Campaigners are warning that the government risks being "on the wrong side of history" if it rejects a proposed compensation scheme for victims of the NHS infected blood scandal. Thousands lost their lives in the 1970s and 1980s after receiving contaminated blood products. In a surprising turn of events, MPs supported plans for a new compensation scheme following a rebellion by Tory MPs on Monday.
The Haemophilia Society believes that a new scheme to provide compensation for victims of the contaminated blood scandal could be implemented by the end of the year, if there is sufficient political will.
However, Clive Smith, Chairman of the Haemophilia Society, has criticized the government for proceeding at a "snail's pace," adding that campaigners have only been met with "warm words" from officials. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr. Smith made clear that the issue is non-partisan and urged the government to act quickly to provide justice for victims.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman from Downing Street stated that options are under consideration following Monday night's vote, with a promise to clarify compensation plans in the coming weeks. The spokesman acknowledged the moral case for compensation, describing the scandal as an "appalling tragedy" and expressing an understanding of the strength of public sentiment.
According to BBC, up to 30,000 individuals were exposed to contaminated blood products, resulting in over 3,000 deaths from HIV or hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s. The government has initiated interim payments of £100,000 to 4,000 surviving victims and bereaved partners under the current scheme. However, only victims or bereaved partners are eligible for these payments.
The government's decision to wait for the conclusion of the infected blood inquiry before establishing a full scheme has faced criticism. Sir Brian Langstaff, chairing the inquiry, had called for an immediate full compensation scheme, including orphaned children and parents who lost children. The inquiry's final report, initially scheduled for November, has been postponed to March 2024.
To expedite compensation efforts, Dame Diana Johnson of the Labour Party proposed an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. This amendment compels the government to establish a new body for compensations within three months of the bill becoming law. Rebel Tory MPs supported the amendment, marking Rishi Sunak's first defeat as prime minister. The legislation now awaits approval from the House of Lords.
Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors, representing around 1,500 victims and their families, commented on the government's apparent commitment to meeting its responsibilities. He urged against further delays or obfuscation when the government announces its promised next steps.
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