The Government remain committed to fully supporting the infected blood inquiry. The inquiry maintained pace throughout lockdown, I am pleased to say, and it is making good progress. The hearings restarted this week. The inquiry will continue to hear evidence about blood services and pharmaceutical companies until the end of this year. I take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady because I know that she has been doing sterling work in this area, and I wish to commend her for that. Please allow me also to commend my predecessor as Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend Penny Mordaunt, who also worked hard in this area.
I welcome the Minister to his new post. May I also join him in thanking the previous Paymaster General, Penny Mordaunt, for all that she did to ensure that the cause of those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal was at the heart of the work she carried out?
As the Paymaster General said, we are three years into the NHS infected blood inquiry, and at the start of the new review into compensation for those infected and affected. Will he say something, though, about what is happening to the bereaved partner payments that were announced in March, and about whether he is willing to look at the inconsistencies that still apply to bereaved partners and their families?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her remarks, particularly about my predecessor. The previous Paymaster General announced in March this year changes to the four national financial support schemes to bring them into broader parity. That means increasing annual payments and lump sums where necessary to bring them up to the highest existing levels. The right hon. Lady knows better than anyone that there is an independent statutory inquiry, chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff. The issue of compensation is being looked at by Sir Robert Francis QC. I look forward to correspondence with her and hope to be able to go into more detail on the matter in due course.
The matter is currently under consideration. Sir Robert Francis QC is conducting a compensation study, which will consider options for a framework of compensation when the inquiry reports. I can say this: the public consultation on the terms of reference for that study has concluded; the terms of reference were signed off by me in the last couple of days; and they will be published later today in a written ministerial statement.