New polling, commissioned by Terrence Higgins Trust, shows that 87% of the British electorate who supported the Conservatives in 2019 believe that people infected and affected by the Contaminated Blood Scandal should be entitled to compensation, with 91% of Labour voters from 2019 also agreeing.
In the House of Commons on Monday 4 December, Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson MP will present an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would establish a new and independent arms-length body to assess and distribute compensation to those infected and affected by the long-standing scandal which has led to the deaths of thousands of people who were given infected blood products in the late 1970s and 1980s.
That amendment, backed by former Cabinet minister Dame Margaret Beckett and Conservative MP Andrew Percy, will be supported by the Labour frontbench, following a letter sent over the week-end from Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves MP to the incumbent Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP. Up to 30 Conservative MPs have also indicated their support for the amendment, as well as Lib Dem, SNP and other parliamentarians.
In her letter to the Chancellor, Reeves confirmed that Labour will also include in the amendment to the Bill that the Government must respond to the Infected Blood Inquiry’s report within 25 days of its publication. That report, to be authored and published by the Infected Blood Inquiry Chairman Sir Brian Langstaff, is expected in March 2024. Campaigners are concerned that the impending general election will further delay compensation and leave people waiting even longer for the justice they deserve.
Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, commented: 'The time for action is now. There has been delay and dither on this scandal for far too long – meanwhile, hundreds of people have been lost and families torn apart by this tragedy.
'Today’s vote presents Members of Parliament with an opportunity to take the steps forward needed to deliver justice. We are encouraged by the strong support for today’s amendment by MPs of all parties and urge the Government to show leadership and stand with families and campaigners by voting to set up the independent body needed to distribute compensation to those who need it.'
Dame Diana Johnson MP, Member of Parliament for Hull North and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood is leading on the amendment and has secured cross-party backing for the measure. She said: 'It is estimated that one person dies every four days as a result of this shocking scandal. As time marches on, more and more people are lost while ministers delay. The news that Labour will back today’s vote on establishing an arms-length body to administer justice now needs to be backed up with strong action by the Government, in line with the clear wishes of the electorate.
'It has been five years since former Prime Minister Theresa May set up the Infected Blood Inquiry and 21 months since the Government’s own review of compensation was concluded and a further seven months since its chair, Sir Brian Langstaff, published his final recommendations on compensation. He was very clear on what must happen next: full and fair compensation must be paid and this must happen quickly. How much longer must those infected and affected wait for justice?'
The new poll shows that awareness of the infected blood scandal is highest among voters who supported the Conservatives in the 2019 general election, with over half (54%) being aware of the issue, compared to 41% of 2019 Labour voters.
Richard Angell concluded: 'Justice delayed is justice denied. Today’s vote finally enables Parliament to have its say and we look forward to seeing the Government make its position clear as we approach the general election next year. Ministers should make the right call today and accept the amendment so we can get on with the job of compensating people who have waited decades for action. This opportunity must be grasped.'