Whilst we welcome the announcement from the Cabinet Office today that a Judge will Chair the Public Inquiry into Contaminated Blood our clients are bitterly disappointed that there still has not been an announcement of who the Chair will be. This is despite repeated assurances given by the Cabinet Office at meetings two weeks ago that a Chair would be in place before Christmas.
We are fortunate to have a transcript of the second of those meetings which was held on 07 December and included the following participants on behalf of the Government:
• Mr Damien Green – (then) First Secretary of State
• Ms Liz Sanderson – Special Advisor to Downing Street
• Mr Brian Williams – Cabinet Office
• Ms Ruth Chillmaid – Cabinet Office
• Ms Sue Gray – Director Propriety and Ethics Team – Cabinet Office
Within that transcript, and with particular regard to the appointment of a Chair, we find the following:
Damien Green “I would like to be able to announce the chair of the Inquiry before Christmas, so in the next couple of weeks”
“I mean the direct answer to your question we have had informal talks with the, the Lord Chief Justice ….”
“So we can go ahead as fast as we can to appoint the Chair before Christmas”
“… Assuming we do get an Inquiry Chair appointed before Christmas I know you are thinking about 4-6 weeks or so …..”
Sue Gray “4-6 weeks”
Damien Green “Consultation”
Sue Gray “which the Chair will do …”
Damien Green “for the Chair to do …”
Sue Gray “Okay. We can leave it very much, I think, you know, that would be. What we’re conscious of here is the need for pace and to keep the thing moving. And remembering also that the terms of reference don’t have to be set. You can amend them as you go on in your inquiry. But we really want to – we want to show that we are, you know, we are taking this responsibility hugely seriously, and that we have listened about the need to get on with this. So there’s been obviously some consultation, which I know a number of people haven’t contributed to, which I understand. But we – you know, so there’s that work that’s already happened. And I think of course if the Chair needs a bit longer, we will not be – you know, we won’t be opposed to that. But we’re just very conscious of, you know, the need to, to get on, and try to do it as speedily as we can. But we would expect the Chair to do that and then to report back to the First Secretary of State with the recommendations. And then I think the inquiry then gets formally set up, you know, gets to the right set package”
Against this background the delaying tactics of this government are quite astonishing. This afternoon when pressed as to when the Chair would be named, a spokesperson for the Cabinet Office simply said: “To confirm, as soon as possible in the New Year, we will name the judge who will chair this statutory inquiry.” On any basis this is mealy mouthed and provides no direct answer to the question that was posed. The victims of this contaminated blood scandal need more than vague assurances at this point.
It is deeply regrettable that no Chair has yet been appointed This can only lead to further delays for our clients and the victims of this scandal some of whom have been waiting more than thirty years for the truth. It is easy for those not directly involved to forget that many of these victims, labouring under HIV, hepatitis and the life threatening complications of those diseases, die every year. A number of people have died since the Inquiry was announced in July
Once again, on behalf of all those we represent, Collins Solicitors calls on the Cabinet Office to appoint a Chair immediately.
T) 01923 223 324
T) 01923 223 324