Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Thursday, 14 October 2010 17:48 UK

Minister 'sorry' for 1980s contaminated blood scandal

Public health minister Anne Milton has said she is "deeply sorry" that thousands of NHS patients contracted HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s, pledging to review "certain aspects" of the compensation paid to victims.

During a backbench business debate on 14 October 2010, Ms Milton said that the government would not match compensation payments with those in the Irish Republic, estimating that to do so would cost £3bn.

She told MPs: "I am indeed deeply sorry about the events that led to the infection of people treated with blood products with HIV and hepatitis C."

She added: "In the United Kingdom decisions over tax and spend are made here in this Parliament. The decisions of the Irish parliament, like those of any other national parliament, have no authority here in the UK."

Tory MP Phillip Lee, a practising GP, claimed the £3bn figure was wrong and the real cost of compensating victims along the lines of the Irish scheme would be closer to £1bn.

Pointing out the NHS spends £1bn every three-and-a-half days, Dr Lee said: "I think we can find this money."

Former Labour minister Geoffrey Robinson, leading the debate, condemned the government's commitment to hold a review as "useless".

He told MPs that the victims "want closure on it, they're fed up with it".

"This government had an opportunity to make a new start, to bring closure to this great human tragedy and they have refused to do so," he added.

Shadow health minister Diane Abbott, making her Commons debut as a frontbencher, called on Ms Milton to explain the £3bn figure.

She said: "I would like to commit myself to working with members across the House to get the best possible outcome for people, some of whom many of us have met today, who have suffered so cruelly, so unfairly and for so long."

But Mr Robinson's motion calling on the government to match compensation payments with those of the Irish Republic was defeated by 285 votes to 44, a majority of 241.

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