Today, Penny Mordaunt opened this week’s evidence sessions of the Infected Blood Inquiry.
The Commons Leader, the former minister responsible for the Infected Blood Inquiry as paymaster general between February 2020 and September 2021, is the first of a number of senior politicians that have been called to give evidence this week.
Although Ms Mordaunt said that she did not believe that the Government was dragging its feet on the issue of compensation, she described how in 2020 she was unable to secure a meeting with former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other Treasury ministers about preparations for the possibility of paying compensation.
She also said the Government at the time was “very stretched” by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Inquiry was told that Ms Mordaunt wrote to the then Chancellor Mr Sunak on 13 July 2020 saying: “I believe it to be inevitable that the Government will need to provide substantial compensation. The costs are likely to be high. I believe we should begin preparing for this now, before the inquiry reports.”
Ms Mordaunt told the inquiry she did not receive a written response, but added that the situation was “not normal” during the pandemic.
She wrote to Mr Sunak again in September 2020 saying: “I cannot stress enough the urgency of taking long overdue action on financial support and compensation.”
She also said: “I think that there is a moral obligation to address the many issues that those affected by this have, and I am very conscious that that can’t happen soon enough.”
Senior politicians will be giving evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry all this week, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday.
Earlier today, Rachel Halford, CEO of The Hepatitis C Trust wrote to Mr Sunak calling for the immediate implementation of a full compensation scheme and to encourage people who may be at risk to come forward for testing.
She said: “Many of the 2,800 calls to our helpline this year have been related to the Infected Blood Inquiry and the callers have shared with us their disappointment, anger and sadness over the delays. With more than 500 people affected by the scandal estimated to have died since the Inquiry began – in addition to the thousands who had already died – there is no time to waste in delivering compensation to surviving victims and others affected.”