HC Deb 23 November 1989 vol 162 cc11-2W
Mr. Key

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the financial support available for haemophiliacs who have become infected with HIV.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The Government share the universal sense of shock at the unique position of haemophiliacs who have been infected by the AIDS virus, as a result of NHS treatment which they require in order to survive. It was for this reason that the Government made an ex gratia grant to the Haemophilia Society to enable them to establish a special trust fund, now called the Macfarlane Trust, so that special payments could be made to meet the needs of the individuals affected and their families throughout the United Kingdom.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, who was then the Minister for Health, announced the grant in 1987 he explained that the Government had chosen this course of action because we thought that it would enable help to be given with greater flexibility than could be achieved in any other way. He also made it clear that while the Government regarded the sum involved as appropriate at the time, it would be kept open to review.

The trust has been able to give significant and valuable help to a large number of infected haemophiliacs and their families. But the time has now come to reassess the total sum available to it. The true nature and extent of the needs of the infected haemophiliacs have become much clearer now that the trust is in operation and has been able to examine individual cases in detail. I am satisfied that the Government should now make extra resources available to the trust.

The Government are therefore proposing to make an additional ex gratia payment totalling £19 million bringing to £29 million the total payments made. The House will appreciate that, as before, this is not compensation but a payment which responds to a particular and tragic situation.

In making this new allocation the Government have two objectives in mind: First, to enable the trust, if the trustees see fit, to make individual payments of £20,000 this year. These would go to each person with haemophilia who is infected with the AIDS virus as a result of treatment with blood products in the United Kingdom or to the family of such a person who has died. Secondly, to enable the trust to continue on a more generous scale its help to families in particular need.

The Government accept the need to ensure that the fund has adequate resources both to meet its existing commitments and to give more generous help to families in particular need. We will be discussing further with the trust how these objectives should be met.

The ex gratia payment of £19 million is being charged to the Reserve this year. Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit for Department of Health administration, miscellaneous health services and personal social services, England will be increased accordingly.

Payments from the trust will continue to be completely disregarded for the purposes of social security. So any social security payments will be on top and may add significantly to the overall financial support available to particular families.

I am sure that hon. Members will be very grateful, as the Government are to those serving on the Macfarlane Trust for agreeing to serve on the trust and for their excellent work as trustees.