It’s hoped the amendment means the thousands who received contaminated blood transfusions between 1970 and 1990 will see the end of a long fight for compensation. Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, Kate Burt, has said that this will force the Government to take urgent action ‘in support of thousands of people who have already waited far too long for truth and justice.’
Between 1970 and the early 90s, over 26,000 people in the UK who received blood transfusions received contaminated blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV. Since then, Labour MP and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, Dame Diana Johnson, noted that an estimated one person dies every four days as a result of the scandal.
The vote to attempt speeding up compensation efforts was passed by 246 votes to 242, after 22 Conservative MPs rebelled, making it the first vote Rishi Sunak has lost since becoming Prime Minister. The scheme will see surviving victims and bereaved partners receive up to £100,000 in compensation. Initially, only victims and their partners will be able to claim compensation. However, it is hoped this will extend to orphaned children and parents.
While the Government believes there to be a moral case for compensating victims, they wanted to wait for the Infected Blood Inquiry to conclude before setting up the scheme. The inquiry, headed by Sir Brian Langstaff, was due to publish a report this November. However due to the ‘sheer volume and scale of the material’ was delayed until March next year. Ms. Johnson said, ‘As time marches on, more and more people are lost while ministers delay’.
A significant amount of those affected by the scandal were people with haemophilia, a condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot. According to the Haemophilia Society, over 4,500 people with the condition were infected with HIV or hepatitis. Kate Burt said the Prime Minister should be ‘ashamed’ that it has taken cross-party pressure to make his government ‘do the right thing’. She explained why compensation for victims of the scandal and their families is so important. Burt said: ‘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.’
After the vote, Dame Diana said: ‘This is an important step forward in what has been an extraordinarily long fight for justice. However, it is not the end. There is still much work to be done to fully implement Sir Brian’s recommendations and bring justice to those who do not have the luxury of waiting.’