Today, during a Westminster Hall debate on the Archer Inquiry into the infection of nearly 5,000 haemophiliacs with HIV and Hepatitis C through NHS blood products, Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, revealed evidence to show that the department's reasons for offering fair compensation to those infected is inaccurate and unjustified.

Lord Archer recommended that the Department offer far greater financial support to the 2,800 survivors on a par with the scheme set up in Ireland - the Irish Tribunal Compensation Scheme.

However, the Department has repeatedly claimed that in Ireland, a judicial inquiry found the Department legally liable for infecting patients obliging greater compensation. Since there was no finding of legal liability in the UK, the Department is not obliged to offer similar compensation.

However, Jenny has seen confirmation from the Irish authorities and lawyers involved in the judicial inquiry, that there was no apportioning of blame, that payments began before the judicial inquiry began and in recognition of the extreme suffering of those infected, not because of any legal obligation.

The Minister did agree to meet with Jenny and a delegation of cross-party MPs, patient and haemophilia society representatives to discuss this further.

Commenting after the debate, Jenny said:

"The Government is plain wrong. The only difference between the Irish and UK cases is that the Irish government recognised and acted on the extreme suffering of those infected and our government has not.

"The Irish themselves state that their financial assistance scheme was setup on compassionate grounds, not because they were legally obliged to. The Government hasn't got a leg to stand on.

"Our government has a moral obligation to offer proper and fair financial support to the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as the widows of those who have already died.

"I'm glad the Minister did at least agree to meet with a delegation to discuss this further. This has gone on for over 20 years and taken the lives of 1,800 people. We must find a way to draw a line under this once and for all."

A copy of Lord Archer's report, in which he recommends compensation on a par with Ireland, can be found here (see recommendations on pages 108-110)

A copy of the Government's response to the Archer Inquiry report can be found here.

Details of the Irish Compensation Tribunal can be found here.

The Tribunal awarded €566m to 2,666 individuals since 1997, an average of around £150,000 each. Individuals also receive periodic subsequent payments totaling around 30m Euros per year.

By contrast, in the UK, those infected with HIV receive on average £6,800 per year through the MacFarlane or Eileen trusts, while those infected with Hepatitis C receive up to two lump sum payments through the Skipton Fund - (i) £20,000 for the infection and (ii) £25,000 for developing a serious health problem as a result of their infection, such as liver disease or liver cancer.

The Department of Health has repeated stated that the Government will not be offering compensation on the same level as the scheme in Ireland, because the Irish Blood Transfusion Services were found guilty of wrongful practices, unlike the services in the UK. This was reaffirmed during the debate and in a recent answer to a Parliamentary Question from Dr. Brian Iddon MP, see:

However two letters show that the Irish payments began before the judicial inquiry and that the Irish government was not found legally liable:

1. In a letter from Anne McGrane (Assistant Principal Officer) Blood Policy Division, Eire, she states "As you rightly point out, compensation for persons with haemophilia was made on compassionate grounds, without legal liability on the part of the State". Compensation was awarded to haemophiliacs and their families in recognition of their "extraordinary suffering".

2. In a letter from Raymond Bradley of Malcolmson Law solicitors, Dublin, the law firm involved in the judicial inquiry in Eire, he states "At no juncture has the Irish Government, in relation to any claim by a person with Haemophilia before the Irish courts, accepted liability, i.e. filed or delivered a Defence admitting responsibility."

Jenny will be organising a delegation to meet with the Health Minister, Gillian Merron MP, including a cross-party group of MPs, representatives from the Haemophilia Society and patient representatives.

Early Day Motion 963 calls for the full implementation of the Archer Inquiry recommendations and can be found here.

Jenny Willott