Socialist Worker

Government announces contaminated blood inquiry - but there’s still no chair

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2579

Thousands of haemophiliacs were given blood product Factor VIII that was contaminated with deadly diseases

Thousands of haemophiliacs were given blood product Factor VIII that was contaminated with deadly diseases (Pic: Factor 8 Campaign)


The government announced plans on Friday for a full statutory inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal. But it failed to announce a chair for the inquiry – nearly four months after a consultation on a possible inquiry began.

Thousands of haemophiliacs and others were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C in the late 1970s and 1980s. They had been given contaminated blood and blood products including Factor VIII.

Around 2,400 are thought to have died so far as a result.

In a victory for campaigners, Theresa May said that the Cabinet Office would oversee the investigation into the scandal. Survivors and others had fought against any involvement by the Department of Health, which is implicated in the scandal.

The Factor 8 Campaign group welcomed the announcement that the Department of Health would not be overseeing the inquiry.

It added, “We are, however, dismayed and utterly disappointed that this is where today’s announcement ends.

“Victims and families have already waited many months for progress on the inquiry, having endured a consultation which ran unnecessarily for nearly four months.

Despair

“We find ourselves in despair that a chair has still not been appointed and that the inquiry is still not established.”

It added that victims have died during the consultation period. The risk is that many more will die before an inquiry delivers any kind of truth and justice about the scandal.

The scandal shows up the contempt the Tories and the authorities have for ordinary people. Governments bought infected blood cheaply from the US – despite repeated warnings from the World Health Organisation that is was unsafe.

Yet a government memo recently seen by Sky News indicated that Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government had a deliberate policy of refusing to accept any responsibility.

Tory secretary of state for social security John Moore wrote the cabinet memo in November 1987. Discussing compensation, he said that a £10 million “once-and-for-all payment” for victims would be “particularly attractive as it minimises Government intervention; and it would be consistent with the policy of not accepting any direct responsibility for damage caused in this way.”

It is only campaigning by survivors and relatives of those who died that has forced Theresa May to announce an inquiry. Continued campaigning can force the inquiry to get off the ground – and make it harder for those at the top to get away with a cover up.


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