Absolute Travesty: UK Prime Minister Throws Entire UK Government Under The Bus Over Blood Scandal

By Lisa Pelgin | Tuesday, 21 May 2024 12:00 PM
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Image Credit : Getty Images

In a momentous declaration, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak labelled Monday a "day of shame for the British state," issuing a profound apology for the failures of successive governments in the infected blood scandal.

He pledged to compensate the victims, irrespective of the cost.

Sunak's apology was delivered in a crowded House of Commons chamber, following the release of Sir Brian Langstaff's damning report, which accused the British government of concealing the catastrophe.

The Prime Minister did not hold back in his critique of the British government, pinpointing failures by ministers, civil servants, and the National Health Service (NHS). However, he faced accusations of exacerbating the victims' suffering by not implementing a compensation scheme a year ago, as initially recommended by Langstaff.

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Sunak stated, "This is a day of shame for the British state. Today's report reveals a decade-long moral failure at the heart of our national life – from the National Health Service to the civil service to ministers in successive governments at every level – that people and institutions in which we place our trust failed in the most harrowing and devastating way."

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He further added, "This is an apology from the state – to every single person impacted by this scandal. It did not have to be this way; it should never have been this way. And on behalf of this and every government stretching back to the 1970s, I am truly sorry."

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On Tuesday, ministers will disclose the amount set aside for compensation payments to victims and their families. The scandal infected 30,000 people and resulted in 3,000 deaths. "Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it," Sunak assured on Monday.

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His apology came after Langstaff unveiled his 2,500-page report at the Methodist Central Hall, which found that much of the damage caused by the scandal could have been avoided if successive governments had prioritised patient safety.

Sunak's apology follows a series of prime ministerial apologies on behalf of the British state, including those by David Cameron for the Bloody Sunday massacre and the Hillsborough tragedy.

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John Glen, the Paymaster General, will provide full details of the compensation scheme on Tuesday. Reports suggest that Sunak has authorised payments worth around £10bn, funded by additional borrowing and categorised as capital spending to avoid breaching the government's borrowing targets.

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The Labour Party is expected to support the scheme and pledge to maintain it should they come to power later this year.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said, "Politics itself failed you. That failure applies to all parties including my own. There is only one word: sorry. And by that apology, I acknowledge that this suffering was caused by wrongdoing, delay and systemic failure across the board, compounded by institutional defensiveness."

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Former Prime Minister Theresa May, who commissioned Langstaff's report, described the situation as "a devastating and abject failure of the British state – medical professionals, civil servants, politicians – all of whom felt their job was to protect their own reputation rather than to serve and look after the public who they were there to serve."

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Despite the political consensus, there was criticism of the government's delay in introducing a compensation scheme.

Diana Johnson, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told the Commons, "The failure of his government to act on the second interim report by Sir Brian [Langstaff] in April 2023 has added another layer of hurt."

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Just before the Prime Minister's apology, Johnson appeared at a press conference with other parliamentary campaigners for victims' justice, including former Health Secretaries Andy Burnham and Lord David Owen.

At the press conference, she called for a police investigation into the events at Treloar's College, a specialist school in Hampshire for haemophiliacs, where Langstaff found students had been treated as "objects of research," leading to the deaths of numerous children.

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Burnham added that he believed entire government departments should face prosecution. "There must now be full consideration of prosecutions, and I would include in that the potential for corporate manslaughter charges against Whitehall departments," he said.

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