Amendment 133A

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 26 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Bichard Lord Bichard Crossbench 4:15, 26 February 2024

My Lords, I too speak in support of Amendment 134. I have to apologise, for I am afraid I was unable to attend Second Reading. I speak on this amendment as someone who has spent a good deal of time in the last couple of years chairing one of the expert advisory groups for the infected blood inquiry, looking at public health and administration. As a result, like some other Members of this House, I spent a day at the inquiry giving evidence. That day made a huge impression on me, as I know it will have done on others. It made a huge impression not least because there was an audience of dozens of victims, who had suffered grievously for years and decades. They have shown immense courage, determination and resilience in the face of what the chair, Sir Brian Langstaff, has rightly said were serious failings over decades that

“led to catastrophic loss of life and compounded suffering”.

As chairman of an expert advisory group, it was not for me to draw those wide conclusions but I was able to see from the evidence—and draw my own conclusions—that during that period there had been multiple breaches of the Nolan principles and the conventions that preceded them, and multiple breaches, I am sad to say, of the Civil Service Code. In other words, the state let these people down time and again, and the state should now provide restitution without any further delay.

There is one other reason why I am supporting this amendment: because I feel that not to do so would make me complicit in what now seems to be the way in which the state, in all its forms, responds to failings such as this. We delay accepting responsibility for as long as we can. We defend the indefensible. We place the reputation and interests of institutions and the system above the interests of the people who have been harmed. We set up inquiries, which inevitably delay action. I am not in any way criticising the way in which Sir Brian has led the infected blood inquiry; it has been exemplary, and he has done a fantastic job. We then design unnecessarily complex systems for claiming compensation. We do not do this once; we do all that time and again. It happened with Windrush, Grenfell, the Post Office and, probably most heinously of all, the infected blood inquiry.

We have reached a stage where these responses themselves are a breach of the Nolan principles of public life. Let me remind the Committee that these principles include integrity, accountability, openness and leadership. This amendment seeks to change the responses and rebuild the public’s trust in the way in which we govern. It needs to be done quickly, because the inquiry report will come out in May, and it will receive phenomenal attention. It will either further undermine the public’s faith in government or, if we take this action now, perhaps people will believe that we are changing things through action and not through words.