Victims of the infected blood scandal were “incredibly unlucky”, former Prime Minister Sir John Major said.
Giving evidence to a public inquiry into the health catastrophe, Sir John described the growing sense in the late 1980s that compensation was needed for affected hemophiliacs.
Nearly 3,000 people died after being infected with HIV or hepatitis C by contaminated blood products imported from the US in the 1970s and 1980s.
Many were infected by supplies of factor VIII, a protein essential for blood clotting that hemophiliacs do not naturally produce.
The UK relied on supplies imported from the US, where it was manufactured using blood collected from prisoners, sex workers, drug addicts and other high-risk groups who were paid to donate blood.
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Sir John described the scandal’s effects on victims as “horror”, adding: “There is no compensation you can give that can really make up for what happened to them.
“What happened to them was incredibly bad luck – horrible – and it wasn’t something anyone was unsympathetic to.”
He said the decision to compensate victims of the scandal had put the government in uncharted territory.
“It was the first time that a government actually made payments absolutely ex gratia where there was no legal fault.
“This hadn’t happened before, so it was a new situation. … so we needed to fence to avoid opening up the option of a whole series of other claims to be made on totally unrelated issues.”
The victims have believed that the extent of the contamination was covered upand urged the inquiry to appeal to senior officials and ministers to testify.
Former judge and inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said the public inquiry “will not be afraid of anyone” and promised to put people at the center of the investigation.
Sir John was also questioned in his autobiography when he discussed his decision to indemnify the victims of the scandal, a move criticized by some in his party with a “strident, censorious tone” that took the “stand-on-your-own-feet argument”. to the extremes”.
He praised his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, predicting that she too would have chosen to award the compensation.
“People who don’t know Mrs. Thatcher assume that the legend of Mrs. Thatcher is the real Mrs. Thatcher.
“But underneath the legend of the unyielding Iron Lady was someone who often gave in and often looked at things on a human basis to a much greater extent than she believes.
“It may not have been universally true, but in my experience it often was.
“Perhaps I’ve seen her more than most, and I’ve seen her in unprotected private moments as well as in the official prime minister role, where a policy was made and she stuck to it rigidly.”