Last week, Haemophilia Scotland issued a written communication to the Inquiry, strongly urging that additional measures be taken to address the UK Government’s lack of response to Sir Brian Langstaff’s second interim report on compensation.
Despite the second interim report being published on the 5th of April, the UK Government has so far failed to act upon any of the recommendations made by Sir Brian nor have they given any clear indication of when they intend to do so.
Haemophilia Scotland is acutely concerned over the continued delay by the UK Government in this matter. We have therefore called on the Chair of the Inquiry to exercise his powers to require Ministers and senior politicians to provide a more detailed response on the second interim report and their intentions in relation to the creation of a compensation scheme.
The second interim report was issued so that the Government did not need to wait for the final Inquiry Report later this year and could make progress on implementing its recommendations on compensation without further delay. As Sir Brian states “the (compensation) scheme need not await that final report to begin its work, since the second interim report fully covers the Inquiry’s recommendations on financial redress”.
Unless steps are taken now, many more victims of this disaster will die without seeing justice in their lifetime.
The written request sent to the Inquiry via Thompsons solicitors on the 9th of May is shown below in full:
I am instructed to send this communication and request on behalf our Core Participant Client, Haemophilia Scotland.
No doubt like many Infected and Affected across the entire UK our clients are extremely concerned about the current level of response by the UK Government to the Second Interim Report published by the Inquiry. Initially the Prime Minster indicated that there would be no response at all to the Second Interim report and that instead the Government would wait until the final report was published before responding to any further issue relating to compensation. Our clients considered that comment to be an insult to the Infected and Affected victims of the Contaminated Blood Disaster and a slight to the dedicated work of the Chair and all the Inquiry Team.
On the 19th of April the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General made a statement to the House of Commons on the Infected Blood Inquiry and the Second Interim Report. My clients considered the statement to be confused, misleading and lacking any real substance.
The statement, oddly, made reference to some differences between the Second Interim Report and the Compensation Framework published by Sir Robert Francis. The Chair has carefully considered Sir Robert’s evidence and arrived at a clear view that was set out in the Second Interim Report. The comments of the Minister suggest that the Government may attempt to assess the Chair’s findings and recommendations against other evidence before the Inquiry. That would clearly be inappropriate.
The statement, very surprisingly, suggests that the Government are considering alternative compensation schemes to that set out in the Second Interim Report. Sir Robert Francis gave evidence before the Inquiry that he had undertaken a significant comparative exercise in preparing his Framework. The alternative schemes have been considered and the Chair has made clear recommendations. The inference again appears to be that the Government are willing and perhaps seeking to ignore the recommendations of an independent Inquiry and arrive at their own conclusions. Such an approach would usurp the function of the Inquiry and render the public funding cost of the Inquiry redundant.
The statement, alarmingly, suggests that there will be significant delays before the Government act. The Second Interim Report was clearly published to avoid or at least reduce to a minimum any delays in a compensation scheme being set up and delivering financial justice to the Infected and Affected victims who have been denied such justice for decades. Delays on the part of the Government will frustrate the purpose of the Second Interim Report being published as it was.
The issue of delays is a matter of acute concern to Haemophilia Scotland. A Freedom of Information request response issued by the Scottish NHS on the 2nd of May 2023 confirmed that since the closing oral submission on behalf of Scottish Infected and Affected Core Participants delivered by James Dawson, KC, on 2/2/23 nine Infected or Affected Scottish victims of the disaster have died, taking the total number of Scottish Infected and Affected victims who have died since the Inquiry was announced to 113.
Our clients are significantly, and in light of the above understandably, concerned that unless steps are taken now the Government will fail to take action and many more victims will die without seeing justice in their lifetime.
We accordingly suggest that the Inquiry should issue further Rule 9 requests and respectfully invite the Chair to do so in early course. We would suggest that the Rule 9 requests are addressed to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Paymaster General. The Rule 9 requests should seek a detailed response to the Second Interim Report and their intentions in relation to setting up a compensation scheme together with their intentions on timescales for same. Depending upon the responses received we would also suggest that the Inquiry consider holding further hearings days to take evidence from the recipients of the Rule 9 requests.
In respect that there will be a General Election within the next 18 months we would also suggest that a Rule 9 Request is issued to the Leader of the Opposition requesting their views on the same issues.
The Inquiry may consider that Rule 9 requests should be issued to other parts of Government, such as senior members of the civil service.
I would be grateful if this email could be put before the Chair for his consideration in early course.