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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Former Health Ministers Mellor and Patten to give evidence at Infected Blood Inquiry

Former Health Ministers Mellor and Patten to give evidence at Infected Blood Inquiry


The former ministers will give evidence today (19 May) and tomorrow (20 May)

Former Health Ministers David Mellor and John Patten will give evidence at the Infected Blood Inquiry today (19 May) and tomorrow (20 May) respectively.

Both held significant roles in the Department of Health and Social Security in the 1980s – David Mellor was Minister of State for Health from 1988 – 1989 and John Patten was Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Health from 1983 – 1985. In addition, Mellor was Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1990 – 1992.

Those affected by the scandal hope the insight the former ministers will be able to offer into what was known by the Department of Health in that period – including when and how decisions were taken about the risks of contaminated blood products and the government response – will be highly relevant. 

Des Collins is senior partner at Collins Solicitors and legal advisor to more than 1,500 people affected by the contaminated blood scandal. He commented: “We are pleased David Mellor and John Patten have agreed to attend the Inquiry and call upon them to assist the process in good faith and to the best of their ability, notwithstanding the time that has passed since they had responsibility for the Department overseeing the nation’s health”.

“We were appalled by Ken Clarke’s disingenuous performance at the Inquiry last summer and hope his former colleagues will be more cooperative and forthcoming this week. Out of respect to the Inquiry process, we request that they give an open and transparent account of who knew what, when and how this affected decision-making at the time”, he added.

Collins said he believed the “Administration” was “fully aware at all relevant times” that blood products carried a “significant risk” of infection and were “simply too slow to act”.

Collins added: “When the scale of the disaster became apparent, the response from ministers to properly support and compensate victims was woefully inadequate.

“It is high time for the present Government to admit these failings that undoubtedly contributed to the deaths of some 3,000 people and ruined the lives of many others. There is a clear obligation to the affected and infected. They must finally hear the truth.

“Given that the Cabinet Office and no doubt the Treasury are presently considering Sir Robert Francis QC’s recommendations for a possible compensation framework for the victims of this scandal, the evidence of these witnesses comes at a critical time.”

The firm said they hoped the Inquiry would explore with Mellor and Patten: the self-sufficiency in blood products; the HIV litigation; compensation; and knowledge of risks associated with blood products.