The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): No, my Lords, but we will continue to keep under review the amounts available to the trust for its work of helping to meet the special needs of haemophilia patients with HIV and their families.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that virtually all the haemophiliacs who received National Health Service blood before 1985 were infected with hepatitis C? Is she further aware that the only significant difference between HIV and hepatitis C which could affect payment by the Governmentnot doctorsis that in the case of hepatitis C critical illness and death do not automatically follow? However, they can and they do follow. Will the Government change the rule and the funding of the McFarlane Trust so that critical illness and death trigger payment by the Government? The principle is exactly the same; the consequences are the same; and the payment should be the same.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, with due deference to the noble Lord, the consequences are not the same. Many people with hepatitis C live perfectly normal lives for decades. Only a very small minority develop serious liver illnesses. Those who suffered HIV were thought at the time to have an imminent death sentence. They suffered social ostracism. People were treated, as we know, like lepers. They had their doors daubed with graffiti; they lost their jobs; their children were not allowed to mix with other children at school; and they were denied a normal family life. There were tremendous differences between the two groups.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I raised this subject in your Lordships' House seven years agoin November 1987and that in responding to another Question of mine the following October the Government referred to the launch of the McFarlane Trust? Does my noble friend accept that the trust has done a very good job within its mandate unintentional infection with the HIV virus?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the terms of the McFarlane Trust were to make an ex gratia payment to those who suffered HIV as a result of blood transfusions? There was no suggestion of it being a recognition of formal compensation. So the issues that arose when the matter was previously raised by my noble friend in your Lordships' Housethat this would somehow lead to the opening of the floodgates for compensationsimply do not apply. Does the Minister agree that both the legal and clinical results of this blood infection are precisely the same for those with haemophilia?
Baroness Cumberlege: No, my Lords. The results are very different. Those suffering from haemophilia knew when they received the treatment that there was a risk. They took that risk. Indeed, if they had not had the blood products we know that they would almost certainly have died.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, 1,221 people suffered HIV infection through blood products and 156 people suffered infection through blood tissue and blood transfusions. With regard to those who suffered hepatitis C infection, we do not know the exact figures. That is why a look-back exercise is taking place at the moment. However, the estimate is that for blood products the number is 4,000, and for blood transfusions, 3,000.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, will the noble Baroness address her mind to this point? She has spoken of those with hepatitis C who live normal lives. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, is a glittering example of that; he spoke when last I raised the issue. However, I am referring to people who are critically ill and die from hepatitis C. Those are the people for whom we want payment. All the other people are irrelevant. If there is a trigger mechanism whereby those who are critically ill or die receive payment for themselves or their families, justice will be done. That is the point at issue.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, there is no question of the Government giving compensation to these people. We know that they took a risk and that in the health service treatment is given in good faith. We know that without treatment these people would surely have died.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, with respect, the Minister has once again used the word "compensation" in relation to my noble friend's Question. Will she not accept the point I made in my supplementary question that the payments given to those who contracted HIV as a result of their haemophilia and blood transfusions were not compensated in the
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right in that the Government have never accepted liability on this matter. If we were to give into such a case as this we know that there would be many other instances of people who have suffered medical accidents expecting some kind of payment for the condition they have had. Noble Lords will remember that the last time we debated this matter we drew the analogy between what is happening in the United States and what could happen here. If litigation, compensation and payments become a national sport the National Health Service will be finished.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): My Lords, repairs to historic buildings may be eligible for financial assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund if the buildings are owned by a public or charitable body.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he agree that certain Ministers, Members of Parliament and the general public certainly need enlightening on this fact? Does the Minister further agree that by precluding any financial assistance to the large majority of our historic houseswhich successive governments have recognised as in need of funding even since 1953it is going to be very difficult to see how the national heritage is to survive? Can the Minister tell the House whether this statutory discrimination is deliberate or a legislative mishap? Will the Minister further agree that a simple amendment should be made to the National Heritage Act 1980, whereby the National Heritage Memorial Fund can allot funds as to need, otherwise the national heritage will suffer as a whole?
Viscount Astor: My Lords, the position as regards eligibility of privately owned historic buildings for funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund is essentially the same as before the lottery Act and the lottery were introduced. The tests applied will be the same as in the National Heritage Act 1980 under which private individuals and companies operating for profit are ineligible for funding. However, privately owned historic buildings may be eligible if ownership is transferred to a charitable trust. I know that the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund are keen to be
Viscount Astor: No, my Lords, that is not the case. In the types of cases which the noble Lord referred to, it is up to the historic buildings agency, English Heritage, to provide support to private owners of properties who require support for their houses.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, will my noble friend explain how it is that VAT is charged on repair work to historic buildings? Is that not wholly contrary to the general approach which my noble friend has adopted?
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