(Limerick East): Before any large award was announced the number of applicants had risen to over 200. I do not know what rush has occurred since. The word was only out in yesterday's papers. The tribunal is independent and I do not keep in day-to-day contact with it. Applications are coming in, as one would expect. As additional evidence is required to back up claims, it is clear there will not be a rush because the forms have to be filled in by solicitors and the kind of evidence we have just been talking about must be obtained.
Regarding what I said at the Árd-Fheis, I would very much like if Positive Action were fully satisfied with the terms of the tribunal. It is a fair and just tribunal presided over by excellent people under the former Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Justice Egan. Many of the fears of members of Positive Action arise from a misconception about how the tribunal will conduct its affairs. I have been communicating with the registrar of the tribunal to get him to clarify procedures. He has already clarified that each applicant will be allowed to give evidence before the tribunal and a number of other matters, thus narrowing the information gap.
The solicitor to which the Deputy referred in terms of publicity said in one interview he thinks that the question of provisional awards, for example, will be conducted on the basis that they will be available on application. I can give assurances that the provisional award will be communicated in writing and will have a contractual legal base to it.
Many outstanding items that were causing concern are being addressed as the tribunal clarifies its procedures. In due course I will be seeking further clarification from the registrar of the tribunal about items on which Positive Action would like clarification. Effectively what it comes down to is whether the practice statements issued by the tribunal will allay concerns. I believe they will. I believe and hope the tribunal will work very well because persons infected by hepatitis C have enough stress in their lives without having further stress because of this matter.
I do not know how big or small the awards will be. Individual cases vary, but the level of compensation will be measured in the same way as it would be measured before the High Court. I have been asked if £60 million is sufficient. I am on record as saying that that was simply the budget provided on our best guesstimate for 1996 but that we expect the tribunal to go into 1997. It was never intended that £60 million would be the charge on the Exchequer; it is the 1996 charge on the Exchequer.