United Kingdom

Ken Clarke apologises for his 'combative behaviour' at the infected blood inquiry

Ken Clarke has apologised for his 'combative behaviour' at the infected blood inquiry after appalled survivors labelled him a 'total disgrace'.

Campaigners said that the Tory peer showed 'arrogance, pomposity and contempt' to the victims of the biggest health treatment scandal in NHS history.

The 81-year-old, who was a health minister at the time, gave three days of evidence to the inquiry which is seeking to understand how thousands died from infected blood in the 1980s.

Up to 30,000 people contracted HIV and hepatitis C after receiving Factor VIII, a clotting agent that used blood from infected donors in the US. At the inquiry this week, Lord Clarke, who was made a peer by Boris Johnson last year, insisted he had 'nothing to do' with the disaster.

Ken Clarke has apologised for his 'combative behaviour' at the infected blood inquiry after appalled survivors labelled him a 'total disgrace'

He angrily objected to questions repeatedly and grew irritated by what he described as 'meticulous' questioning from lead counsel Jenni Richards QC. He branded her questions 'pointless' and 'irrelevant'.

The former chancellor apologised for his conduct at the end of yesterday's hearing, but did not apologise to the victims.

He said: 'I realise I am naturally rather combative... and going back to decision-making, I am sometimes rather impetuous. I apologise to the counsel if at times I was showing signs of impatience.'

After the inquiry closed, Sam Stein QC, representing victims, made an application to demand Lord Clarke respond to allegations of his 'contemptuous' conduct.

Earlier in proceedings, Lord Clarke said that government lawyers had 'persuaded' him to be helpful to the inquiry

Des Collins, solicitor to 1,500 infected and affected clients, said: 'The application, though highly unusual in nature, is unlikely to have come as any great surprise to those who have spent the last two-and-a-half days watching Lord Clarke give evidence.'

Earlier in proceedings, Lord Clarke said that government lawyers had 'persuaded' him to be helpful to the inquiry.

Victims and families were furious at his conduct after they had waited almost four decades for the inquiry. They asked Sir Brian if they could censure Lord Clarke for being 'arrogant, pompous and contemptuous towards people who had suffered so much' during the hearing. Jason Evans, who was four when his father died aged 31 from contaminated blood, said the peer had shown 'utter contempt' for the inquiry, adding: 'He has been a total disgrace.'

Clive Smith, chairman of The Haemophilia Society, said that Lord Clarke had shown a 'complete lack of compassion and remorse' for the victims.

The inquiry resumes in September when former health secretary Lord Fowler will give evidence.

Pictured: the Infected Blood Inquiry memorial at Fleetbank House in London

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