To: Rt Hon John Glen MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General
Jenni Minto MSP, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health
Julie Morgan MSY, Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol, Deputy Minister for Social Services
We are writing further to our previous letter of 29 November 2023 regarding our concerns about progress on an infected blood compensation scheme. We welcome your willingness to meet as noted in your reply of 18 December, but as no further progress has been made arranging that meeting, we felt it was important to write again now, particularly given the limited time available to amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill.
As you will be aware, we very much welcome the general aims of the amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill brought forward by Dame Diana Johnson MP. In line with the Infected Blood Inquiry’s recommendations, the amendment intended to establish a body to deliver a UK-wide compensation scheme; however, we both remain concerned that the provision currently only extends to England and Wales. This leaves those infected in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and their relatives, uncertain as to whether they would be eligible for the resulting compensation scheme.
As the UK Government has previously taken welcome steps to support parity of treatment for infected blood victims across the UK via the infected blood support schemes, we would hope that you are also considering how to ensure that sufficient powers can be developed to enable a UK-wide scheme to be established and delivered as quickly as possible. It should be straightforward for the UK Government to bring forward an amendment to the extent clause of the Bill at the next opportunity.
Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Department of Health officials have already attempted to resolve this extent issue at official level, however they have not yet received any commitments from UK Government officials to enable us to reassure stakeholders that this and other necessary steps will be taken to ensure that a UK-wide scheme will be provided. Therefore we would be grateful for your urgent reassurance on this point. That would also then enable the Scottish Parliament to consider the provision, as the Senedd will do, as part of the normal legislative consent process.
Alongside this, we also would urge you to look again at what more can be done give reassurance on the nature of the compensation scheme, and how it will operate, even if not all details are yet able to be confirmed. We are aware of the UK Government’s position on waiting for the outcome of the Inquiry’s final report before confirming its plans. However, the further delay in the Inquiry’s report to 20 May makes responding now even more urgent. You will also no doubt have seen that many infected and affected victims have raised concerns that there is a contradiction between the UK Government’s position in relation to Post Office Horizon scandal victims, where quite rightly they are being offered compensation in advance of that Inquiry reporting, including for bereaved relatives, and the position regarding infected blood victims, who fear being left waiting years for compensation.
We would therefore reiterate our request that interim compensation payments should be made as quickly as possible, particularly to bereaved parents and children, and that consideration should also be given to making interim payments to those infected with chronic Hepatitis B, to recognise the fact that any compensation scheme will inevitably take time before it can start paying claims and that these groups of people have had little or no payments from current or former financial support schemes.
We hope a further four nations Ministerial meeting can be arranged as soon as possible to discuss these issues and the other points we raised previously, such as discussion on the implications for the infected blood support schemes.
We are copying this letter to Peter May, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Alister Jack MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, and Dame Diana Johnson MP. Please note that we also intend to publish this letter to ensure that infected and affected stakeholders can be kept informed on these issues.
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