Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the first time that I have had the honour to be in the Chamber when you are sitting in your rightful place in the Chair.
My involvement in the contaminated blood scandal was as, I think, the second Minister for public health the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) had the occasion—I nearly said the great misfortune—to come to see. She brought to that meeting all the vim and vigour with which she has pursued this campaign over seven long years. It has taken seven years for justice to be brought about, and that is too long.
I think I am right in saying that when the hon. Lady came to see me, her biggest concern was the burning injustice involved. To me, something inherent in the matter just felt wrong. I could not put my finger on it, but I was convinced that something was not right. The attitude of some of the people I encountered strengthened that feeling. They wanted to sweep the matter under the carpet, so that they no longer had to deal with it, and move on to other ways of helping the unfortunate victims.
There are two elements to all this. The first great injustice is the terrible scandal itself, which happened decades ago and which Governments—of all three colours, including the coalition Government—failed to grasp as I and others in government wanted them to. The second great injustice concerns money. I pay full tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), who absolutely got it, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton). After the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North asked her question of the Prime Minister last week, my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and I sat here together. I will not repeat everything that we said to each other, but it boiled down to, “For goodness’ sake”—or words to that effect—“let’s just get on and get this done properly.” We were talking not just about a public inquiry, but, most importantly, about the money. I also pay tribute to Jane Ellison, the previous Minister for public health, because I know that she got this as well.
To get a public inquiry, it was necessary to submit to the Government all the extra material that has been forthcoming in recent times, as further evidence of the need for such an inquiry. No matter how much Ministers and hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House care about something and see why it should be done, political will is required to make it happen. I pay handsome tribute to the Prime Minister for not messing about. I know that she will have been supported by wise words from the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), and from the Secretary of State, who made the case to her. She has grabbed the matter by the horns, done the right thing and given us a public inquiry.
I want to go further and talk about the second grave injustice. I was reminded of correspondence that I have had with constituents whose son is a haemophiliac. As if being the parents of a haemophiliac was not hard enough, he was diagnosed at the age of nine with AIDS and hep C. He has faced real challenges in his life, which has been blighted by plain prejudice—I have heard horrible stories about the bullying he encountered at school—because of the triple combination from which he suffers. Now he is married, he is the father of a child and he owns his own home. His parents, who have suffered not just injustice but the real difficulty of watching their son suffer, are such wonderful people. They give you every faith in people’s goodness. They have no grievances against anybody, but they just want a proper financial package.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) talked about the fact that victims receive an ex gratia payment rather than compensation. I remember those schemes, and I was horrified to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) that they have not been sorted out. I beg the Government to scrap them, and, in blunt, simple terms, to give these people the money that they deserve and need: do not give them that money as ex gratia payments; do not make them scrabble around to find bits of paper that they have to take with them, cap in hand, to ask for money. As if they have not suffered enough, how demeaning is it for them to have to go and, as they see it, beg for bits of money?
I urge the Government to get a load of money—these things are possible; we know that it can be done—of the sum that is required. I know that it is not quite so simple, but the next thing to do is to look not at liability, but at quantum, as we lawyers call it. How much would each individual, or their widow or survivor, be entitled to if liability was not an issue? Then, I ask the Government to do the right thing. I do believe that they can find the money. I know that many in government, including the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, absolutely got this. For whatever reason, his term in office was not the right time to do something about the matter, but he understood the human side, as did many of us.
It is now time to sort out the second grave injustice—the money. Get the money together, put it in a pot, decide quantum and give these people everything that they deserve and need. Then, finally, the last grave injustice and national scandal will have been sorted out and solved. Of that, we will all be able to be proud.