Nadhim Zahawi calls for a speedy and fair settlement for people infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through contaminated blood products and calls for equal availability of support for people whether they live in Scotland or Stratford-on-Avon.
Since being elected to this House, every Friday at surgery I have talked to one or two constituents on this subject. In the few moments that I have, I want to share with the House what it has taught me about the impact of this extraordinary tragedy. I have lived with them all the frustrations, all the false hope that we will finally reach a settlement.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for the incredible work she has done in leading all of us on a cross-party basis to get the message across in respect of all those people—all those human beings, and all that human suffering. I also congratulate the Minister on her role and pay tribute to her predecessor, who worked hard, working with many of us, to try and get to a full and final settlement. I hope the Prime Minister and the Treasury are listening carefully to this debate, and that it is not beyond us to work together now to get what we have been promising our constituents—those people who, through no crime of their own, have been infected with HIV or hep C—that they will get a settlement and, as the previous Prime Minister said, nobody will be worse off.
This is a question about fairness, as the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) rightly emphasised. I do not think it is fair that my constituents should feel that people infected in Scotland get a better deal than they do in Stratford-on-Avon.
The difficulty for Mr M—as I will refer to him, because it is right that he maintains his privacy—is that for a very long time there has been something called the discretionary payment, which in reality is not discretionary in any way. It is something that he absolutely relies upon to make sure that at the end of the week and the month he can balance the books; he can live just well enough to be able to feel that he has regained his dignity and his freedom. The difficulty for the Minister is that there is this sum of money, but I urge the Government to look again at this matter, because it could lead to a legal challenge if people feel that they are being unfairly treated vis-à-vis Scottish settlements or other parts of our country. Some of my constituents are considering that course of action.
I want to move on to the case of Ms W, whose anonymity I am protecting because she deserves that protection. Her issue has involved the Macfarlane Trust and she is not alone in feeling that the trust is not fit for purpose. I have attempted to deal with the trust on her behalf; every step of the way it has blocked my attempts to get her case across. My message to those on the Front Bench is that it would be an outrage if the trust were to continue to deal with my constituents in any way, because it is simply not fit for purpose.
I will end my speech by mentioning Mr D, who is infected with hepatitis C, to remind colleagues of the urgency of this matter. We must not find ourselves back here again in a year’s time still looking for a settlement. Just this morning I received a call from Mr D’s wife, who works in our NHS, to tell me that he had been admitted to hospital following a severe deterioration in his liver due to the advanced hepatitis C. He might not be around by the time we come to a settlement, so I urge the Minister to remind her Government that this is about fairness and about speed of settlement.
One of my constituents, Mr M, makes exactly that point: it is unfair that the Scottish settlement is so different from the settlement for him in Stratford-on-Avon. Most importantly, one of my constituents, who is in the Public Gallery, wants to remind the House that there are fewer than 300 primary beneficiaries left, and it is vital that they are not forgotten.
Absolutely. That is a very important point. I will come on to the primary beneficiaries in a while, but I will now make some progress.