Infected blood scandal: Former prime minister John Major 'must answer to inquiry'

Paul Kelso, health correspondent

Former prime minister Sir John Major should be called to give evidence to the infected blood inquiry about what he knew of the scandal, victims and families of those affected have told Sky News.

Up to 5,000 people were infected with HIV or hepatitis C contained in contaminated blood products or blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s, almost 3,000 of whom have since died.

Those affected have long believed the extent of the contamination was covered up, and are urging inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff to call senior officials and ministers to give evidence.

Des Collins, a solicitor who represents around 1,200 people infected or affected by the scandal, told Sky News that as well as former health secretaries, Mr Major must be called.

"Questions have to be asked of former prime ministers," he said.

"The views taken by the Thatcher administration were carried on by her successor and John Major is still very much alive and kicking, and the victims are very keen that he give evidence and answer the questions they have wanted to ask him for more than 40 years."

The call for senior politicians to be held to account comes as the public inquiry resumed this week in Belfast.

Victims from Northern Ireland will give evidence over four days as part of the inquiry, which is also hearing from people in Leeds, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.

Among those giving evidence this week is Simon Hamilton, a haemophiliac infected with hepatitis C via a contaminated blood product.

Now the chairman of Haemophilia NI, he says his condition was secretly monitored by doctors before he was told of the infection. He now has cirrhosis of the liver and his twin brother, who was also infected, has had a liver transplant.

Mr Hamilton told Sky News the inquiry has a duty to get to the truth, and that politicians and officials must be held to account.

"I feel betrayed by those who had a responsibility of due diligence to look after people like me and those others who are not here any longer," he said.

"I feel angry because we trusted in a system that did not work and the reality is we are still required to trust in a government that up until now has failed us. It hasn't acknowledged the situation, and it continues to resist this process.

"The brothers and sisters, if you like, in this process, we will not settle for another whitewash."

The next stage of the inquiry, calling evidence from the medical community and public officials, will not take place until next year.