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Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend who knows how evocative a moment this is for those who have worked for so many yearsnot least from both sides of this Houseto achieve this major and welcome change of policy.
Can we be assured that the payments scheme, on the detail of which the Haemophilia Society looks forward to working with government, will cover dependants of the 212 haemophilia patients who have died of hepatitis C infection, as well as the 2,800 still living with the virus?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House would want me to start by congratulating the noble Lord on his outstanding record of promoting this social justice cause for haemophiliacs infected with blood products. Since the early 1980s he has played an outstanding role. He would probably want me to thank Ministers in this House who over the years have shown great sympathy and support for this cause and who will be very pleased that it has been resolved in this manner.
In relation to his questions, I cannot give an assurance on any of the details at the moment because meetings are urgently taking place to discuss the scope and nature of the scheme, the inclusion of dependants, and so forth. I understand that there is to be a meeting between the Department of Health, the Macfarlane Trust and the Haemophilia Society.
On the number of people who have advanced liver disease, we do not hold those figures centrally, but I believe that about 20 per cent of chronically infected people may develop serious liver disease and that about 4 per cent might get liver cancer as a result. But these issues are being addressed in the Hepatitis C Strategy, which is in place.
In relation to other schemes, this scheme is not comparable. It is a unique scheme. It has been introduced on compassionate grounds. It is a financial assistance scheme. As such, that is exactly what it will deliver.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Morris, in congratulating the Government on their change of mind after many years on this subject and paying compensation towards those infected in this way. I also join the Minister in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Morris, after his campaign, together with the Haemophilia Society, on finally securing this change of mind by the Government.
When the Government consider the details of the scheme, will they take into account the way in which the Macfarlane Trust operates for those haemophiliacs infected with HIV after being given blood products, in so far as they are able to claim for higher compensation if their condition deteriorates?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are grateful for the noble Lord's support. I reiterate that this is a scheme of financial assistance, not compensation, because there was no liability. Given the knowledge and techniques
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, while welcoming the decision on ex gratia payments, can the Minister confirm that many people are still living who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood in the health service? How many of them are waiting for liver transplants, which are essential for their survival?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have that information for the noble Lord. We do not collect statistics centrally, but I shall certainly return to the department to try to obtain that informationor at least an educated guessfor him.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, in deciding on the scale of compensation, will the Minister have regard to the provisions of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995? In particular, will she bear in mind that millions of poundslast year it was £232 millionare paid out to victims of crime for whom the Government are in no way vicariously responsible, whereas here we are concerned with persons whom the health service has infected? Is she aware that under that compensation scheme, a figure is paid for the actual injury, and that to that is added loss of earnings or the ability to earn, as well as special expenses such as the cost of medical care that cannot be covered by the NHS, costs of adapting a house, and other such items?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I sympathise with what the noble and learned Lord says, but there is no comparison between what the Government are doing to provide ex gratia payments on compassionate grounds for financial assistance and the criminal injuries compensation scheme, which implies liability. As I said, there was no liability when this unfortunate event occurred. There was no test until 1991 for hepatitis C so, like every other country, in the early 1970s we could not know what was happening. The noble and learned Lord is comparing like with unlike, so I cannot give him the satisfaction that he seeks.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the Minister will know that most of the discussions between the United Kingdom and the United States took place between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department. Does she now agree that most of the assumptions made by the Pentagon, which turned out to be the main force in the issues of post-war planning, have been proven by facts and events to be largely wrong, that today terrorism and crime are rife in Iraq and that hundreds of innocent civilians are being killed every single month? In the light of that, does she agree that it is now vital that the Government find their voice, call for a much greater role in both the current occupation and the reconstruction of Iraq and recognise that the Pentagon must be persuaded to abandon its continuing loyalty to the concept of a unilateral and overwhelming American influence over the whole of the Iraq imbroglio?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, although we take note of the noble Baroness's great expertise in foreign policy, I must disagree with her that the United Nations's role is in any way marginal in either the preparations for post-war Iraq or the current building, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts there. I agree with the noble Baroness that some mistakes were made about the kind of immediate assistance that a post-war Iraq would need. As she will know from her great study of the matter, that was based on the view that there would be a great deal more solid administration and ministry, as it were, left within the Iraqi government. In fact, there was an administrative vacuum, which had to be quickly dealt with by the coalition. So although I agree that we have lessons to learn, I do not agree that the UN has in any way a marginalised role.
Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, despite what the noble Baroness says, is it not extraordinary that this country, which has at its disposal a wealth of experience about Iraq and the Middle East in general, should have placed our troops, apparently without question, under an American, not a UN, military command which, after a brilliant military victory, seemed to have no idea how the country might then be run? Are the Government surprised that the Governments of India, Pakistan and other potential troop contributors are now clearly resolved not to repeat our experience in that respect?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, a great number of countries have signed up to the economic and administrative reconstruction of Iraq. There are also a number of forces from European Union and applicant countries among the forces now in Iraq. To save time, I shall not go through the numbers, but the noble Lord will know them.
As for the position before the conflict, I think that I made clear the presumptions in front of the coalition partners at the time and how they have been dealt with in post-war Iraq. But good progress has been made. We hear continually about the difficulties. Continually in the media we hear the story of what is going wrong. That is quite right; we have a free media and it is up to them to tell the stories that they want to tell. But in Iraq, an Iraqi Governing Council is being formed, interim Ministers are being appointed and taking responsibility for their ministries, and a constitutional commission is beginning its work.
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