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Ken Clarke’s actions during his first day of questioning at the Infected Blood Inquiry have been criticised by victims and families impacted by the scandal.
Lord Clarke, who held the position of health minister from 1982 to 1985 and was later made health secretary from 1988 to 1990, appeared to become irritated with the level of detail being examined by lead counsel Jenni Richards QC.
During one point, his response to a line of questioning was: “Why do we have to go through such meticulous detail through who said what when, when did he change his mind?
“Interesting no doubt but pretty pointless.”
Later on, further protestations from Lord Clarke prompted chairman of the inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff to intervene, and state that it was up for him to “ultimately determine” what questions were relevant.
Lord Kenneth Clarke has just been sworn in. He will be giving evidence until Thursday 29 July and will remain under oath.
He is being questioned by Lead Counsel Jenni Richards QC. pic.twitter.com/q2nZ4F6trt
— Infected Blood Inquiry (@bloodinquiry) July 27, 2021
Sir Brian told Lord Clarke: “I think the relevance ultimately, Lord Clarke, is for me to determine.
“If I think the questions are unhelpful, then I will indicate that.
“But at the moment, it would be helpful to me, I think, and we may get on a little bit more quickly if we just deal with the questions as they come and leave the motive or the purpose of asking the questions to counsel.”
Lord Clarke’s comments have been criticised by Factor 8, a non-profit organisation, who have branded them as “disgraceful”.
Jason Evans, founder of Factor 8, said: “Those infected and affected have waited a long time for this day, and the utter contempt for the inquiry displayed today by Lord Clarke is appalling.
“Our community has suffered enough, and his disgraceful attitude today has only added to that.
“What on earth he was thinking I have no idea.”
The Infected Blood Inquiry, an independent probe into those who were affected by blood transfusions in the 1980s which were infected with HIV and hepatitis, will be hearing evidence from Lord Clarke for three days this week.