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Minister bids to placate Tory rebels over compensation for infected blood victims

Justice minister Edward Argar said the Government would amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the Lords (PA)
Justice minister Edward Argar said the Government would amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the Lords (PA)

The Government has offered concessions after it faced a major rebellion from Tory MPs over calls to help infected blood victims receive compensation.

Justice minister Edward Argar said the Government would amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the Lords to establish the necessary structure and timescales for a delivery body for compensation for the victims.

He said this would be established in line with the overall objectives set out in an amendment tabled by Labour former minister Dame Diana Johnson.

Kwasi Kwarteng resignation
Justice minister Edward Argar (UK Parliament)

But the minister outlined the Government would still not act until the final report from the independent Infected Blood Inquiry has been published.

MPs, including more than 30 Conservatives, had been backing a proposal to require ministers to establish a body to administer the full compensation scheme within three months of the Bill becoming law.

A High Court judge would be expected to chair the body and take account of the need for speed, simplicity, fairness and efficiency for victims.

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

MPs have urged swifter action given it is estimated someone affected by infected blood dies “every four days”.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Argar said: “The infected blood scandal should never have happened and my thoughts, and I believe all those in this House, remain with those impacted by this appalling tragedy.

“I can confirm today, on behalf of the Cabinet Office as the lead department, firstly that the minister for the Cabinet Office will make a statement ahead of the House rising for Christmas on Government progress on the Infected Blood Inquiry.

“Secondly, that we will commit to update Parliament with an oral statement on next steps within 25 sitting days of the final report being published.

“But we have studied very carefully the proposals that have been made by (Dame Diana) and supported widely across this House.

“The Government, as she said, has already accepted the moral case for compensation and is grateful for the work of (inquiry chairman) Sir Brian Langstaff.

“The Government has great sympathy for (Dame Diana’s) amendment and the intention to ensure that the legal groundwork is in place to enable a delivery body to be established.

“I can therefore confirm the Government will bring forward its own amendment when the Bill reaches the Lords which will put in place the necessary legislative framework and timescales for a delivery body for compensation for the victims of infected blood to be established in line with the overall objectives set out in (Dame Diana’s) new clause 27.

“This will ensure the Government is able to move quickly as soon as the inquiry reports.”