Contaminated blood scandal victims say Rishi Sunak 'should be ashamed'

Contaminated blood scandal victims say Rishi Sunak 'should be ashamed'

Contaminated blood scandal victims say Rishi Sunak ‘should be ashamed’ after PM was ‘forced to do right thing’ and compensate families quickly following a humiliating Tory revolt

  • Nearly two dozen Tory MPs rebelled to speed up access to payments for victims
  • The Government now expected to set up a body to oversee compensation

Contaminated blood scandal victims today said Rishi Sunak ‘should be ashamed’ for holding out against a new compensation body.

The PM last night suffered a humiliating defeat in the Commons after dozens of Tory MPs rebelled to support a Labour policy to speed up access to payment for affected Brits.

Campaigners said Mr Sunak had to be ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ to properly compensate victims and warned he was on the ‘wrong side of history’. Another said it should ‘never have come to this’.

Up to 30,000 patients with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were given tainted medical products in the 70s and 80s, with thousands infected with HIV and hepatitis C as a result.

Some even unwittingly infected their romantic partners.

Tainted donations came from US prisoners, sex workers and drug addicts, who were paid to give their blood to the manufacturers of the product.

It is considered the worst treatment scandal in NHS history, with more than 3,000 killed as a result. 

Jason Evans (pictured), whose father Jonathan died in 1993 after receiving infected blood, said it is ‘deeply shameful’ that parliamentarians, victims and families had to campaign to ‘bring about this result’

Mr Evans’ father, Jonathan (pictured), died when he was just four years old in October 1993 after being infected with both hepatitis C and HIV from infected blood products

All surviving victims and their bereaved partners are entitled to an interim £100,000 pay-out. But the current scheme leaves out parents who lost their children and kids orphaned when their parents died.

Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the inquiry into the scandal, earlier this year called for a full compensation scheme to be set-up immediately. He also demanded it widened to include other victims who remain ‘unrecognised’. 

The Government wanted to wait for the inquiry to conclude before setting up a full scheme. 

But MPs called for swifter action given that someone dies due to infected blood ‘every four days’.

The inquiry – ordered in 2017 by then-PM Theresa May – was due to publish its final  report in the autumn. It was delayed until March 2024 due to the ‘sheer volume and scale of the material’.

A timeline of the contaminated blood scandal which began in the early-1970s

1972: NHS starts importing large batches of Factor VIII products from United States to help clot blood of haemophiliacs. 

1974: Some researchers warn that Factor VIII could be contaminated and spreading hepatitis.

Late-1970s: Patients continue to be given Factor VIII, with much of the plasma used to make the product coming from donors such as prison inmates, drug addicts and prostitutes.

1983: Governments in both the UK and the United States are told that Aids has been spread through blood products.

Mid-1980s: By now the blood products such as Factor VIII, were being heat-treated to kill viruses, but thousands of patients had already been infected. 

1991: Blood products imported from US are withdrawn from use. The government awards ex-gratia payments to haemophiliac victims threatening to sue. 

2007: Privately-funded inquiry into scandal set up by Lord Archer of Sandwell but it does not get offical status and relies on donations.

2008: Penrose Inquiry launched, but victims claim the seven-year investigation was a ‘whitewash’. 

2017: Independent inquiry into contaminated blood scandal announced by Prime Minister Theresa May. 

April, 2019: Infected Blood Inquiry starts hearing evidence.

In the wake of Mr Sunak’s Commons defeat, the Government is expected to set up a body in the spring to oversee compensation to the victims.

MPs voted by 246 to 242 in favour of the Opposition’s amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. Twenty-three Tory backbenchers defied the PM’s three-line whip.

Tory rebels included former ministers Sir Robert Buckland, Damian Green, Dame Andrea Jenkyns and Chloe Smith.

It marked Mr Sunak’s first Commons defeat as PM and the first defeat on a whipped vote since the last general election in 2019.

Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: ‘The PM should be ashamed that it has taken cross-party political pressure and public opinion to force his government to do the right thing and commit to a full compensation scheme for people impacted by the contaminated blood scandal.

‘He fails to understand that compensation is about so much more than money. 

‘For the families of those who died, compensation is recognition of their suffering and an acknowledgement that their beloved child, parent, sibling or partner was valued beyond measure. 

‘We thank MPs from all parties for dragging the government towards urgent action in support of thousands of people who have already waited far too long for truth and justice.’

She said the Government’s tactic of waiting for the final report ‘was just another example of official procrastination, delaying tactics which denigrate the community that have suffered so much over such a long period of time’.

She told of meeting a bereaved father called John at a vigil whose two sons both had haemophilia and were infected with HIV. They went on to die aged 23 and 27, within five months of each other. 

‘No compensation is ever going to fill the void for John, but at least truth and justice and recognition will be a huge step forward,’ Ms Burt added. 

Clive Smith, chair of the Haemophilia Society, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This has never been about politics. 

This has always been about justice and doing the right thing, and no Government should hold out on this.

‘They’ve been told by the chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry that with political will this should have been set up by the end of the year, and all we’ve heard consistently from Government is warm words.

‘We keep hearing the refrain “we’re working at pace”. The only conclusion we can come to is they are working at snail’s pace.

‘They have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do this, and Rishi and the Tory Party, I’m afraid, will be on the wrong side of history and future because it shouldn’t have needed to come to this.’

Colin and Denise Turton pictured at the start of the Infected Blood Inquiry 

Lee’s condition started to deteriorate in 1988, the couple said. He began to lose his appetite and was ‘always ill’

Jason Evans, founder and director of infected blood scandal campaign group Factor 8, said it is ‘deeply shameful’ parliamentarians, victims and families had to campaign to ‘bring about this result’.

Mr Evans’ father, Jonathan, died when he was just four years old in October 1993 after being infected with both hepatitis C and HIV from infected blood products. 

He also had an uncle who was infected with both viruses and died in 1996.

Mr Evans said: ‘This is an incredible moment for the campaign and brings victims and bereaved families one step closer to seeing full redress. 

‘I sat in the public gallery as the results were read out, and it is truly a moment that I will never forget.

Randolph Peter Gordon-Smith died in 2018 from complications related to a Hep C infection he contracted from being given a contaminated blood product to treat is haemophilia in the 80s

‘It is deeply shameful that it took a concerted campaign by parliamentarians, victims and families to bring about this result.’

He added: ‘The Government should have acted on the Inquiry’s final compensation recommendations without a fight. It should never have come to this.

‘We pay tribute to all MPs who voted for justice tonight, particularly those Conservative members who defied a three-line whip to stand on the right side of history.’ 

The Bill will now be debated in the House of Lord and could receive Royal assent around the end of January, which would trigger the three-month deadline. 

The defeat came despite a last-ditch attempt by the Government to offer concessions in a bid to placate MPs.

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

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

Justine Gordon-Smith, whose father Randolph Peter Gordon-Smith died after being given infected blood, told BBC Newsnight she was ‘stunned’ that the Labour proposal was passed.

However, she said she is worried about what the Government ‘might try to do to limit things now’. 

Mr Gordon-Smith had haemophilia and learned in 1994 that he had been infected with hepatitis C. He died in 2018.

Other victims include Lee Turton, who died in 1992 aged just 10, after contracting HIV from contaminated blood products in the 80s.

Lee’s mother Denise Turton told MailOnline in June that the Government’s callous ringfencing of the compensation — which she is not entitled to — made her ‘angry’.

Rishi Sunak suffered a defeat in the Commons last night after dozens of Tory MPs rebelled to support a Labour policy to speed up access to compensation for those given blood contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C during the 1970s and 80s

She said: ‘We’re all suffering, our mental health has suffered over what’s happened over the years. We’re just treated with disdain. Our children’s lives are worthless.’

Mrs Turton added: ‘Why can’t they pay the compensation to his estate? He had the same infections as all the others.

‘A lot of parents aren’t here to see this now, and maybe that’s a good thing.’

Mrs Turton, now in her 60s and based in Cornwall, added the difference even the interim compensation could make to their lives couldn’t be underestimated.

‘It would relieve a lot of our suffering,’ she said.

‘My husband has now got early onset Alzheimer’s and it would mean we would not have to fight so much and not have to worry about everything all the time.’

Dame Diana, in a message posted on social media platform X, said: ‘I am very pleased that my amendment new clause 27 has been passed, despite Government opposition.

‘This will now put in law that a body will be established to pay compensation to those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal within three months of the Act passing.

‘This is an important step forward in what has been an extraordinarily long fight for justice.

‘However, it is not the end. There is still much work to be done to fully implement Sir Brian (Langstaff)’s recommendations and bring justice to those who do not have the luxury of waiting.’

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