Ministers agree three-month deadline for UK infected blood compensation

London: Ministers in the UK have agreed to a three-month deadline to establish a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal but warned it could be “unavoidably” delayed if parliament was not sitting.

While making no mention of an election, the deputy Lords leader, Earl Howe, pointed out that “dissolution, prorogation or adjournment” could affect the government’s ability to take action, but added this was “a risk and no more”.

Westminster is due to rise at the end of July for the summer recess.

The government concession on imposing a timeline for the compensation scheme came after the administration was accused of trying to “wriggle out” of a Commons-backed move to speed up payouts after a Tory rebellion.

In the face of a further defeat in the Lords, the administration agreed to a Labour-led demand for a system to be in place within three months of the victims and prisoners bill becoming law.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s. Ministers been accused of dragging their feet over compensation.

Speaking at the bill’s report stage, Lord Howe said: “Victims of this scandal have waited far too long to see justice and the government shares the determination of the House to ensure compensation reaches victims quickly.”
He added: “We recognise that parliament and the infected blood community need clarity on when these measures will be in place.

“I can say now that the government supports the opposition’s amendment to deliver the regulations establishing an infected blood compensation scheme within three months of royal assent and we are committed to doing so.”
Howe added: “There’s also the challenge that we need to build trust with the infected blood community on the scheme provisions. This would require sufficient time where both ministers and parliament were available ahead of regulations being laid.

“We are seized of the need to move as quickly as possible to provide compensation to victims regardless of any external pressures which may arise.”
Confirming acceptance of the opposition amendment, he said it was “in the spirit of consensus, albeit in the light of that practical caveat that I voiced which represents a risk and no more”.

Howe said: “It’s the government’s duty and responsibility to provide clarity and reassurance to those who have been failed by the state. I would like to pay tribute to those who continue to campaign and who have brought us to the point that we are at today. We must do this right and we must do it quickly.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “The victims of the infected blood scandal have won another important victory. I pay tribute to those who have fought so hard for justice. Labour is proud to have helped secured this vital change to the law, to try and speed up the compensation scheme.

“The government have now been forced, under cross-party pressure, to set out a clear timetable to deliver a final compensation scheme. They must now progress – urgently – with getting the body ready to make payments.

“The Labour party will keep doing everything possible to make sure no more time is lost.”