The Infected Blood Inquiry

4. Topical Questions – in the Senedd at on 22 May 2024.

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Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru


1. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement following the publication of the report on the Infected Blood Inquiry? TQ1093

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 3:32, 22 May 2024


Thank you very much. On Monday, I apologised on behalf of the Welsh Government to everyone in Wales who suffered and was affected by the infected blood scandal. I would like to reiterate that apology here today and confirm that the Government will stage a debate on this issue in the Senedd on 4 June. I will inform Members at that point how we will continue to work with the other Governments across the UK in order provide the justice that the victims deserve.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 3:33, 22 May 2024


Thank you for that response. I want to begin by adding my voice to those who have congratulated and thanked the survivors of this scandal, their families and supporters, who have had to campaign for far too long for justice. This was a scandal that could easily have been avoided. As the report from the inquiry has said, this was no accident; it was not misfortune. People received infected blood from people who knew the blood had been infected. It is a direct result of systemic failures, following a conspiracy to conceal the truth and information in order to protect reputations, and is the result of a lack of transparency and the failure of politicians and senior officials to acknowledge fault. It is an absolutely damning report and there are lessons to be learnt by all of us.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 3:34, 22 May 2024

The Langstaff report gives voice to them and lays bare the systematic failures at every level that created the environment in which this scandal was able to endure for so long. That campaigners had to fight so hard against a system that circled the wagons, sought to defend its own interests and prioritised its own protection over correcting its mistakes is shameful. There are recommendations in the Langstaff report, including on patient safety and haemophiliac care, in areas of devolved competence. Can the Cabinet Secretary assure us that these are being implemented? More generally, does she agree with me that there is an important lesson in this about the paramount importance of the duty of candour and the willingness to address systemic issues in our health service openly, honestly and in concert with victims and survivors? What steps is the Cabinet Secretary taking to ensure that these are adhered to and implemented here? Does she also agree that there can be no delay in paying compensation to those impacted by this scandal, and that there is a role for Welsh Ministers in holding the UK Government's feet to the fire, ensuring that the cost is borne in full by Whitehall, and that the scheme is delivered at pace and in a way that ensures that no-one impacted by the scheme misses out on compensation for which they have already waited too long?

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 3:35, 22 May 2024

Thanks very much, Mabon. I think you are absolutely right in the tone that you used there. This is the worst scandal in the history of the NHS. I'd like to pay tribute to all those people, in particular those who suffered over so many years and whose voices weren't heard. But I'd also like to pay tribute to the campaigners who stood with them, and in particular, in this Chamber, to Julie Morgan, who, for years and years, stood by and with the victims, not just in this Chamber but also in Westminster. Thank you, Julie, for all your work.

I think you're absolutely right in your outrage, and I'd like to echo that outrage on behalf of the victims. They were very poorly served, and it is good at last that their voices have been heard. There are many, many recommendations in the report; it's a very long report. There are 12 recommendations, across all areas of healthcare, which we're going to take time to address. In terms of the next steps, the infected blood inquiry report next steps for Wales group will be set up. That's going to consider the recommendations and shape our response to them. That group will be chaired by our new deputy chief medical officer, Push Mangat.

Officials are already working with the UK Government in terms of next steps in relation to compensation, via the newly formed Infected Blood Compensation Authority. I have already received a letter from the UK Government Minister, who's very keen to see that there's no delay. He has suggested that that second interim payment, which was announced this week—£210,000 to those living beneficiaries who are registered on a support scheme—will be paid within 90 days. We will be channelling that via the Welsh scheme for the time being, just to make sure that they get paid. We have had it confirmed that the UK Government will be bearing the cost in full and will be paying for this.

Photo of Julie Morgan Julie Morgan Labour 3:38, 22 May 2024

Thanks very much to the Cabinet Secretary for her response and for her apology on behalf of the Welsh Government, and thank you to Mabon for putting the topical question.

As I said during the business statement yesterday, I was up in Central Hall Westminster when this very important statement was made, and I was with people from south Wales who have suffered and have been affected. I just wanted to use this opportunity to pay tribute to Lynne Kelly, who is a constituent of mine in Cardiff North, and has been the driving force behind our response in Wales. In fact, she first approached me when I was her Member of Parliament, back in 1997, to inform me about the scandal and about the need for an inquiry. She was there on that bus going up to London yesterday, looking after and paying attention to all the people who fought for so long. So, I just wanted to put on record my thanks and admiration for all that she has done.

The message from Sir Brian Langstaff was clear: it wasn't a mistake, it was a cover-up, and it occurred on a monumental scale. Obviously, it's now down to the UK Government, but it's also down to us, to make sure that every single one of those recommendations in the report is carried out. I think yesterday was very important to the people who were there to hear it, and those who watched it on television at home, who were infected or affected. But there was also this fear of, 'Will they do it?', because they've had 40 years of waiting for something to happen and nothing has happened.

Also, the announcement yesterday regarding compensation was very welcome, but it should have been made at least a year ago, when Sir Brian released his first urgent recommendation on compensation. Since then, more than 80 people have died, so people have lost that opportunity to at least have some financial help, and also to feel easy that their families will be supported. 

I think that those delay tactics that have already been seen by the UK Government are really making campaigners worried that they will not get the compensation, and that heels will be dragged about all the recommendations. I think it's been beholden on us, here in Wales, to make sure that this happens. What pressure will the Cabinet Secretary put on the UK Government to ensure that all these recommendations are carried out?

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 3:41, 22 May 2024

Thanks very much, Julie. Can I say how humbled I've been by the work you've done on this, over so many years? I know how moved you've been by the stories of those victims. Thank you for standing by and with them. You were someone who did hear their voices. You were somebody who did listen to them. It's a lesson to us all—that more of us need to listen and hear what our constituents are telling us. I hope that you and they feel vindicated by those years and years of campaigning where they weren't listened to. 

I want my officials to take time to consider this report. It's taken a long time. I don't want to give a snap answer, because I want to give it the respect it deserves. But, absolutely, we will take it very, very seriously. Obviously, many of the recommendations will be for the UK Government, but I will commit to you that anything in relation to Wales we will take very seriously. 

I absolutely hear you in terms of the urgency of those payments. There has been a commitment to pay within 90 days that additional interim payment of £210,000. We will be playing our part as a Welsh Government in making sure that the Wales infected blood support scheme will be paying out within that timetable. There have been delay tactics over the years. I want to make that commitment to you that we will move heaven and earth to make sure that we can make those payments within 90 days to those people who've been waiting for so long. 

Photo of Sam Rowlands Sam Rowlands Conservative 3:42, 22 May 2024

Let me join colleagues and thank Mabon ap Gwynfor for raising this here today, and join the Cabinet Secretary too in paying credit to all those who have campaigned on this issue over the years. I also join the Cabinet Secretary in her words of clarity, by outlining that this scandal is one of the greatest failures of the British state, and also to reflect on the words from Sir Brian Langstaff, who wrote the report. He chose to use the word 'calamity', but, in truth, there are no words that can wholly sum up the tragedy that has taken place over decades, including the disgraceful cover-ups from senior people in the national health service, Government ministries and the civil service. The awful attitude towards victims, the callousness with which they were treated, is certainly beyond a calamity in my book.

They were, as we know, infected with contaminated blood, and then effectively gaslit by the authorities who covered it up every step of the way. There are so many innocent people who have suffered needlessly. Certainly, our thoughts are with them and their loved ones. We know that, in Wales, around 400 people are known to be infected, but we also know that this is unlikely to be the full number. The report that we are discussing today was clear in its criticisms of the UK and Welsh Governments, so I certainly welcome the formal apologies from both Governments to the victims. We must ensure that situations like this are never allowed to happen again, and that the groupthink and the secrecy that encourages cover-ups—the points that Mabon ap Gwynfor mentioned—are eradicated once and for all.

A number of us here today so far have mentioned the Prime Minister's commitment to a comprehensive compensation package. So, a question on that point first, Cabinet Secretary, just to join with colleagues also in terms of the timing of that. I wonder if you have any concerns, initially, about the speed. You said 90 days, but do you have any concerns that that will not be met? Are there any issues or barriers that may be in place to stop that happening sooner rather than later? And, then, just to again make the point on the secrecy and cover-up culture that seemed to come through in this report, I wonder, Cabinet Secretary, are there any proactive measures that you'll be considering to ensure that public bodies in Wales don't engage in that culture of secrecy and cover-ups, so that these tragedies don't happen again?

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 3:45, 22 May 2024

Thanks very much, Sam. Certainly, this is a shameful episode in UK political history, and it is important that we all reflect on that. There are around 264 people who are beneficiaries of the Wales infected blood support scheme. The word 'beneficiary' doesn't seem right to me. These are people who are victims, who've paid a huge price, and no money is going to compensate for the suffering that they've gone through, in particular those who've lost loved ones and who've suffered in very often immense pain. 

In terms of the 90 days, what are the barriers? Well, I guess the money needs to come into our account so that we can spend it. There are a lot of rumours swirling around this afternoon about a general election—we need to make sure that that doesn't get in the way. But also I think it's probably really important to underline the fact that, in Wales now, in relation to the national health service, there is a legal duty of candour—a legal duty. So, this is something that we have to make sure is applied and taken seriously. I know that there's a lot of training going on within our health service to make sure people understand what that means in practice.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:46, 22 May 2024


I thank the Cabinet Secretary. The next topical question is from Andrew R.T. Davies.