol. 624, c. 1081.]
The then Under-Secretary of State for Health—the former Member for Oxford West and Abingdon—asked him to submit his dossier of evidence to the Health Secretary, which he did. She assured the House that the Secretary of State would give it “the highest priority”. However, we have heard nothing since then, and we now have further unanswered questions that underline the need for an emergency debate.
First, the Daily Mail set out evidence last week that officials knew, as early as 1980, that 50 people with haemophilia a year were being infected with hepatitis C. Nothing was done about this for five years. Secondly, it has been reported in The Sunday Times that, on Friday 7 July, the Westminster leaders of all six non-Government parties in the House of Commons—including the Democratic Unionist party—wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister urging her to commit to a Hillsborough-style inquiry. Thirdly, the right hon. Andy Burnham yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to refer cases of alleged criminality to the police, and confirmed that he has an appointment with the police on 26 July.
We are now fast approaching the summer recess deadline, yet what little comment the Government have made has only added to the confusion and strengthened the case for an emergency debate. It would appear that the Secretary of State for Health has not considered the dossier, as was promised on 25 April. Last week, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House of Commons responded to questions about the scandal: one from me, the other from my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden). Neither of them addressed our direct questions about the need for a public inquiry. Indeed, both raised further confusion by referring to the financial support for those affected as “compensation”, contradicting the position taken by previous Ministers.
These recent developments have been extremely significant. The letter of 7 July raises the prospect that, if the matter of a public inquiry were put to a vote in the House, it would command the support of the majority of Members of Parliament. For all the reasons I have outlined, I believe that we now need an emergency debate. We need the Government to do the right thing and secure justice for those affected in this scandal, including justice for the 2,400 people who have already died.
I have listened carefully to the application from the hon. Member, and I am satisfied that the matter raised by her is proper to be discussed under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Member the leave of the House?
Application agreed to.
The hon. Member has obtained the leave of the House. I can inform the House that the debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 11 July, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the hon. Member’s application. She may wish to liaise either with my office or with the Clerks as to the precise wording, but it was referenced in her initial application to me and it conveys the gravamen of the issue in terms that are unmistakable. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Member and to the House, which has about 24 hours’ notice—perhaps a bit less than that—of the intended debate.