Senior Civil Servant apologises for wrongly advising Ministers over Contaminated Blood Scandal
Factor 8 can reveal today that Chris Wormald (Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health & Social Care) sent apology letters to two former Ministers, Nicola Blackwood and Jane Ellison, for advising them incorrectly in relation to Contaminated Blood Scandal evidence.
The letters obtained by Factor 8 were deposited into the Commons Library by current Minister Jackie Doyle-Price and date back to June 2018.
From 2017 through to 2018, Factor 8 had been raising concerns with DHSC that their previous narrative, that all evidence was in the public domain or destroyed, was false. In 2018, Baroness Featherstone very helpfully forwarded a letter on our behalf outlining specific files and examples of this to DHSC. It is that letter which appears to have subsequently triggered these apology letters to the two Ministers.
The first apology letter was sent to former Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood on 20th June 2018, and a second similar letter was sent to former Health Minister Jane Ellison on 21st June 2018.
Both letters from the Permanent Secretary outline that:
Between 2015 and 2016, the Department released a large number of files in the light of the Penrose Inquiry in Scotland. This process involved officials conducting a search of all files to identify relevant files for transfer to The National Archives.
Further to this release of documents and in answer to some Parliamentary Questions (PQs), the statement "All documents up to 1995 are available through The National Archives" has been used on several occasions. This line was normally nuanced to explain that it related to all relevant files and I am sorry that in some instances this did not happen. As you will understand, what is considered to be relevant is a subjective decision.
The letters go onto say that:
From now on DHSC will use the amended line "All files up to 1995, previously deemed to be relevant to the issue of infected blood, and which were agreed to release by The Advisory Council, were transferred to The National Archives.
However, we recognise this did not include all files that may be relevant and work on identifying all additional pre-1995 files for transfer is continuing. As well as releasing these files to the public, DHSC is committed to co-operating fully with the Infected Blood Inquiry".
It is also expressly said in both letters:
I apologise that you were advised incorrectly on these occasions.
Chris Wormald also attached lists to each of the letters showing each time DHSC has identified that the false statements were made by Ministers about the files, which include:
PQ 71814 on 24th April 2017 by Nicola Blackwood to Diana Johnson
PQ 65843 on 7th March 2017 by Nicola Blackwood to Diana Johnson
PQ 65806 on 7th March 2017 by Nicola Blackwood to Diana Johnson
PQ 65851 on 7th March 2017 by Nicola Blackwood to Diana Johnson
PQ 65849 on 7th March 2017 by Nicola Blackwood to Diana Johnson
PQ 57809 on 20th December 2016 by Nicola Blackwood to Ian Austin
In a debate on 24th November 2016 by Nicola Blackwood to the House of Commons
PQ 38755 on 10th June 2016 by Jane Ellison to Alison Thewliss
PQ 38757 on 10th June 2016 by Jane Ellison to Alison Thewliss
PQ 21424 on 11th January 2016 by Jane Ellison to Diana Johnson
We can draw from the above that the same false information was provided by Ministers for over a year to the public and to Members of Parliament.