Clause 15 - Guidance about independent domestic violence and sexual violence advisors

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24 May 2024.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 11:30, 24 May 2024

It is a real pleasure to follow my friend Chris Stephens. I want to say a big personal thank you to him for all his excellent work over the years on the issue of infected blood, and for the important role he has played in the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, to get to where we are this week.

I also want to comment on the remarks of the Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill. I am very sad that he is leaving the House. I have looked up to him as an excellent role model for how to chair a Select Committee with grace and charm, but also with steel. He has not shied away from the effective scrutiny that is so vital to the functioning of this House through the Select Committee system. I wish him all the very best for what he goes on to do next.

As we are talking about Select Committees, I wonder whether I could also pay tribute to the members of the Home Affairs Committee, some of whom might not return to this House. I wish them all the very best for all the work they have done as Select Committee members. I also pay tribute to the work of the Clerks and the staff of the Home Affairs Committee over the past two and a half years that I have had the great honour and privilege of chairing it. In particular, I want to mention Jo Dodd, our current Clerk, David Weir, who was our previous Clerk, and Mariam Keating, the second Clerk, who stepped up when we needed her to during an interregnum between our first Clerks. I thank all of them.

The remarks that I want to make about the Lords amendments are very much in the spirit of what has been said about the infected blood scandal. As the hon. Member for Glasgow South West said, what a week this has been. We started on Monday with the report from Sir Brian Langstaff, which followed six years of evidence heard by the independent public inquiry, which was absolutely damning about the role played by doctors, the NHS and the state, and a vindication of all those who have campaigned over the decades. Finally, we have the truth.

There were a lot of ghosts in that room in Westminster Central Hall. A lot of people who should have been there were not. I want to pay tribute to someone I got to know, Nick Sainsbury, who lived just outside Hull and had been a pupil at Treloar’s boarding school. He was a haemophiliac and had been infected with hepatitis C and HIV as a young boy. He spent his life campaigning to try to find out what had happened and to get justice. Very sadly, he died last year, before the final report was published and before he could see the start of justice for those who have been infected and affected.

I also want to pay tribute to my constituent Glenn Wilkinson, who started all this off for me back in 2010, at a time very similar to this. A general election had just been called and I was holding my final surgery as an MP, and he came to see me—although I have since learnt that he was so disillusioned with everything that he almost did not come to see me. I said, “If I am re-elected in the next Parliament, I will try to help you.” That is what started my 14-year journey, working with Glenn and so many others on this campaign.

Finally, I want to say a big thank you to Caroline Wheeler, the political editor of The Sunday Times, who has relentlessly used her position as a journalist to shine a light on this issue. She has written a book, and throughout all of this she has been making sure that politicians cannot forget what happened and cannot forget this search for justice.

Let me now turn to the Lords amendments. I thank Members of the other place, and the Ministers and shadow Ministers, for all the work they have done, but I want to remind the House how we ended up with this section of the Bill. On 4 December last year this House defeated the Government, with 246 votes to 242. Why did that happen? It happened because in April 2023 Sir Brian Langstaff had produced his second interim report, in which he said that in all conscience he could not wait to tell the Government that they needed to start to pay compensation. He said that

“wrongs were done on individual, collective and systemic levels”,

and that people were dying. We know that currently people are dying at a rate of one person every three and a half days. Parliament defeated the Government—and I am very proud of this Parliament for doing that—because the Government were not doing what they should have done. Parliament made them act and put this provision into the Bill. That is what started the whole process, and it is important to note that it was cross-party.

Do I need to curtail my remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker?