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Ministers told to act now on compensation for infected blood victims after Sunak suffers defeat

MINISTERS have been told to act now on compensation for infected blood victims after the government suffered a surprise defeat in the Commons on the issue.

MPs voted by 246 votes to 242 in favour of a body being set up to start payouts to victims and relatives within three months of the Victims and Prisoners Bill becoming law.

Twenty-two Tories voted with Labour on the issue on Monday night, leading to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suffering the first Commons defeat of his premiership.

Labour’s shadow minister without portfolio Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The government is now obliged to do the right thing and take the steps necessary to bring forward a final compensation scheme body urgently. 

“The Labour Party will keep up the pressure to help ensure no more precious time is lost and that those affected can receive long overdue compensation, recognition and justice.”

Ministers had argued that the establishment of a new compensation body should await the end of an official inquiry into the scandal, which saw thousands of people given blood contaminated by HIV or hepatitis C in the 1970s and ’80s.

The inquiry, headed by judge Sir Brian Langstaff, is not expected to report until next spring.  So far, only interim payments have been made.

One of the rebel Tories, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, said:  “Justice delayed is justice denied — we should not delay any further.”

Haemophilia Society chairman Clive Smith said: “Parliament last night drew a line in the sand and said: No more, no longer, will you need to fight, no longer will you need to wait, justice will finally be delivered to those who’ve waited for so long.”

He argued that, with “political will,” the extended compensation scheme for victims and their families could and should have been set up by the end of this year.

Instead, the government had put itself on “the wrong side of history” by “working at a snail’s pace” on the issue, Mr Smith said.

Solicitor Des Collins, representing 1,500 victims and their families, said: “On the face of it, the government is now committed to meeting its long-overdue responsibilities.

“Let’s only hope there is no more obfuscation or creative delay tactics when the government announces its promised next steps.”

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