Sunak on ‘wrong side of history’ over infected blood scandal, says charity | Contaminated blood scandal #Sunak #wrong #side #history #infected #blood #scandal #charity #Contaminated #blood #scandal

Rishi Sunak will be on the “wrong side of history” in his handling of the infected blood scandal, the head of a charity has warned, after his government suffered its first parliamentary defeat over when to compensate victims.

The scandal, now the subject of an inquiry, unfolded in the late 1970s and early 80s, after about 4,800 people with the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia were given blood donated – or sold – by people infected with HIV and hepatitis C.

The government previously said there was a “moral case for the payment of compensation”, and that preparations for the payment of compensation were being made, but that it wanted to wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

Twenty-two Conservative MPs rebelled on Monday to support a Labour-led amendment requiring ministers to establish a body to administer the full compensation scheme within three months of the victims and prisoners bill becoming law. It marked the first parliamentary defeat of Sunak’s premiership.

Clive Smith, the chair of the Haemophilia Society, told the Today programme on Tuesday: “This is a huge error. This has never been about politics. This has always been about justice and doing the right thing, and no government should hold out on this.

“They’ve been told by the chair of the infected blood inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, that with political will this should have been set up by the end of the year, and all we’ve heard consistently from government is warm words.

“We keep hearing the refrain ‘we’re working at pace’. The only conclusion we can come to is they are working at snail’s pace. They have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do this, and Rishi Sunak and the Tory party, I’m afraid, will be on the wrong side of history and future because it shouldn’t have needed to come to this.”

Smith added the Commons vote was a “a victory for parliamentary democracy”.

“It was incredibly emotional, incredibly moving for so many people watching it, and for so many people who’ve campaigned for decades,” he said. “It was World Aids Day last week, it’s 40 years since the threat of Aids emerged in this country and we are still here fighting for justice.

“This has been reported as a defeat for the government but, actually, this should be seen as a victory for parliamentary democracy.

“Parliament last night drew a line in the sand and said: no more, no longer, will you need to fight, no longer will you need to wait, justice will finally be delivered to those who’ve waited for so long.”

Of those people affected by the scandal, about half have already died, and campaigners say time is of the essence.

Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, and Caroline Nokes, the chair of the women and equalities select committee, were among senior Conservatives to give the amendment their backing.

There was a cheer in the House of Commons as the result of the vote was announced.

Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, who tabled the amendment, said it marked an “important step forward in what has been an extraordinarily long fight for justice”, though added that it was “not the end”.

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