Rishi Sunak Dodges Question About Why He Delayed Blood Scandal Compensation In Awkward Interview

The prime minister has been criticised for not acting a year ago.
Rishi Sunak at a news conference in Austria this morning.
Rishi Sunak at a news conference in Austria this morning.
Anadolu via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak dodged questions about why the government delayed paying full compensation to those affected by the contaminated blood scandal.

The awkward exchange came as the government finally set out the payment scheme being set up for those whose lives were shattered by the controversy.

Tens of thousands of NHS patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis B and C after being treated in the 1970s, 80s and 90s with contaminated blood products imported from the United States. More than 3,000 of them have died so far.

A damning report published yesterday by Sir Brian Langstaff said the victims had been “betrayed” by successive governments as officials engaged in a decades-long “cover up”.

An interim report in April last year recommended setting up a compensation authority but nothing was done.

Last year, Sunak suffered also his first Commons defeat as prime minister after the government tried to prevent the expansion of the compensation scheme to include the parents and children of victims.

During a visit to Austria today, Sunak was asked: “Are you sorry for delaying by a year starting the process of paying compensation, because the report does criticise you for this and many of the families do too. How quickly are people going to start to get money?”

Ignoring the question, the PM replied: “As I said yesterday in parliament, it was a day of shame for the British state. What’s happened over decades has been a failure on multiple levels and it’s important that yesterday was a day for the community to be heard.

“They have waited an incredibly long time for justice and for the truth and today was about that, and that’s why I rightly as prime minister offered an unequivocal apology to everyone affected by this appalling scandal.”

Cabinet Office minister John Glen told MPs today: “Those who have been infected or affected as a result of this scandal will receive compensation.

“To be crystal clear, if you have been directly or indirectly infected by NHS blood, blood products or tissue contaminated by HIV or hepatitis C, or have developed an infection from blood contaminated with hepatitis B, you will be eligible to claim compensation under this scheme.”

He said that on top of the £100,000 interim payments made to victims, they will each receive a further £210,000 within 90 days.

Although Glen did not put a total figure on the amount of compensation which will be paid out, it is likely to be at least £10 billion.


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