Socialist Worker

Anger after Tories fail to appoint chair for contaminated blood inquiry

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2585

Thousands of people were treated with contaminated blood and blood products

Thousands of people were treated with contaminated blood and blood products (Pic: Factor 8 Campaign)


The Tories have failed to appoint a chair for an upcoming inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal – again.

Theresa May made a statement on the inquiry on Thursday. She said, “The government committed to making an announcement regarding the chair of the inquiry before Christmas.

“We are therefore announcing today our intention to appoint a judge to chair the inquiry.”

Campaigners will have to wait until next year to find out who this chair will be.

JJ Evans is the founder of the Factor 8 Campaign, which fights for justice for victims of the scandal. He told Socialist Worker, “I am utterly disappointed and our members are extremely unhappy.

“We were given repeated commitments that a chair would be announced by the end of the day of Theresa May’s statement. Instead we have arrived at exactly the same place we were months ago.

“Being let down at the last minute on the last day of parliament is something we have become accustomed to. If it was the Cabinet Office’s intention to win our trust, it’s safe to say they have categorically failed.”

Around 5,000 people contracted diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C after being given tainted blood and blood products during the late 1970s and 1980s. Around 2,400 are known to have died so far as a result.

Governments imported blood cheaply from the US despite repeated warnings that it was unsafe. There is evidence that some contaminated blood was deliberately given to patients to test its “infectivity”.

There is also evidence that papers showing that people were infected deliberately were shredded.

Assurances

Collins Solicitors, which represents some of the victims, said there had been “repeated assurances” that “a chair would be in place before Christmas”. It called on the Cabinet Office to appoint a chair “immediately”.

The company said, “The delaying tactics of this government are quite astonishing. A number of people have died since the inquiry was announced in July.

“The victims need more than vague assurances.”

It added that some victims have been waiting for over 30 years for the truth about the scandal.

Both the solicitors and the Factor 8 Campaign welcomed the fact that the inquiry will be judge-led.

May has previously said there would be “a full statutory inquiry” which would have “the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath”.

Ministers have known about this scandal for decades. The only reason an inquiry has been announced is because of the pressure that survivors, relatives of the dead, and campaigners have put on the Tories.

But those at the top and those implicated will want to cover up the most damning elements of the scandal. More pressure can stop that from happening and win an inquiry that delivers truth and justice.


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