Last week Liz Carroll, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, alongside other campaigning groups, Haemophilia Wales and Haemophilia Scotland, met with Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, and the Cabinet Office team to discuss the next steps in taking the contaminated blood inquiry forward.
Firstly, those present were invited to give their thoughts on who should lead the inquiry, we and the majority of attendees proposed that an individual with significant legal and public inquiry expertise should be appointed as Chair. Additionally, it was thought that a panel to support the chair would be beneficial and we proposed this include a human rights expert to ensure the voice of the haemophilia community was clearly heard.
The group was also asked to give input to the terms of reference and how we saw these being drafted. The main points discussed were:
- That everyone affected should be allowed to input to a consultation on the terms of reference and be given adequate time to do so.
- We wanted the terms of reference to be focused and specific but to ensure the full range of topics and long-term catalogue of issues are included within the inquiry.
- That the terms of reference ensure the inquiry covers all four nations and peoples testimony and evidence should be heard in a range of locations UK wide and be able to be provided in ways that enable those who are unwell or wish to maintain their confidentiality can do so.
- All agreed that it was vital that all routes and circumstances of infection were included as part of the inquiry
- We wanted to ensure that there are regular updates on progress throughout the inquiry with interim reports or recommendations made before the whole inquiry concludes.
In general, we felt that the Cabinet Office understood the importance of getting the balance right of consulting on the terms of reference in a constructive and fair manner alongside the need to move this process forward in a timely manner.
Damian Green stated that they expected to announce a chair before Christmas and they are looking for someone with legal expertise who will be available full time. The chair will then consult more widely on the terms of reference in the New Year and make decisions with regards to a panel. Formal minutes of the meeting will be available in due course.