Second Reading

Part of Contaminated Blood (Support for Infected and Bereaved Persons) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 1:08 pm on 11th December 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 1:08 pm, 11th December 2009

I thank my noble friend for that clarification, but he needs to address that issue in the Bill itself.

I turn now to Clause 4. In his report my noble and learned friend Lord Archer recommended that levels of financial support to those affected by this tragedy should be similar to those paid in Ireland. I will take a moment to discuss the issue of Ireland, because the situation there is quite different from the situation here in the UK. There has been some confusion around the background to the establishment of the Irish payment scheme and the reasons for it, so it is worth taking a moment to explain the background.

Between 1977 and 1984, a large number of Irish women were infected with hepatitis C following treatment with a contaminated blood product. As a result, the Irish Government set up an expert group to look into the issue, which reported in January 1995. The expert group found that wrongful acts had been committed by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, which led the Irish Government to set up the Irish Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal to operate on a non-statutory basis to review claims for compensation arising from the many civil actions pending in the courts.

Following the report of the expert group, the Irish Government set up the Finlay tribunal of inquiry, which reported in March 1997. This also found that wrongful acts were committed. Following the findings of the Finlay tribunal, the Irish Government placed the Irish Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal on a statutory footing.

The report of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer stated that,

"the Inquiry did not consider it appropriate to apportion blame, especially given the problems attendant on hindsight".

I think that he is right. In recognition, however, of the plight of those affected, the Department of Health has set up the payment schemes that have already been mentioned by various noble Lords.