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Parliamentary vote will accelerate compensation for infected blood victims


Victims of the NHS infected blood scandal will get compensation faster following a parliamentary vote which was the first commons defeat for prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

The vote was passed by 246 votes to 242 after 22 Conservatives rebelled. The legislation now needs to be approved by the House of Lords before becoming law after which ministers will have three months to establish a body to run the scheme.

The government says there was a moral case for compensating victims of the scandal and has made the first interim payments of £100,000 each to 4,000 surviving victims and bereaved partners but it wanted to wait for the end of the infected blood inquiry before setting up a full scheme.

Earlier this year, inquiry chair, Sir Brian Langstaff, called for a full compensation scheme to be set up immediately and added that it should be widened to include orphaned children and parents who lost children.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, up to 30,000 people were given contaminated blood products and more than 3,000 people died after contracting HIV or hepatitis C after receiving an NHS blood transfusion or a treatment made from contaminated blood.

Campaigners say the speed of compensation payments is crucial as it has been estimated that one person affected by the scandal dies every four days.

Justine Gordon-Smith, said her father, Randolph Peter Gordon-Smith, who had haemophilia, learned in 1994 that he had been infected with hepatitis C. He died in 2018.

She said: "When he was infected, he lost everything, his home, his job, his wife, his health and became a recluse."

She said compensation was not just about recognition, but "repairing the damage that's done to your life. The huge hole, the entire career, everything that our dad lost, that's the big issue.”

Sir Brian's inquiry had been due to publish a final report in November, but this has been delayed until March 2024.

The leader of the All-Party Parliamentary group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood Dame, Diana Johnson, put forward the amendment in an attempt to speed up efforts to compensate victims,.

She told MPs that Sir Brian had already made clear his inquiry's recommendations on compensation and that the government did not need to wait for his final conclusions before setting up a scheme.

The Kingston Upon Hull North MP also noted that victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal had been awarded compensation before the inquiry's final report had been published, and argued the same should apply to those affected by infected blood.

The Haemophilia Society said Rishi Sunak "should be ashamed" he had been forced "to do the right thing".

The society's chairman Clive Smith said it was an "incredibly emotional" moment for campaigners and told BBC Radio 4’s the Today programe: "Parliament said: no  longer will you need to fight, no longer will you need to wait, justice will finally be delivered to those who've waited for so long.