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Rishi Sunak suffers first parliamentary defeat in infected blood vote

<span>Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has suffered a parliamentary defeat as MPs voted to establish a compensatory body for victims of the infected blood scandal.

MPs voted 246 to 242 in favour of an amendment to the victims and prisoners bill that will require the government to set up a body to administer compensation within three months of the bill becoming law.

The amendment, which passed with the support of around 30 Tory MPs, marks the first parliamentary defeat of Sunak’s premiership.

The scandal, now the subject of an inquiry, unfolded in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after about 4,800 people with the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia given blood donated – or sold – by people infected with HIV and hepatitis C.

The government previously said there was a “moral case for the payment of compensation”, and that preparations for the payment of compensation were being made, but that it wanted to wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, was originally due to publish its final report last month, but is now expected to deliver its findings in March.

Of those affected by the scandal, around half have already died, and campaigners say time is of the essence.

Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, and Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, were among the senior Conservatives to give the amendment their backing.

There was a cheer in the House of Commons as the result of the vote was announced.

Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, who tabled the amendment, said it marked an “important step forward in what has been an extraordinarily long fight for justice”, though added that it was “not the end”.

“There is still much work to be done to … bring justice to those who do not have the luxury of waiting,” she said.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Edward Argar, the justice minister, said the scandal “should never have happened” and that the government had “great sympathy” with the intention of the amendment.

“My thoughts, and I believe all those in this House, remain with those impacted by this appalling tragedy,” he said.