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Lessons to be learned for panel of Infected Blood Inquiry

Today, the Cabinet Office made a statement on the upcoming Infected Blood Inquiry.  They said,

As the Government announced last month, a full statutory inquiry into the infected blood scandal will be established under the 2005 Inquiries Act, and sponsored by the Cabinet Office. The inquiry will have full powers, including the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

We are today setting out the next steps.

The Cabinet Office has now completed its analysis of the responses to the consultation on the format of the statutory Inquiry into infected blood announced in July. In addition a series of roundtable meetings were held earlier this month with individuals and groups representing those affected.

The Government committed to making an announcement regarding the Chair of the inquiry before Christmas, taking into account the views we have received. We are therefore announcing today our intention to appoint a judge to Chair the inquiry. We will make a further statement on who that judge will be in the New Year and we will be discussing with them the composition of the Inquiry panel.

We would like to thank each and every person who took the time to respond to the consultation, and to share their views and experiences. We understand how difficult these issues must have been to describe and we a re grateful for the frankness and honesty with which people have shared their experiences. The responses to the consultation have been carefully considered by Cabinet Office officials. We can assure the House and everyone who contributed that the findings will be passed to the proposed Chair to help inform the discussions regarding the draft Terms of Reference, on which we expect there will be further consultation.

In accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005, colleagues in the Devolved Administrations will be consulted as the Terms of Reference are finalised.

A further statement will be made in the New Year.

Haemophilia Scotland has responded by appealing for Inquiry Panel Members who are able to fully dedicate themselves to challenging role.

We have cautiously welcomed the UK Government’s announcement on appointment of  a chair and panel, stressing the lessons we learned from the six-year long Penrose Inquiry in Scotland.

Haemophilia Scotland Chair, Bill Wright, has said,

In view of the forced resignation of the First Secretary it remains vital that the right Chair and Panel are appointed to lead the Inquiry. When we recently met Mr Green and senior officials in the Cabinet Office it was evident that substantial work had been done but there were still significant decisions to be made. Given that under the Inquiries Act, there are very clear duties upon Ministers in reporting plans to Parliament, appointing a panel and defining Terms of Reference and a setting up date we trust that discussions to appoint potential Panel members are ongoing with Officials. We look forward to meeting with Mr Green’s replacement.

The Panel members and Chair need to be not only able, but also very willing, to take on a formidable task. It is therefore no surprise, from the experience we had in Scotland, that time is having to be allowed to ensure that panel members are not pressed into positions they are reluctant to accept. Instead they need to be willing to take on an onerous role and dedicate themselves to it over potentially a number of years without alternative distraction. We have waited decades for this Inquiry. We now need the best people to lead it, in terms of appointing Minister, Panel, Chair, assessors and supporting staff.

Today’s announcement makes the upcoming joint campaign meeting with the Scottish Infected Blood Forum on 20th January in Glasgow even more important.  The meeting will be the first opportunity affected people in Scotland will have to come together and discuss our collective view since the announcement.  If you are planning to attend please register so we can make sure we have a large enough room to accommodate everyone.

 

Cabinet Office

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