Contaminated Blood Scandal: Interim Payments for Victims

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make it statement on the Government’s policy on interim payments for victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I note that she does not appear to be seeking the full debate that I recently wrote to her in support of, and I would commend my recent letter to her, wherein I suggested that perhaps a full debate would be in order when the House resumes, if the Leader of the House will agree. I frequently pay tribute to her, as she knows, for her long-standing work on this issue, and I ask her to accept from me that other people are also working hard on it, including my officials and officials from across Whitehall. She has been a resolute advocate for her constituent—also through her all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood—and I am seeking also to support the wider community of people who have been affected by this appalling tragedy.

The specific question that the right hon. Lady raises today concerns the compensation framework study. This was produced by Sir Robert Francis QC and was commissioned by my predecessor in her then capacity as sponsor Minister for the infected blood inquiry. I can tell the House that it was delivered to me as the current sponsor Minister for the infected blood inquiry only in March. Sir Robert had been asked to give independent advice about the design of a workable and fair framework for compensation for victims of infected blood that could be ready to implement upon the conclusion of the inquiry, should its findings and recommendations require it.

The Government published Sir Robert’s study some six weeks ago on 7 June. Sir Robert then gave evidence about his work to the inquiry last week, on 11 and 12 July. His evidence was quite detailed, quite lengthy, quite technical and forensic. As hon. Members will appreciate, Sir Robert’s study is a comprehensive and detailed one. It reflects the contributions of many victims and their recognised legal representatives, and of the campaign groups who have been representing the infected and affected communities so well. In total, Sir Robert makes no fewer than 19 recommendations that span the full spectrum of considerations for the creation, status and delivery of a framework, including non-financial compensation, for victims—both individuals who were infected by contaminated blood or blood products and those whose lives were affected after their loved ones or family members received infected blood or infected blood products.

The Government are grateful to Sir Robert for his thorough examination of these complex questions and the detailed submissions, and I wish to assure all those who have taken part that the Government are focused on making a prompt response. One of Sir Robert’s recommendations, and the focus of the right hon. Lady’s question today, is that the Government should consider making interim compensation payments to infected blood support scheme beneficiaries before a compensation scheme is established, in the interest of speeding up justice and giving some level of assurance and security to those who may not live to see the end of the inquiry. My colleagues and I are particularly and keenly aware of this reality. After all, it was this Conservative Government under my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May)—

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 14th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson  (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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T10.   After all the decades of cover-up and the appalling treatment of those who were infected by receiving contaminated blood, will the Minister now say that interim payments will be made to those people, as recommended by his adviser Sir Robert Francis in his recent review, where he said there was a “compelling case” for them to be paid? Four hundred and nineteen people have died since the announcement of the inquiry. Time is pressing.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I heard what the review said and I thank the right hon. Lady for her continued diligence in this area. The infected blood scandal is an appalling tragedy that should simply never have happened. The Government are considering the recommendations and I can assure her that the matter is being given expeditious consideration. We will respond to the recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis QC in his study of a frame- work for compensation for victims just as soon as possible.

Functioning of Government

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The right hon. Lady frequently traduces this country. I disagree with her—I could not disagree with her more strongly. She has a separatist agenda, of course, and she wishes for the country to split, but in my view this country is the greatest country on earth.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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On the anniversary of 7/7, security is of paramount importance to all in this House. With no Security Minister, a depleted Cabinet and a Home Office that was struggling prior to this chaos, what assurances can the Paymaster General give us that the intelligence agencies are receiving all the full ministerial and legal engagement and sign-off in a timely way to keep us all safe?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I cannot discuss the security arrangements of this country from the Dispatch Box, but the Secretary of State for the Home Department is in place and is responsible for the arrangements appertaining to the security services of this country.

Standards in Public Life

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The business of the House is not a matter for me.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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I wondered whether the Minister was able to confirm whether anyone had personally raised with him concerns about the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher).

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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That is not a matter for me. [Interruption.] I am not responsible for appointments, but there are mechanisms in place for complaints to be made.

Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests Resignation

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 16th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I am afraid that we will have to wait and see.

May I take this opportunity to refer to an earlier question? I think I may have mischaracterised what the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) said. If I did, I would like to apologise if that was not his intention.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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What is it about the current Prime Minister that causes him to have such rotten luck in retaining ethics and anti-corruption advisers?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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It is kind of the right hon. Lady to ask that question. I think the Prime Minister has a lot of good luck in winning elections. He won elections in London, he won a general election in this country, and he will win more.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 9th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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I just want to make it clear that the Government’s approach to the study conducted by Sir Robert Francis was to publish it at the same time as their own response. That is what we were told—although the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood and many campaign groups had asked the Government for openness and transparency, and for the report to be published when it was given to the Government. Given that two people are dying every week as a result of the contaminated blood scandal, may I press the Minister on this issue? Do the Government accept that there is a strong moral case for compensation to be paid, irrespective of any legal liability, and for interim payments of at least £100,000 per individual to start now?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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Let me start by commending the right hon. Lady for her work in this area. I know how hard she has been working for some time. As she knows, the study was published this week and a statement was made in the House. The study makes recommendations for a framework for compensation and redress for the victims of infected blood, which can be ready for implementation on the conclusion of the inquiry that the Government initiated, should the inquiry’s findings and recommendations require it. I cannot second-guess what the outcome will be—that is the reason for the inquiry—but Sir Robert has rightly put the views and experiences of the infected and affected, who have suffered so much and for so long, at the heart of his study, and we will expedite this as far as we possibly can.

Downing Street Parties: Police Investigation

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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Nothing in the law forbade people who were legitimately at work from having a 10-minute coffee break in between meetings, and I am sure that people across the country did that, whether they ate cake with it or not. The reality of the matter is that my hon. Friend’s point is completely accurate.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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The Home Affairs Committee has been looking into the consistency of enforcement of covid regulations, because we are well aware that failure to enforce consistently can erode public trust. The Committee will have an opportunity to question the Metropolitan Police Commissioner soon. However, as the police have primary responsibility for criminal investigations in this country, does the Minister think that it would have been much better to pass this on to the Metropolitan police as soon as these allegations came to light, and that we would now be concluding that Metropolitan police investigation and he would have to stop coming to this House to defend the Prime Minister?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I know that the right hon. Lady is a very fair Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and she will acknowledge that the police have their job to do. It is not a matter for the Government or the Executive to refer matters. That has been done by the Cabinet Office, independently, as part of its investigation. As to the length of the police investigation, we have no idea how long it will be.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 13th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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We have appointed a very senior figure from the judiciary—a recently retired lady justice of appeal from the Court of Appeal. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the inquiry’s detailed terms of reference will be set out in due course, and the bereaved families and other groups will be consulted before they are finalised. The process will be done carefully and properly and with consultation and consideration for all.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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Might the Paymaster General consider the approach that was adopted when the infected blood inquiry was set up, whereby those infected and affected have been at the heart of the consultation around the terms of reference? Sir Brian Langstaff made it his first priority to ensure that those people were at the very heart of the infected blood inquiry that he now so ably chairs.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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May I take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady again for the support she has provided and the work she has done on the infected blood inquiry? It is no exaggeration to say that she has been instrumental in achieving what has been achieved so far—there is still a lot to do, of course. In answer to her question, of course it would be the wish of everyone concerned to involve the bereaved as much as possible. Baroness Hallett, a Cross-Bench peer, will have command and control of this matter, if I can put it that way, just as Sir Brian Langstaff does in the infected blood inquiry. I am sure that all concerned will have heard what the right hon. Lady has had to say.

--- Later in debate ---
Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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T6. Does the Paymaster General, as a former Law Officer, agree that there is a fatal flaw in our system when the person who ultimately makes judgment on the ministerial code is a Prime Minister who is at the centre of allegations of breaking the law and misleading the House? Does it not go against all the rules of natural justice to be judge and jury in your own case?

Michael Ellis Portrait The Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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Well, natural justice also requires something on which to impose justice and as yet we do not have any result from the inquiry, so, if I may say so, the right hon. Member is putting the cart before the horse. I would say that the Prime Minister is a man of integrity, as I have said before, and the ministerial code has always been under the purview of the Prime Minister since it was created.

Downing Street Garden Event

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I can tell the hon. Lady how I feel about what has happened to her constituents. As a human being, I feel considerable regret and sorrow, and indeed distress, for those who have suffered loss—of course I do. We all do. We would not be human if we did not. So I say to her that I am terribly sorry for the loss of her constituents’ friends and families, and for everybody who has suffered loss, but my feelings are irrelevant; what matters is the opinion of those who have been charged with the heavy duty of investigating the propriety of gatherings that may or may not have taken place. When that person then reports back on the result of their investigations, no doubt the hon. Lady will wish to discuss the matter further.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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The Paymaster General has made various references to fairness and natural justice. He has made no reference at all to the Nolan principles: the seven standards that govern us all in public life, including honesty, leadership and accountability. On that basis, why will the Prime Minister not do what Gavin Barwell, a former chief of staff in No. 10 has suggested, and come clean and say whether he attended that party or not? Why is he hiding behind Sue Gray’s investigation?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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No one is hiding behind anything. The fact is that the Prime Minister will be here at PMQs tomorrow, as I have already said. The investigation is free of any fear or favour. It is taking place impartially and will produce an equitable result. When we know what that result is, we will be able to comment further, but we must not prejudge the matter. I think I did actually refer to the Nolan principles in an answer to a question from the Scottish nationalists. What I know is that the Prime Minister respects those seven principles of public life and that he adheres to them. He has served in the public realm for many years, as Mayor of London, as a Member of Parliament, as Prime Minister, and before that as Foreign Secretary. I know the Prime Minister and I know that he is a man of integrity and he wishes to conduct himself appropriately. What will happen will be that in the normal course of events the senior civil servant—and the civil service is an entity that we all respect in this country—who has been charged with an independent assessment of this matter will report in due course.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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10. What recent assessment his Department has made of the progress of the infected blood inquiry.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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The Government remain committed to fully supporting the infected blood inquiry. The inquiry maintained pace throughout lockdown, I am pleased to say, and it is making good progress. The hearings restarted this week. The inquiry will continue to hear evidence about blood services and pharmaceutical companies until the end of this year. I take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady because I know that she has been doing sterling work in this area, and I wish to commend her for that. Please allow me also to commend my predecessor as Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), who also worked hard in this area.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson
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I welcome the Minister to his new post. May I also join him in thanking the previous Paymaster General, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), for all that she did to ensure that the cause of those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal was at the heart of the work she carried out?

As the Paymaster General said, we are three years into the NHS infected blood inquiry, and at the start of the new review into compensation for those infected and affected. Will he say something, though, about what is happening to the bereaved partner payments that were announced in March, and about whether he is willing to look at the inconsistencies that still apply to bereaved partners and their families?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her remarks, particularly about my predecessor. The previous Paymaster General announced in March this year changes to the four national financial support schemes to bring them into broader parity. That means increasing annual payments and lump sums where necessary to bring them up to the highest existing levels. The right hon. Lady knows better than anyone that there is an independent statutory inquiry, chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff. The issue of compensation is being looked at by Sir Robert Francis QC. I look forward to correspondence with her and hope to be able to go into more detail on the matter in due course.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Diana Johnson
Thursday 16th January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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1. What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the effectiveness of the CPS in prosecuting cases involving domestic violence.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General (Michael Ellis)
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The Crown Prosecution Service takes domestic abuse cases extremely seriously and is determined to bring perpetrators to justice and to provide victims with the greatest possible protection from repeat offending. In 2019, the CPS led the implementation of a national domestic abuse best practice framework for magistrates court cases, which aims to ensure consistent good practice from investigation right through to court by criminal justice agencies involved in domestic abuse casework.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson
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I have previously mentioned the shocking statistic that Hull has enough domestic abuse perpetrators to fill our football stadium, which holds 25,000 people. Some 746,000 domestic abuse crimes have been recorded nationally, which is up 24% in a year. However, referrals from the police to the CPS have gone down by 11%. Will the Minister explain what he intends to do about that?

Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
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Before I answer, may I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Lady on her damehood? It is richly deserved. She asks an important question. National implementation in this area is overseen at a multi-agency level, and it is a priority for the Government and the CPS to work to improve the statistics. There has actually been a 21.6% rise in prosecutions for violence against women and girls, an increase in charging and prosecution of offences of stalking—80% of stalking cases happen in a domestic abuse context—and a rise in prosecutions for controlling and coercive behaviour. However, I accept that more needs to be done, and that is a priority for the Government and the CPS.