Sir John Major to answer questions at Infected Blood Inquiry
- Credit: FACTOR 8
Former Prime Minister and Huntingdon MP Sir John Major is due to give evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry in London today (Monday).
During the 1970s and 80s, thousands of NHS patients were infected with life-changing, chronic diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis, after receiving donated blood and blood plasma products.
Most of those infected suffered from a genetic bleeding disorder called haemophilia, which results in the blood not clotting properly. It later transpired that some plasma donations originated from prisoners, alcoholics, sex workers and people living on the streets, who were carrying diseases and infections, and had been paid for their donations.
The Inquiry, led by Sir Brian Langstaff, was set up to examine the circumstances of how this could have happened; the impact on families; how the authorities, including Government, responded; the nature of any support provided following infection; questions of consent; and crucially, who knew what, and when.
Sir John has said he welcomes the opportunity to assist Sir Brian and his team with the inquiry.
"I will endeavour to assist as much as I possibly can, noting that the extent of my involvement took place some 35 years ago. It should also be noted that it is unlikely I saw all documents which were copied to me in my roles; such documents are routinely circulated for information to civil servants in the relevant department in preparing briefing and tend only to be shown to ministers as necessary. This is simply because of the sheer volume of paper involved."
Sir John won the Huntingdon seat in 1979 and was Prime Minister from 1990-1997.
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The inquiry will focus on his response to questions of financial support for haemophiliacs with HIV or AIDS.
"My involvement must have begun as Chief Secretary to the Treasury but it was intermittent and restricted to approval of policy proposals on claims on the Reserve. I'm afraid that — 35 years on — I've no idea when it might first have been raised."
He will also be asked if as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in September 1987 he persuaded Margaret Thatcher not to offer compensation to victims. He has already said this is "not true" and a letter to Mrs Thatcher along those lines was written by the then Secretary of State for Health, the late John Moore, and not him.
He does, however, point out: "I was, however, sympathetic but conscious of the Government's reluctance to change long term policy and offer "no fault" compensation — because of the ongoing cost implications for tax-payers of adopting a different policy".
One of those people infected was Barry Farrugia. He died in September 1986, at the age of 37, from the related causes of the HIV virus. He was given Factor 8 concentrate from imported blood products to treat his mild haemophilia.
His son Tony, who lives in St Neots, has been fighting for justice for more than a decade. He wants to know if more could have been done to prevent the tragedy and whether more should have been done to support victims and families once the facts came to light. Tony says his father's death ripped the family apart.