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No one who has read the report of the independent public inquiry headed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, or who listened to the debate on that report in your Lordships' House last April, can fail to be shocked by the lack of any sense of urgency, and the catalogue of denial and prevarication that it revealed. Equally, no one who has known and worked with the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for as long as I have can fail to be impressed by his tenacity and indefatigable persistence in campaigning for justice for those who suffer misfortune through no fault of their own, or who, as in this case, are the victims of state action or the actions of organs of the state, and I pay tribute to him.

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Over a 45-year career in Parliament-one thinks of thalidomide, vaccine damage and the fight for statutory recognition of dyslexia and autism-even after his distinguished tenure of the office of Minister for the Disabled, the first in the world, when many would have been tempted to rest on their laurels, the noble Lord went on to champion the victims of Gulf War syndrome, to fight for a separate War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber for the Tribunals Service and now, over many years, to campaign for justice for those who have suffered, in many cases resulting in death, through the administration of blood and contaminated blood products by the NHS. As we have seen, he is a campaigner to be reckoned with. When the Government refused to set up an inquiry not once but twice, he simply went ahead and set up one of his own. In that connection, I add my tribute to the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and his inquiry team.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said in the debate on 23 April,

The recourse of successive Governments to the device of Crown immunity, requiring sufferers to sign waivers in respect of Hepatitis C in circumstances where they did not know that they might have it but the department knew they were at risk; the resistance to disclosure of documents to the multiparty group; the refusal to hold an inquiry, and then disingenuously relying on the fact that there have been no findings of fault against the British Government; the reliance on discretionary trust funds rather than a system of benefits as of right to provide a measure of compensation; the failure to recognise the claims of widows; and the suggestion that unless a Government are in some way responsible for a misfortune befalling a group of their citizens, they are under no obligation to relieve it, all these things and more can only bring shame on the reputation of this country and its handling of this tragedy, which has been so much less open and generous than that displayed by numerous other countries.

It is not my purpose to trawl back through the history of these matters. Nothing can be done about it now, and in any case the Second Reading of this Bill is not the place to do that. I make reference to it merely to underline the context in which it seems to me that the only honourable course that the Government have today, and the only way in which they can go some way to righting the wrongs that have been done to the haemophilia community, is to give their support to the Bill and to bring the recommendations of the Archer inquiry into effect. This is, after all, a fairly modest proposal; in six clauses it provides for testing, treatment and proper compensation. I should be interested to hear how the Minister could make the case that anything less is due.

I support the proposals for direct financial relief for those who have been infected and for their carers; that there should be a statutory committee to advise the Government on the management of haemophilia in this country with patient and family representation; that there should be free access to National Health Service benefits; and that there should be government

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assistance with access to insurance. We now have the Government's response to the Archer inquiry, which I fear falls some way short of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and his committee asked for. However, I hope that the Bill will prompt Ministers to look again at their proposals. I will leave others to speak about the detail, numbers, money and technicalities; it was the ethics and the attitude which particularly struck me. In responding to the inquiry's recommendation of free access to home nursing and support services, the Government said that the provision of non-residential social care services, such as domiciliary care in England, is a matter for local authorities. This is indisputable as a matter of fact, but does it match up to what the victims of this tragedy deserve, and to the Government's responsibility? These people were harmed by the NHS; it is the Government's responsibility to put that right. Of course the Government could, if they chose, make the necessary arrangements to meet the recommendation. After decades of obfuscation, the people who are awaiting that response deserve something better. The Government are not unable, and they should act.

What chance does the Bill have of reaching the statute book? It would not be the first time that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has made history with a Bill in the wash-up. I hope that the Government will salvage something of the tattered reputation of successive British Governments in this matter, and snatch some measure of victory from the jaws of defeat by helping the noble Lord to do so again.

12.20 pm

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I intend to be incredibly brief in supporting my noble friend Lord Morris. I spoke on 23 April; I do not wish to repeat what I said then, everything still stands. I just wanted to be here today to give him support, so that the Department of Health knows that there are enough people prepared to get up on a Friday morning to come to support the issue, because it is not going to go away. I think that the Bill is a good idea. A Bill is always a good idea as a campaigning measure, particularly when it is one that one may possibly get through. It is a good vehicle.

I agree with all that has been said, and I reiterate a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, which is to commend the unsung supporters of the measure who funded the inquiry. Obviously, I pay great tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer; 35 years ago, I was his PPS. The funding, modest although it was, was necessary and important. The fact that we have the Bill proves-I shall be very careful about this-that, first, the Department of Health does not put patients first and that, secondly, we do not have the best health service in the world. If we had, we would not have the Bill; we would have dealt with the issue, as others have. Every time I hear that claim I am irritated by it, simply because of this case of what, to the centre, looks like a bunch of little people. As we heard from my noble friend on the radio this morning, the numbers are getting less. It will solve itself, this problem. That is the unspoken view in Whitehall at present. It is a complete lapse in the good standards of conduct of public administration in this country that we have got to this state. I hope that the

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Scottish inquiry will uncover more detailed evidence and paperwork that has been kept back than we have in England. Frankly, many of us do not believe what we have been told, but we cannot prove the contrary.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I just make it clear that 5,000 documents were discovered by the department and given to us too late for us to include them in our report, so we may have some optimism about the Scottish inquiry.

Lord Rooker: Absolutely. My noble and learned friend reminds me of that incident and the complaints made about it at the time. That may be possible, but, nevertheless, the Government argued for all those years that the information was not there and then, all of a sudden, it becomes available. In other words, they had not applied good administration rules, knowing that an inquiry was being set up which had a good degree of parliamentary support, even though it was unofficial. They refused to give evidence. Then to search for documents and produce them when it was too late to take evidence on them begs the question.

I wish my noble friend well with the Bill. He introduces it at a good time in the parliamentary process. It would have a fair wind if people in the other place got up off their knees and looked at particular issues on behalf of individual citizens-not many thousands of them, there are only a few, but that is what counts, little things mean a lot. If you get the little things right, the chances are that people believe you on the bigger things. There is a good opportunity if the Bill can leave this House and go to the other place before an election is called. As the noble Lord, Lord Low, just said, one does not know: the possibility in the wash-up is enormous. If people want to salvage reputations, that is good.

My noble friend who will reply to this debate has been very good on this issue but, nevertheless, she is going to have a miserable time-not today, but whoever is on that Bench, whether they be the Whip or the Minister, will have a miserable time both before and after the election unless this matter is seen to be dealt with seriously. The impression is being given that the matter will go away, that they are not bothered. Having a Bill in front of us gives us something to get our teeth into and to push for. Whatever the result of the election-it would be nice to get the Bill through beforehand and, as I said, I do not rule that out-if there is any real backbone in the management of the government machine, if whoever is the Prime Minister really wants to deal with this issue, I give them a solution. You send back to the Department of Health an ex-Minister. You find somebody-there are enough of them around on both sides of the House. You send someone back-the civil servants' worst nightmare, a Minister who returns-with the avowed instruction from the Prime Minister to get this sorted.

That can apply whatever the result of the election, because there is a serious issue here. The worry will be: will other similar issues be dealt with in the same way? The fact is that this is now a festering sore. Now that a Bill has appeared, it will keep festering. I use language somewhat more extreme than my noble friend, but he made it quite clear that this is not the NHS at its best, and he will go on, and on, and on. As long as he does that, I will be with him.

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12.26 pm

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I have been moved to take part in the debate on the Bill because of the sheer quiet tenacity of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester. A chance meeting in the Corridor some time ago led to a discussion about his great cause of the moment. As everyone who knows him or has had the pleasure of speaking to him knows, the noble Lord is a wonderful supporter and campaigner for those who have no strong voice. Among them are those on the real margins of society with chronic conditions, who never seem to come across our paths, who suffer and have suffered in silence for so long.

As an aside, it would be wonderful if our powerful media would publicise this cause and if the Haemophilia Society, which is so short of financial support at the moment, were nominated as the Christmas charity by one of the national newspapers for next year-it is too late this year. That is something we can do as a group of people who are deeply concerned. That is about the only thing that I can suggest from a practical point of view, having listened to all the moving speeches this morning. I am not going into the Department of Health to look for lost documents-I would not have any locus there and would be kicked out-but there must be something we can do. Of course, supporting the Bill is the first thing, but that is another idea, and I hope that someone will take it up.

After researching the whole issue of those who are affected-fatally affected-by contaminated blood and blood products after my chance encounter with the noble Lord, and after supporting him in previous exchanges in your Lordships' House, I became more and more depressed and appalled. There is no way that I could not support the Bill, and I do so wholeheartedly.

My sense of depression was somewhat alleviated when I realised that another noble Lord for whom I have the utmost admiration, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is still deeply involved in this issue. I have read his report. I have to admit that I read it reluctantly, because it made me feel deeply uncomfortable. I was astonished that such a situation could exist and that I could have been oblivious to it. It was rather like the experience I had a couple of months ago when we were examining the Coroners and Justice Bill. I undertook to investigate the issue of the prostitutes exploited and trafficked to provide sex. Of course, the victims of today's debate have no chance of recovery from their dreadful situation.

Let us not forget that we are talking about people with a significantly diminished lifespan. My intervention has been motivated by the huge injustice and by the lack of compassion shown to the victims. As has already been stated, the purpose of the Bill is to provide support for people who have been infected with certain diseases as a result of receiving contaminated blood and blood products supplied by the NHS. They were infected by the NHS. Their illnesses are not a result of a chosen lifestyle. They were infected unknowingly and were the tragic victims of mischance, mistake or negligence.

At this stage, I shall deviate from concentrating on blame because it does not help or strengthen the cause of the victims, and neither will it help the surviving

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dependants and loved ones. The Bill is a straightforward case of justice and compassion and just deals with a wrong that must be righted. Of course, I know that there are those who will argue that we should apportion blame, and one sympathises with them, but an in-depth analysis of who or what was to blame has already been carried out, and I trust that the factors have been isolated to such an extent that precautionary systems are now in place to make it as sure as one can ever make sure of anything that the root cause will never happen again. Further analysis is not the purpose of the Bill. I reiterate that this is a matter of justice and compassion. We as a nation can hold our heads up high only if we exercise justice and compassion in everything we do. I just hope that the Government will give the Bill a fair wind.

Before looking at the detail of the Bill, I must make it clear that as an economist-I do not often admit that-I am constantly conscious of the financial impact of any measure we blithely put before the Government in which we demand resources to improve a situation. The Bill does not give any indication of the likely cost of the measures proposed but, to be stark about it, the costs will diminish, and with so few tragic people involved, it is unlikely to be hugely costly. Already some £142 million in ex gratia payments has been given to patients and their dependants since 1988, and £46 million is being provided for the NHS to help fund the purchase of clotting factors in 2009-10. I fear I have already strayed into territory that is both unknown to me and distressing. I will leave it to others, but suffice it to say that there is a need for an impact statement so that we can have some idea of the financial impact of the Bill, if, as I hope, it becomes an Act.

The Bill has the great merit of being clear, written in plain English and completely comprehensible to mere lay people like me. Each section seems logical and comprehensive and provides answers to the questions that crowded into my mind when approaching the subject. In addition, it was good to be able to read a technical Bill quickly and understand every word. I fear I cannot resist the temptation to articulate the wish that each Bill produced in our Parliament was so well drafted.

The people who have been treated with, and infected by, contaminated blood and blood products are central to the Bill, and that is how it should be. I fear my heart sank to see that the objective of Clause 1 is to establish a committee to advise on haemophilia-yet another committee! Please do not let it be another quango. I suggest that a time limit be put on the operation of such a committee. I have just one further gentle suggestion about it: a lay person with a reputation for seeing the world through common-sense glasses could bring an additional, different and, probably, helpful perspective. Sometimes the experts get too close to the subject and need a jolt of the ordinary to clear the way.

I now turn to Clauses 2, 3 and 4. Of course, there should be provision for blood donations, a scheme for NHS compensation cards for those affected and provision for the compensation of people treated with, and infected by, NHS contaminated blood and blood products and their widows, dependants and carers. However, here I have a slight moan: what about widowers? I am

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sure that this is just a drafting point, but I suggest that an amendment be made to the relevant clause to cover them. I particularly approve of the fact that it is proposed that a review will be held within six months of the passing of the Act.

This is an excellent Bill and it would result in improving the lot of those so brutally affected. They are a hidden group. They do not seem to have celebrities promoting their cause. They have been living in despair and without hope. I nearly wept when I heard the description of the five people who wanted to come to give evidence but could not afford the fare. What sort of a society are we? It is time that we all realised that we have a duty of care towards these people, which is all part of justice and compassion. I hope that the Bill has an easy passage through both Houses and becomes law speedily.

12.36 pm

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, when I went to the Printed Paper Office and asked for the contaminated blood Bill, a Member of your Lordships' House, who must have come from the other place, said that it does not have time for such matters. My immediate thought was, "Shame on them". The Bill shows the importance of your Lordships' House because it gives time for such humane and important matters and for the scrutiny of legislation. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on his continued persistence over this important and heartrending matter. I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, on his report, which is of great importance to many people. He will have spent much time and energy over its creation.

I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Haemophilia Society. I know the importance of blood transfusions. My life was saved by them when I sustained an internal haemorrhage at the time I broke my back. In later years, I also had blood transfusions when I became anaemic after travelling abroad. I also know how important it is to have experts who understand blood complications, as my blood group changed from negative to positive.

Patient safety, particularly when working with blood, blood products and transplantation, should be paramount. Health safety has not been given the top priority that it should have been given, and now we have the problems of healthcare-acquired infections and the disasters that your Lordships are discussing today, along with matters that could help the people afflicted and that are stated in this Bill, and I do hope the Bill will come into law.

The contaminated blood disaster has been described as one of the most tragic episodes in the health service's history. When haemophiliacs were infected with infected factor 8 in the early years of HIV, the first husband of my noble friend Lady Campbell of Surbiton, who was a haemophiliac, was infected with HIV and died. They lived in north Yorkshire near where I lived. Seventy-five per cent of the haemophiliacs who were treated at the haemophilia unit in Newcastle-upon-Tyne were infected with HIV from blood products that were imported from the USA. This was because the UK was not self-sufficient in blood products.

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I was introduced by a friend to a young man called Jonathan Miller, who was one of the campaigners for help for haemophiliacs with HIV. Jonathan came to lunch with me at my home in Yorkshire, and afterwards told me privately in my study what terrible agony he was in because of his knee joints. He did not want to discuss this with his parents, and I felt privileged that he wanted to share this secret with me. Some time later, I attended his memorial service in London.

Again, in the early days, I heard a distraught father tell how his young son, aged six, and his best friend, both of whom were haemophiliacs and infected with HIV, had been denied a visit to Disneyland because they were HIV positive. They were HIV positive because they had been treated with infected blood products imported from the USA. I felt, and still feel, that the attitude of the USA to these children was unforgivable.

Is it surprising that I support this Bill, which supports infected and bereaved persons? It is not easy having to deal with being a haemophiliac patient, but they have to be dealt with, having been infected by HIV or hepatitis C. Now, 802 patients are known to have had blood from donors who subsequently died of vCJD, which constitutes yet another threat to this community.

A government scientific body has recommended that all red blood cells given in transfusions to children under the age of 13 should be filtered to remove the infection that causes the fatal brain disease of vCJD. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is caused by mutated proteins known as prions, which infect the victim's brain, forming sponge-like holes in the tissue and causing a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. Derek Kenny from Portsmouth died of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease six years ago after being given a contaminated blood transfusion. His widow Judy said: "The idea of a filtration system is excellent. If it was proven to be effective, we ought to use it because that way we can be sure that the blood pool is safe and that everyone receives safe blood". Should filtered blood not be offered to everyone, irrespective of their age? Will the Minister update your Lordships on this today? Is it not time that the Government accepted the recommendations made in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer? I hope that the Minister, who I am sure will do her best, will tell us today that a committee to advise on the treatment of haemophilia will be set up without delay.

Haemophilia has lots and lots of complications, as do the conditions hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human T-lymphotropic virus, syphilis and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease mentioned in Clause 2(2). Expert advice needs to be forthcoming for everyone who needs it, and medical and nursing staff need training.

This committee should have been set up years ago so that people could share together for the good of patients and their supporters. A public inquiry into how people were infected with hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood has been set up in Scotland. I am a Scot. I read what Lord Penrose said:

"Many people have died. Many of the patients who survive, and the families of patients who died, deserve our deepest sympathy".

Of course they do, but they want and deserve more than sympathy-they want action. This is a running sore that will not heal until there is a satisfactory solution.

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12.45 pm

Baroness Barker: My Lords, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in the gap today. I shall confine myself to three or four quick points because I have spoken in previous debates about the noble and learned Lord's report. I thank him and the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for their persistence with this matter. Their indefatigable campaigning is necessary for this group of people.

I want to set out the context in which I and my colleagues in the Liberal Democrat health team are approaching this matter. Today, of all days, it is easy to make this point: we are told that over the next four years there will have to be £20 billion-worth of savings in the NHS and £36 billion in savings across all government departments. That is the context in which we have to consider this matter.

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