Contaminated Blood and Blood Products

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:14 pm on 24th November 2016.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Conservative, North East Bedfordshire 12:14 pm, 24th November 2016

I begin by congratulating my friend, Diana Johnson, on her consistency on this issue and the work that she and the all-party group have done over a long time. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the debate to be held. I also welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to the Front Bench. We know that this matter is not among her responsibilities—it belongs to our noble Friend Lord Prior—and I know how difficult it is to deal with something that is not in one’s own portfolio, but I am sure that she will communicate faithfully to the Government the points raised in the debate, although she will not be in a position, I think, to answer all our questions. However, the fact that we are again raising these questions in the Chamber is an important point for her to take back to the Secretary of State and other colleagues.

I want to pick up on a couple of points arising from the speech made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North. I agree with her about who should administer the scheme. This is not an area in which we should be looking to outsource for ideological reasons. There is an important concern at the heart of this issue. Given everything that we have learned from the United States, we know that the profit motive involved in selling the blood in the first place was a primary source of everything that has happened since. It is really important that we recognise that and show some sensitivity to the fact. I actually think that Government can run some things, and it is good to run some things publicly. We have to choose. In our political lives, we have lived through the Government running British Telecom, British Airways and so on. Things have changed, but it is important that some things be publicly owned, run and dealt with, and this is one of them. I therefore join her absolutely in saying that the Government should think again about how the scheme is administered. They should keep it in public hands where there is at least some democratic accountability. Above all, as she said, we need a group that will act on behalf of the beneficiaries, rather than solely in the Government’s interest. It would have to be very carefully put together.