UK treasury chief admits no compensation decision made for victims of infected blood scandal
Hunt says he cannot ignore economic consequences while making decision
By Mehmet Solmaz
BIRMINGHAM, England (AA) - The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has said “no decisions” were made over compensation payments for the victims of contaminated blood supplies.
The former health secretary appeared before the Infected Blood Inquiry on Friday, acknowledging that the “terrible” scandal has caused huge sufferings to many people.
The inquiry was established in 2017 to examine how thousands of patients developed HIV and hepatitis C virus through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s.
Around 2,900 people died in the years since, many of them sufferers of the blood-clotting disorder hemophilia.
However, he argued that the dire economic context cannot be ignored when making judgments on “potentially very large” sums of money.
Hunt said he was “absolutely content” that the government has been working “at pace” on setting out a full compensation scheme.
When asked about funding, the treasury chief said: “No decisions have been made about the level of compensation or how it will be funded.
“We’re in very active and detailed discussions about all of that, but I can’t therefore be drawn on where that funding would come from. It’s a very uncomfortable thing for me to say but I can’t ignore the economic and fiscal context, because in the end the country only has the money that it has.”
Hunt insisted that the relevant ministers “totally understand the urgency of the situation.”
“There is a need for justice to be as quick as possible for what has been a terrible scandal. That is a very active consideration in all the discussions that we’re having,” he said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also appeared before the court on Wednesday, and promised to pay the compensation “as swiftly as possible.”
Asked by inquiry counsel Jenni Richards if he understands that justice delayed is justice denied, Sunak said victims have been “let down for decades by successive governments.”
Despite criticisms of delaying the process, Sunak said his government would wait until the conclusion of the official inquiry – expected this fall – before providing further details on the matter.
Inquiry Ccair Brian Langstaff argued that an interim scheme should be widened, so orphaned children and parents of the victims can also be compensated.
Under the initial scheme, only victims themselves or their partners can receive a temporary payment of around £100,000 ($130,000).
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