Jeremy Hunt said “no decisions” have been made over compensation for the victims of the “terrible” contaminated blood scandal following their decades of suffering.
Appearing before the official Infected Blood Inquiry on Friday, the Chancellor said he is “absolutely content” the Government has been working “at pace” on setting out a full compensation scheme.
It comes after Rishi Sunak was heckled and laughed at by those watching the proceedings in central London earlier this week when insisting ministers were working quickly to deliver the payments.
Campaigners hope Mr Hunt will commit to setting aside the funds to compensate the thousands affected by the scandal dating back decades.
Asked about funding, the former health secretary said: “No decisions have been made about the level of compensation or how it will be funded.
“We’re in very active and detailed discussions about all of that, but I can’t therefore be drawn on where that funding would come from.”
Mr Hunt insisted ministers “totally understand the urgency of the situation”.
“There is a need for justice to be as quick as possible for what has been a terrible scandal.
“That is a very active consideration in all the discussions that we’re having.
“I do appreciate that the way Government works might seem frustratingly slow, but I am absolutely content that the Government has been acting a pace.”
Thousands died in what is widely recognised as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS after being given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Campaigners want Mr Hunt to agree to allocate the funds to establish the compensation scheme recommended by the inquiry chairman.
They also want the Chancellor to agree to interim payments for those who have not received them under emergency measures as victims continue to die at a rate of one every four days.
It is the second time Mr Hunt is giving evidence to the inquiry, which was set up in 2017 to investigate how thousands of patients in the UK developed HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.
About 2,900 people have since died.
Many had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and were given injections of the US product Factor VIII.
Under an initial scheme, only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment of around £100,000.
However, victims and their relatives have demanded swifter action as the Government says it will wait until the conclusion of the inquiry in the autumn before setting out further details.
Published: by Radio NewsHub