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Blood: Contamination

Health written question – answered on 25th January 2011.

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Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd Conservative, Hastings and Rye

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the difference is in the level of compensation payments for those affected by contaminated blood and blood products (a) in the Republic of Ireland and (b) in the UK under the settlement he announced on 10 January 2011; and for what reasons he considers that a difference in such levels is appropriate.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley The Secretary of State for Health

It is not possible to make meaningful comparisons between the level of compensation made to individuals in the Republic of Ireland and the level of ex-gratia payments made to individuals here in the United Kingdom, because the two systems are completely different. In the Republic of Ireland, lump sum payments are made, the size of which varies according to the circumstances of the individual claimant. Here in the UK, there is a system of lump sum, annual, and discretionary ex-gratia payments. The recurrent annual payments will be made over the lifetime of the infected individual, so it is impossible to ascertain how much individual patients might receive in future.

As I explained to the House on 10 January 2011, Hansard, columns 33-42, the circumstances in the Republic of Ireland are unique to them, in that the Irish Government chose to establish an independent Compensation Tribunal to determine the quantum of payments by reference to Irish principles of law governing the calculation of damages. In consequence, the basic awards made in Ireland (leaving aside exemplary or aggravated damages) are compensatory in nature but are paid without proof of negligence in any given case. The article in The Irish Times on 5 August 1997, has already been placed in the Library on 14 October 2010, demonstrates that there is a clear indication of an acceptance by the Irish Government that in many, if not all cases, the claimants were likely to have a good cause of action because the Irish Attorney General advised that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board (for which the Irish Government are responsible) would be found guilty of negligence.

In my remarks to the House on 10 January 2011, Hansard, columns 33-42, I referred to the question of liability in relation to the Republic of Ireland. For the avoidance of doubt, I am aware that no liability was formally accepted by the Government of the Republic of Ireland, nor was such a determination made by a court. My response to questions highlighted that, in view of the acknowledgement of mistakes made by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board, the nature of the payments in Ireland were consistent with a finding of liability leading to compensation as was set out in that article. The approach we have taken in the UK is therefore distinct and different, and is ex gratia in nature. Our payments are not equivalent to those that would be made on the basis of legal liability.

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