The Government has endeavoured to elude liability for the contaminated blood scandal that caused the deaths of more than 2,400 people from AIDS and Hepatitis C which has been exposed for the first time by a media outlet.
Previously unseen Cabinet papers reveal senior ministers in the 1987 Conservative Government pursued a judicious policy of not taking any accountability for allowing contaminated blood products to be given to haemophiliacs.
The papers further reveal ministers attempted to restrict the Government’s financial accountability to victims despite personally acknowledging it could not refute convincingly the allegation that it was at fault and in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 4,000 British haemophiliacs were given blood products tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C.
Because the United Kingdom was not self-sufficient in blood products the substance called Factor VIII was sent from the United States, where it had been manufactured with blood drawn from various benefactors.
These comprised prisoners, habitual drug users and sex workers who had been compensated for their blood and campaigners maintain the cabinet papers amount to proof of a cover-up.
Former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham, now metro mayor for Manchester, told the media documents to show attempts to deny victims support, truth and justice went to the very top of Government.
Lord Owen, who as health secretary in the 1970’s suggested Britain should be self-sufficient in blood products, a method which if ensued may have avoided thousands of mortality, told the papers showed the Government had clear responsibility and liability.
The new details are contained in a cabinet memo from 1987, written by the then Conservative Secretary of State for Social Security John Moore. The report was discovered by campaigner Jason Evans, whose father was contaminated with both HIV and Hepatitis C and died in 1993 when his son was four.
The memorandum is a summary of a plan put to the Cabinet Home and Social Affairs Committee sub-committee on AIDS, a body that included some of the most high-profile ministers of the Margaret Thatcher Government including Willie Whitelaw, Norman Fowler, Douglas Hurd, Kenneth Clarke and future Prime Minister John Major.
The meeting was assembled to address the fall-out from the unfolding contaminated blood scandal on November 4, 1987, a day before the Haemophilia society was due to lobby MPs in Parliament and by 1987 it was obvious that thousands of people had been contaminated and were dying, and in the memorandum, Mr Moore admitted the measure of the dilemma.
About 1,200 haemophiliacs were contaminated before 1986 with the HIV virus by Factor VIII and around 40 had already perished of AIDS. The prognosis for the rest was bleak.
Mr Moore, who was in discussions with the Haemophilia Society about a potential financial agreement, confirmed that the Government’s refusal of liability was unlikely to be believed.
The Haemophilia Society has fortunately got across their opinion that the haemophiliac’s difficulties with AIDS are due to Government’s failure to guarantee self-sufficiency in blood products. While wrong, this is difficult to debate convincingly in presentational terms.
Mr Moore went on to examine ways of restricting the financial compensation given to victims while seeking a strategy of not taking responsibility.
Addressing the proposed £10 million once-and-for-all payment to be given by the Haemophilia Society, and this was particularly attractive as it reduced Government interference, and it would be compatible with the policy of not admitting any personal accountability for injury created in this way.
The minister further reported an interest regarding the consequence of any payments on likely anticipated litigation.
And lawyers warned that payments accepted by haemophiliacs in this way might not be as effective judicially as would a personal ex-gratia payment by the Government should a haemophiliac take legal action.
The payment scheme eventually went forward and, in the 1990s, the Government made ex-gratia payments of £60,000 to those contaminated with HIV, who were compelled to relinquish any right to legal action.
The discoveries come with campaigners still awaiting details of how the Government proposed to continue with an inquiry into the scandal promised by Theresa May and three months after the Prime Minister made the promise, a moderator has still not been named and the arrangement, articles of recommendation and timing are still to be established.
In addition, about 500 victims and their relatives have begun a High Court lawsuit upon the Department of Health and Mr Evans, who is the lead complainant in the legal action, states the memorandum is an indication of a cover-up.
For 20 years people have been told that the victims had no proof, and that the Government had no liability, and that the mortality was not the consequence of the failure to ensure self-sufficiency in blood products.
Yet what this reveals is that from the very inception the Government knew their case was flimsy and it was hard to refute because it was true.
This is some of the cover-up proof that points towards a cover-up. Here it is in black and white that has been told for 20 years, but really, the Secretary of State in 1987 was stating totally the opposite and it has never been made public until now and if it’s not a cover-up then what is?
Lord Owen, who beforehand reported that records from his time as health secretary had been destroyed, said: “I think the government has a responsibility, and personally I think there is a strong case they have liability”.
They revealed that in this cabinet paper that it would be really hard to deny, and it has now been proven difficult to dispute and now the Government has decided to do something about its cuts through all this legal debate and comes up with a bountiful settlement.
These discoveries tell us that at the very pinnacle of Government, from the Cabinet downwards, there was an endeavour to refuse assistance to the victims and to refuse them honesty and fairness.
That’s what people have speculated for countless years and now these discoveries start to give the complete portrayal and it actually is a rather dark episode in our country’s history.
The infected blood scandal of the 1970s and 80s is a shocking catastrophe which should really have never have occurred, which is why this Government did a thorough inquiry to ensure that victims and their families eventually got the answers they have spent decades waiting for.
Views put forth in the discussion will presently be weighed up and the essence of the inquiry will be announced in due course.
Mr Moore was made a life peer in 1992. His office at the House of Lord’s did not reply to a call for comment.
This is all pretty repulsive. Nevertheless, not unexpected because they are people with no morals and an honest government would acknowledge their mistakes and blunders rather than covering them up.
Those politicians concerned should face the consequences be that that is a figurative image of Margaret Thatcher in the Houses of Parliament, or that there are some original members of the cabinet and committee still alive and some are still working in party politics and the media.
And attempting to cover up the government’s accountability and answerability for contaminated blood that caused over 2,400 deaths should not be easily disregarded.
It truly is repulsive that around 2,500 people died. These were ordinary people who were being given blood throughout the course of medical procedures.
The blood was shipped from the USA and contained HIV and Hepatitis viruses and we should recognise what a horrifying tragedy this was.
As regards the cover-up which was brought up in the Commons and no doubt the papers will commence digging but the Commons and press might be hiding by the chance of legal action.