Wales

Minister rules out higher pay-out for blood victims

Campaigners hoping for higher compensation payments for victims of a 1980s contaminated blood scandal have had their calls rejected.

In a Commons debate public health minister Anne Milton ruled out a suggestion by a 2007 public inquiry to match those made in the Irish Republic.

Ms Milton said she would look again at people infected with Hepatitis C.

Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott said victims had deserved to have the recommendations "seriously considered".

Ms Milton was speaking in the first debate led by backbench MPs, earned by Pontypridd MP Owen Smith after the death of one of his constituents, Leigh Sugar.

Mr Sugar, a 44-year-old haemophiliac, died in June of liver cancer caused by Hepatitis C he contracted through contaminated blood in the 1980s.

His family joined campaigners lobbying for compensation.

Ms Milton told the Commons she would review the situation and report back by Christmas.

She was "acutely aware that campaigners on this issue have been left hanging for far too long," she said.

Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, who opened the debate, described Ms Milton's statement as "useless".

He urged ministers to meet victims, some of whom were watching the debate from the public gallery, to "see what reaction they get".

"They want closure on it, they're fed up with it...," he said.

"This government had an opportunity to make a new start, to bring closure to this great human tragedy and they have refused to do so," he said.

Image caption Campaigners said they had fought for years for a debate

Ms Willott, Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, said 1,200 people had been infected with HIV, 4,670 with Hepatitis C and more than 1,800 people had died.

She added: "Since it has taken over 20 years to have an inquiry I think the least the victims deserve is to have the recommendations seriously considered, even those which are expensive."

Speaking before the debate Mr Smith said he hoped it would be the first step to a full inquiry and a UK government-backed compensation scheme.

Almost 5,000 people contracted HIV and Hepatitis C after they were given contaminated blood products in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The blood products were given to patients suffering with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders.

An independent public inquiry into the matter was held in 2007, chaired by Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell,

Lord Archer's report called it an "horrific human tragedy".

The independent inquiry was funded with private donations as successive governments rejected demands for a full inquiry.

The current scheme of pay-outs to victims is funded by private donations and charitable organisations.

'Justice'

Margaret Sugar, mother of Leigh Sugar from Pontypridd, attended a protest by campaigners outside the House of Commons on Wednesday.

She said: "As he got ill, the more sick he became, he said to my daughter-in-law this has got to come out. Nothing will bring my son back but what I want is justice.

Mr Sugar's cousin, David Thomas, 39, was also infected with contaminated blood in the early 1980s and has liver problems caused by contracting Hepatitis C.

He said: "It beggars belief we received this through the NHS.

"Successive governments for the last 20 years have known about the Hepatitis C virus and its cause through the receipt of contaminated blood products and have dodged the issue but hopefully now it's getting the airing it deserves."

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