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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 11:09 GMT
Scots blood virus probe ruled out
Health Minister Andy Kerr
Mr Kerr said he would reconsider if new evidence arose
Scotland's health minister has again ruled out a public inquiry into the supply of contaminated NHS blood to haemophiliacs north of the border.

Andy Kerr was responding to the announcement of an independent inquiry into transfusions in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hundreds of people with haemophilia received contaminated blood in Scotland during that period.

Mr Kerr said there would be "no further practical lessons" from an inquiry.

Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell is to conduct a UK-wide investigation after a campaign by Lord Morris of Manchester.

Lord Morris, president of the Haemophilia Society, said more than 1,700 haemophilia patients exposed to HIV and/or hepatitis C-contaminated NHS blood and blood products had died since being infected.

'Unchallengeable integrity'

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "Successive governments have resolutely resisted any idea of an independent public inquiry.

"Therefore the only way forward was to try and set up an independent inquiry, held in public, under a lawyer of unchallengeable integrity and authority.

"I think you'll find at the end of this inquiry, such is the standing of the people involved, that its report will be self-standing and of such commanding authority that can't be dodged by anyone."

Scotland's health minister said he would think again should any new evidence arise.

We need closure
Andy Gunn
Campaigner

He said: "I would be willing to revisit my decision not to hold a public inquiry were fresh evidence to come to light but presently I believe there is not sufficient grounds to justify such an inquiry.

"As I have said on many occasions, I am of the view there would be no further practical lessons, beyond those already acted upon, that would help those who have suffered and been affected and improve our health services for the future.

"Every effort has been made to trace and inform people in Scotland who contracted Hepatitis C from blood transfusions."

Many patients received payments of between 20,000 and 45,000 under a scheme pledged by UK and Scottish ministers in 2003.

Calls for a public inquiry have continually been made by victims and political figures.

Lord Archer will call on patients, bereaved family members, former health ministers and other witnesses to help with the independent inquiry, which will begin in around four weeks.

Frank McGuire
Lawyer Frank McGuire welcomed the inquiry

Philip Dolan, chairman of the Scottish Haemophilia Forum, welcomed the UK-wide inquiry.

"But what I regret and find difficult to understand is that the health committee of the Scottish Parliament voted in April that there should be a public inquiry and Andy Kerr hasn't responded to this," he said.

Haemophiliac Andy Gunn, from Inverness, was diagnosed with Aids and Hepatitis C 15 years ago after receiving blood between 1981 and 1986.

He said: "I really hope that it [the inquiry] is properly independent and that the government plays the game by not hindering it.

"We need closure."

'Shameful manner'

Frank Maguire, a lawyer for Thompsons Solicitors, represents about 150 Hepatitis C sufferers who contracted the disease through contaminated blood products.

He said the inquiry was "great news for victims and their families".

"However, Andy Kerr is behaving in a shameful and arrogant manner in trying to stop it happening here in Scotland," he said.

"It is simply not true that all the victims have been traced - new victims who have never been contacted by the NHS or anyone else come into our offices on a regular basis.

"We have an action calling in the Court of Session on 6 March to force the position in Scotland and find Mr Kerr and the Lord Advocate are acting unlawfully in their opposition to an inquiry."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Lord Morris explains why the inquiry is being held



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