Health minister Ben Gummer faced fury from MPs over the delay to compensation and new drugs being made available to victims who contracted haemophilia, hepatitis C and HIV as a result of being given contaminated blood, despite Prime Minister David Cameron promising that helping for them would be “a priority”.
The junior minister was forced to make a statement in the Commons after it emerged that the government had announced delays to the compensation procedure, in a written statement made in the Lords on Friday afternoon.
The story was first covered in Monday’s Scotsman after angry constituents affected by the decision approached SNP Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens over the weekend.
And in the Commons, MPs from all sides of the House condemned the government for the delay and the “very shabby decision” to inform peers on a day when the Commons was not sitting.
On 25 March when the report by Lord Penrose into the way the tragedy affected thousands of people in Scotland was published, Mr Cameron made a statement apologising to the victims and their families and announced a £25 million fund to help organise a proper compensation scheme for victims.
Mr Gummer told MPs yesterday that a consultation would start in the autumn, is hoped to last eight weeks and should report back before the end of the year.
He added that he hopes a reformed compensation scheme will be implemented as soon as possible after the consultation, potentially before the end of 2015/16, but that it was linked with an ongoing spending review and could take until 2016/17 to implement.
The response infuriated campaign groups who accused the UK government of falling behind the Scottish Government’s timetable of helping victims.
Dan Farthing-Sykes, the chief executive of Haemophilia Scotland, said: “David Cameron’s personal credibility is already very low on this issue, having failed to keep his pledge to his dying constituent to deal with this issue within six months.”
In the chamber, Labour Hull North MP Diana Johnson said: “Many victims feel that they are being left to die in misery so that the costs of any eventual settlement scheme become more affordable.
“Before the election, the Prime Minister promised urgent action, so now is the time to deliver.”
Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies told the House that one of his constituents is one of the “300 or so primary survivors” and warned that many of that group feel the compensation scheme “will be too late” to help them.
Mr Gummer also faced criticism from the Tory backbenches with New Forest MP Julian Lewis one of several MPs to ask when new medication needed to help victims would be released.
“It cannot be the cost; it must simply be red tape,” he said.