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Government faces Tory rebellion over infected blood compensation

Tory MPs could join with Labour later on a vote on compensation for infected blood victims (Victoria Jones/PA)
Tory MPs could join with Labour later on a vote on compensation for infected blood victims (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Government faces a rebellion by Tory MPs over calls for a new body to help infected blood victims, with backbenchers set to join forces with Labour on payouts over the scandal.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer indicated on Monday that ministers are unlikely to shift position, insisting that it was “appropriate” to wait until the ongoing inquiry has concluded.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves confirmed Labour will support an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would establish a body for a full compensation scheme for thousands of patients infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Thirty Tory MPs have also signed the amendment, which will be debated in the Commons on Monday and would require the body, which is expected to be chaired by a High Court judge, to be created within three months of the legislation becoming law.

Senior Conservatives Sir Robert Buckland and David Davis are among those backing the amendment tabled by Dame Diana Johnson, who has campaigned on behalf of victims.

The creation of a compensation body by the end of this year had been recommended by the chairman of the contaminated blood inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, a former High Court judge.

“We have made interim compensation awards, there is an inquiry ongoing. That will report next year and that is why we think it is appropriate to wait for the inquiry,” Ms Frazer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I can totally understand and this is an absolutely dreadful situation, that is why Government has already identified compensation on an interim basis and that is why we have got an inquiry”

She said it was “appropriate” to “wait for the outcome”.

Cabinet Meeting
Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, indicated that the Government position will not change (Victoria Jones/PA)

“I think it is always appropriate when you put in place mechanisms for review that you await the outcome of those reviews before you make any final decisions,” she said.

An independent inquiry into the scandal was due to publish its final report this autumn but the document will now be published in March 2024 due to the “sheer volume and scale of the material”.

Under an initial scheme, only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment of around £100,000.

In a letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt informing him of Labour’s support for the amendment, Ms Reeves described the infected blood scandal as “one of the most appalling tragedies in our country’s recent history”.

She wrote: “This week we have the opportunity to work together to begin to bring justice for the victims.

“Blood infected with Hepatitis C and HIV has stolen life, denied opportunities and harmed livelihoods.”

Labour’s shadow minister for victims and sentencing Kevin Brennan has also tabled an amendment which would require the Government to respond to the final report of the independent Infected Blood Inquiry within 25 days.

“This is not a party political issue,” Ms Reeves said. “All of us have a responsibility to act now to address this historic wrong.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will decide which amendments MPs will vote on later.

Downing Street said ministers were “prepared to respond as quickly as possible once the final report is published”.