Time running out for haemophiliacs' bill
Health Minister Gillian Merron has offered to meet the sponsor of a private members' bill on contaminated blood as the bill ran out of parliamentary time for a second time this afternoon.
The bill aims to help haemophiliacs infected with fatal viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis through the NHS products used to treat them.
With the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats making supportive noises for this community, this could even become an election issue.
The bill was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Morris, veteran champion of disability rights.
But problems began three Fridays ago when the 2.30pm cut off for private bills approached and the whip on duty, Kerry McCarthy, stood up and shouted "object".
Ms McCarthy said this was a simple matter of procedure, and seemed surprised at the angry reaction of the haemophilia community.
Ms McCarthy tried to explain: "The government's view was that it was not appropriate for the Bill to go through without a proper debate in the Commons, ie the objection was to it going through 'on the nod', rather than to the Bill itself.
I was the duty whip that Friday, so it was my responsibility to announce the government's decision on that occasion."
So the government says it couldn't allow the bill through "on the nod" because it thinks it should be debated. Lord Morris, who fought for compensation for the victims of Thalidomide, and knows a thing or two about parliamentary procedure, knows the tricks a government can use to thwart a bill it dislikes.
He told me: "If she had not shouted object to the bill it would now be in committee, debated line by line. What took place prevented any further debate on the bill. But this bill is not dead, and it remains no less than the haemophilia community deserve."
The bill is back on the books again for next week, and again in March.
None of this is new for haemophiliacs. This month Gordon Brown brought together his two worlds - the personal tragedies of family life and the day-to-day hustle of politics and government - when he chose to talk about his children.
Britain's haemophilia community has had no such choice. For decades, the mundane practicalities of their daily lives have brushed up against politics and government.
It was NHS treatment that meant they became infected with fatal viruses, such as HIV and Hepatitis. They have fought government departments, threatened court action and lobbied politicians to secure payments that they say go only a small way to recognising what has happened to them, and meet their financial needs.
Successive governments have refused to hold a public inquiry into what went wrong. And when Lord Archer held a privately-funded, independent inquiry it took months for this government to reply to its findings.
Lord Archer wanted decent pay-outs for those affected and their families. The government responded with revised payments close to the minimum wage, and only a fraction of those paid out in other countries - most obviously Ireland.
Lord Archer wanted more for widows, many of whom are excluded from financial help, and assistance with things the rest of us take for granted, like life insurance - which haemophiliacs find hard to obtain.
This week saw the first anniversary of the Archer report, yet most of these recommendations have been left unanswered. And there has not been a debate in the House of Commons in government time - as the Archer team was led to expect.
That is when Lord Morris, a supporter of the Archer Inquiry, stepped in with the private members' bill instead.
The haemophiliacs themselves will certainly not let this rest. In fact, next month haemophiliac Andrew March is taking the Department of Health to Judicial Review.
His case challenges the government's decision not to implement Lord Archer's recommendation of compensation at least at the level of that awarded in Ireland.
In the meantime, his haemophiliac friend Haydn Lewis has a tragic family story of his own. Haydn was infected with HIV in the early 1980s via the NHS blood products used to treat him. He inadvertently infected his wife Gaynor with HIV before he knew. He also contracted Hepatitis B and C from the same NHS treatment, and has been told he is at risk of having contracted vCJD.
You can see Haydn here in one of Newsnight's many reports on this issue - this one from February last year:
In 2008, Haydn was diagnosed with liver cancer - almost certainly as a result of the Hepatitis C virus. Despite chemotherapy, the cancer progressed and eventually he qualified for a liver transplant, though only one known to be infected with Hepatitis C. Doctors operated. Haydn seemed to be doing well.
Then, six months ago cancer re-occurred in the new liver. Haydn underwent aggressive chemotherapy and the tumour responded.
Then last week, he was told he has a new tumour. This one has grown to 7cm in just six weeks - that's fast. Haydn now has to come to terms with knowing that in a worst case he has six months to live... at best, a year.
Haydn used to delight in following the twists and turns of the latest government move. Now friends note that his famous sense of humour is harder to tease out.
Political niceties over debating time seem pretty unimportant as he waits for the latest hospital report. He says he wants to die without the anxiety that Gaynor will struggle financially.
Even the usually mild mannered Haemophilia Society has written to Mr Brown after his show of emotion, seeking a meeting.
The society says that of the 4,670 haemophiliacs infected with viruses from NHS treatments close to 2,000 have already died. Those left alive want to tell the prime minister their personal, tragic stories, and why they're not happy with the government's response to the Archer report.
They believe they are in this position because of a series of blunders and misjudgements within the NHS, by successive governments and their officials - for whatever reason.
Haemophiliacs like Haydn don't have much energy left to campaign, nor the time to wait on parliamentary procedure.