Bill Wright, Chair of Haemophilia Scotland, today joined representatives from groups campaigning on the contaminated blood and blood products campaign issue across the UK in London to meet The Rt Hon Damian Green MP, First Secretary of State, to discuss the upcoming Public Inquiry.
There were two meetings (morning and afternoon) and organisations were limited to a single representative so that there would be time for everyone who attended to speak. Bill attended on behalf of Haemophilia Scotland in the afternoon meeting which included representatives from,
- The Haemophilia Society
- Haemophilia Wales
- Tainted Blood
- The Birchgrove Group
- The Manor House Group
- Tainted Blood Widows
The meeting was told to expect an announcement on who would be the Chair and on any panel before Christmas. No specifics on the Terms of Reference (ToR) were discussed but they are likely to be published in draft with the opportunity to comment on them in early 2018. The Cabinet Office were asked to provide funding for the relevant legal teams to be able to assist affected people with feeding into that process.
Bill highlighted the importance of having a Panel as described by Section 3 (1) (b) of the Inquires Act as an Inquiry being conducted “by a chairman with one or more other members.” This sort of panel would have shared responsibility for conducting the Inquiry and signing off the report (as detailed in Section 24 (4) of the Inquiries Act). We consider this is vital to having a fast paced Inquiry with the appropriate expertise and openness while avoiding the difficulties we faced during the Penrose Inquiry.
To help emphasise the importance of engaging with all affected people around the UK, Bill also referred to Section 18 (1) of the Inquiries Act to argue for the proceedings to be streamed live online. This is vital to make sure that those who cannot travel because of poor health, finances, geography, or other responsibilities can “see and hear a simultaneous transmission of proceedings at the inquiry.”
Commenting straight after the meeting Bill Wright, Chair of Haemophilia Scotland, said,
We had a positive and cordial meeting. Damian Green confirmed a Chair will be announced before Christmas but further members of the panel may not be announced until the new year.
There was general agreement on the pace of proceedings from now on. It was acknowledged that the next stage and the Inquiry itself must be opened up much more widely than those who attended. Much work remains to be done but this was a good step forward.