Patients infected by contaminated NHS blood are the victims of a tragedy on a par with Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday, a Conservative former minister has said.

Alistair Burt led MPs in calling for a further review into the circumstances surrounding how haemophiliacs and others were infected by blood products during the 1970s and 1980s.

MPs heard an estimated 1,800 deaths had been linked to the incident, with blood products continuing to be imported into the UK during that period and used on patients despite warnings.

Mr Burt said thousands of people still feel wronged by what is Britain's 15th biggest peacetime disaster.

The state's "chronic inability to admit the past" means it has been unable to redeem itself, Mr Burt said.

He added the Department of Health has also structured "too cosy a relationship, possibly in its own interests" with the Macfarlane Trust, which receives money each year from the department to offer financial assistance to victims who contracted HIV.

MPs were told a Scottish public inquiry into the issue is expected to report back before the general election.

Opening the debate in the Commons, North East Bedfordshire MP Mr Burt recalled that he asked David Cameron about the issue in October 2013.

He told MPs: "It got a warm response from the Prime Minister he understood the problem, promised that he would put support into it, meet the gentleman I wanted him to see and take it up.

"The reason for approaching him of course, putting this in historical context again, was the scale of the tragedy is certainly on a par with those issues for which the Prime Minister had apologised in this recent session of Parliament - Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday.

"Having the bravery to recognise what had been done in the past with the authority only a Prime Minister could have."

Mr Burt said a meeting was held and Mr Cameron had put members of his policy team to work with the relevant minister.

Addressing an independent privately-funded inquiry, Mr Burt said: "Since the Archer report there has been some positive recognition by the state of its responsibility.

"Over the years efforts have been made for financial provision but a complex and incomplete patchwork has been the result.

"Some have been left behind, those bereaved and dependants in particular. Treatments for the severest infections have improved markedly, which in general of course has brought good news - but they also bring their own ironic consequences in giving longer life to those originally with no expectation of it and not always a quality of life for which we would all hope.

"But efforts by the state to redeem itself have been hampered by a chronic inability to admit the past, to ensure that all the material was available for public scrutiny, to give an opportunity for a family to ask the question any one of us would need to ask - 'why and how has my loved one died?' - the evasion of a public inquiry, the loss of key papers, the slow drawing out of what paperwork there was, the failure to submit to questioning has left a mark of suspicion that last to this day."

Mr Burt said the naming of 96 victims of the Hillsborough by Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram was one of the most moving speeches in Parliament.

He said: "For me to do the same would mean I would be reading out nearly 1,800 names.

"We will hear some of their stories today but I ask the House to reflect on the scale of this.

"In terms of death toll, this is the 15th biggest peacetime disaster in British history, in which the Black Death at 3.5 million is the worst but the awful Aberfan, which we all know, is the 142nd with 144 lives lost.

"Contaminated blood has killed 12 times more."

Many MPs stood up on behalf of constituents affected by the scandal to tell their stories.

Labour's Jessica Morden (Newport East) spoke about Colin Smith, who was infected during a non-emergency operation for a minor ear condition aged just eight months.

As a haemophiliac, he received Factor VIII which a freedom of information request later revealed had come from a batch from Arkansas Prison.

He died aged seven of Aids and Hepatitis C and the family did not even know he had the latter until three years after his death.

Ms Morden added: "The Smith family and others need and deserve some kind of closure.

"While long overdue, it is time for a public apology and a final settlement and anything less will just continue to hurt those innocent victims and their families who through absolutely no fault of their own have had their lives torn apart by this national scandal."

Former solicitor general Sir Oliver Heald called the episode a "scar on the NHS" that had to be resolved and said the "confusing" system for compensation needed to be improved.

He also called on the Government to look into the case of one of his constituents, a survivor, who is being denied a new treatment for Hepatitis C that has been approved.

Sir Oliver said access was only available "on compassionate grounds", meaning she is excluded.

He said she had described to him the "painful irony" of a situation where the problems that led to contamination in the first place were now denying a survivor the appropriate treatment.

He added: "The tragedy of this period is deeply upsetting and we must step up to tackle its legacy."

Labour's Graeme Morrice (Livingston) urged the Government to increase the amount of compensation available for the families of victims and survivors.

Tory veteran Sir Edward Leigh called for a compensation scheme to match the one in place in Ireland, as recommended by the 2007 Archer report.

The MP for Gainsborough said such a commitment would cost around £1.5 billion - a similar amount paid out to those who lost their life savings in the Equitable Life scandal.

He said that if the Government was willing to pay out such sums to people who lost their life savings, then they should not baulk at similar figures for people whose lives have either been lost or ruined in the contaminated blood scandal.

The Department of Health provides money through a number of schemes to people affected with hepatitis C and HIV but Sir Edward said it was not adequate.

He told the Commons: "The chief executive of the Irish Haemophilia Society has confirmed that an average that was paid out in Ireland was around 350,000 euros per person.

"So the total figure we're talking about is £1.5 billion.

"It's quite interesting that it's very equivalent to the compensation paid to the victims of Equitable Life.

"Now I've campaigned on Equitable Life as we all have and it is pretty awful to lose your life savings and there was appalling suffering.

"But at the end of the day, you have lost your savings. You haven't lost your life.

"So if we're prepared to pay this sort of compensation to the victims of Equitable Life, £1.5 billion, why do we baulk at similar figures for those whose whole lives have been ruined and ultimately many of them lost?"

Sir Edward added: "We recognise that we are at fault. We recognise that these people's lives have been ruined. We recognise that the present compensation scheme has not fulfilled their expectations and is not fair.

"Let right be done."

Labour MP Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) said: "Hope is real - there is no such thing as false hope.

"There may be false science in this case, there may have been false starts. But the hope is real to these people and in this place, at this time, in this chamber today, we should help these people reignite that hope."

Conservative Anne Main (St Albans) said: "This is about justice. Justice delayed is justice denied and justice delayed for such a long period of time is really no justice at all.

"It has been commented we are coming towards a general election and I know the NHS will be on the forefront of many of our leaflets. The NHS, what it means to us and what it means to our families... this is fundamentally about the trust we put with our families in the NHS.

"That trust was a broken trust many years ago for many families.

"We have a tragedy that has affected families and multiple members of those families. It has affected lives, quality of lives, and aspirations over the years.

"People have described it to me as having been forced by the state to have to join a club they were not aware existed, with rules they didn't understand, and are now denied the ability to go back and call it to account."

Conservative Julian Lewis (New Forest East) said he had written to the Health Secretary about the issue and received a reply from public health minister Jane Ellison earlier this week.

He read out her conclusion which said: "This issue is being looked at very seriously and an announcement will be made to affected individuals and MPs once work has been concluded."

Mr Lewis went on: "My simple question to the minister is when is this work going to be concluded?"

He said it must happen before the end of the current Parliament, adding: "Otherwise we are back to square one. This is the cycle I'm sure has been repeated over and over again."

Conservative Richard Fuller (Bedford) said there remained suspicion as to why a full answer had never been given, bred by a "darkness" about the root causes of the scandal and the "faceless and nameless" people who were responsible.

He went on: "All of us have to remember that it is our NHS. It doesn't belong to a political party, to the department officials, it belongs to the people.

"So my request to the two front benches is will they to the extent of their powers shine a light on this darkness and beyond any financial consideration provide that comfort to the hearts and memories of the victims?"

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called for a national apology for the scandal, an inquiry into it, and the setting up of a proper compensation scheme.

The Labour frontbencher said he would be happy to work towards a solution on a cross-party basis but acknowledged that one may not be reached before the general election.

But he spoke of the importance of Parliament applying the pressure for a resolution, as it did with the Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday scandals.

Mr Burnham said: "What has opened those other injustices hasn't been the Government voluntarily moving to correct those wrongs but actually it's been Parliament, the resolution to those other injustices began here.

"And it is beholden on each and every one of us who are here today to remember that and to use the power that we have and the office that we hold to work together across the floor of this House to find a resolution for the thousands of people, the thousands of lives that have been ruined by this scandal.

"If we hold to the cross-party spirit that delivered the beginnings of justice in those other campaigns then we will do so here too."

Health Minister Jane Ellison said she recognised that the system of financial assistance to victims must be improved and indicated she would look at changing the current system of how money is delivered.

But the Tory minister indicated that full resolution would be unlikely before the general election as the Government could not proceed without first seeing the results of the delayed Scottish public inquiry being carried out by Lord Penrose.

Policy put together before the report is published would be at risk of being unpicked as a result of its findings, she said.

Ms Ellison told MPs: "I am aware that many MPs have concerns about the way - and they have expressed them today in the debate - about the way that support to those affected is delivered through the current system.

"I have listened over the last year to all colleagues' thoughts on how the current system could be improved and I have given active consideration to them.

"I do acknowledge that there is scope to review the current support system. I have been open with members that I share the concerns expressed about the charitable basis of that support."

She went on: "I recognise that there must be improvements to the system that provides financial assistance and I have given considerable thought to that over the last year.

"But we, together with those we represent, need to be realistic about the challenge of making changes that are fair and sustainable and I think the extent to which we can work on a cross-party basis is absolutely vital and very welcome.

"The number of members who have emphasised that in the course of this debate is reassuring.

"This issue, whilst I'm hugely frustrated that the much longed-for closure cannot realistically be achieved in this Parliament, nevertheless a new parliament is imminent and that does give an opportunity for the next government to look for that closure in that context."

Mr Burt called on all political parties to put a commitment in their general election manifestos to resolve the issue.

He said: "If Government cannot respond before the election, and I do as I made clear earlier entirely understand and accept what Ms Ellison said.

"Well, we've all got manifestos to write, all the parties have got manifestos to write, we could all put something in our manifestos that gives a clear commitment to what will happen should we form part of the government in the future."