Ken Clarke has questions to answer over infected blood scandal, says minister, as campaigners call for him to lose peerage – UK politics live | Politics

Minister says Ken Clarke has questions to answer, as infected blood campaigners say he should lose peerage over scandal

A cabinet minister has said Ken Clarke has questions to answer after campaigners said he should lose his peerage over his role in the infected blood scandal.

Clarke, who was a health minister and health secretary in the 1980s, was one of the former ministers criticised most explicitly in yesterday’s report. Although Sir Brian Langstaff made it clear that the scandal went on for decades, and involved politicians and officials from multiple administrations, Clarke is a particular bête noir for campaigners because of the unsympathetic tone he struck when he gave evidence.

Des Collins, a solicitor representing victims of the scandal, told the Daily Telegraph: “The chair to the inquiry thinks [Clarke] was wrong back in the day and I think yes, he should have his peerage stripped. Take no prisoners. There are a lot who haven’t been singled out but he was one of them.”

This morning Clive Smith, chairman of the Haemophilia Society, told LBC that Clarke gave evidence to the inquiry that was “breathtaking in the extreme”.

Asked if Clarke should lose his peerage, Smith said:

We wrote to the upper house when it was suggested that he was going to get a peerage, saying ‘Please don’t do that yet, wait until the infected blood inquiry has reported’.

Now we have the conclusions of the infected blood inquiry report, I think our letter was well-timed and entirely accurate. The way in which he gave his evidence (to the inquiry) was appalling.

Yesterday Smith said Clarke should apologise to victims, not just for what he did as a minister, but for the manner in which he gave evidence to the inquiry.

Removing a peerage from someone is an extreme measure. It requires an act of parliament, and it has not happened since the first world war, when some peers lost their titles because they had supported Germany.

In an interview with Sky News this morning, Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, ducked a question about Clarke’s peerage, saying that was a matter for the honours forfeiture committee.

But Stride did not fully support his Tory colleague, and he said Clarke had questions to answer. He said:

Sir Brian has come forward with some very strong observations of Ken, in the context of the scandal. Clearly there are questions that I’ve no doubt Ken will be addressing in time.

As PA Media reports, in 1983, an Aids leaflet was published alongside a press release in which Lord Clarke said: “It has been suggested that Aids may be transmitted in blood or blood products. There is no conclusive proof that this is so.” That line was repeated over several years.

Langstaff said in his report on Monday:

This line to take, whilst technically correct, was indefensible. It did not spell out the real risk. It gave false reassurance.

It lacked candour and, by not telling the whole truth, was misleading.

It was not an accurate reflection of the (Department of Health’s) actual understanding, which was that it was likely that Aids was transmitted through blood and blood products.

No minister challenged the ‘no conclusive proof’ line. They should have done.

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Key events

Gove says government should consider making organisers of repeat pro-Palestinian marches pay policing costs

Q: What do you want protest organisers to do to stop antisemitism on pro-Palestinian marches?

Gove says they should be clear what is not acceptable, including slogans and symbols.

But there are things government can do too, he says. The Woodcock report addresses this, he says. He says the police could take into account the cumulative impact of marches on certain communities.

And he says it is “certainly worth considering” whether organisers of these marches should be liable for the policing costs if they insist on holding events “again and again and again”.

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Gove is now taking questions.

Asked if the UK would enforce an arrest warrant issued by the international criminal court against Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, Gove says he is not a laywer, but he says it was wrong for the ICC to imply equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

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Gove says he wants to appoint independent adviser to deal with anti-Muslim hatred, to match antisemitism adviser

Gove says the report being published by John Woodcock today on political violence is “brilliant” in its analysis.

And he says its recommendatons are compelling and far-reaching. He goes on:

Some will require detailed debate and thought, but that cannot be an excuse for delay in dealing with the challenges that he addresses. We must make rapid progress to deal with the intimidatory consequences of marches.

He says the government needs to bolster the role of the independent adviser on antisemitism. And he says he will establish a parallel adviser on anti-Muslim hatred.

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Gove claims that the anti-Israel protests that have sprung up on university campuses around the world have not appeared in a vacuum, and are the product of “years of ideological radicalisation”.

He says the decolonisation narrative is attractive to authoritarian states, because the iddea that “the success of liberal Western nations is built on plunder” undermines their legitimacy.

And he says delegitimising Israel is important to the left “because Israel is transparently successful because of its democratic values, not exploitation”.

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Gove claims BDS campaign against Israel antisemitic

In his speech Michael Gove is now addressing what he calls “the BDS campaign” – the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign aimed at Israel. He says he sees it as “explicitly antisemitic”. He says the ideologue behind it does not accept the right for Israel to exist.

Gove says it is legitimate, and sometimes necessary, to criticise the actions of the state of Israel.

But he says Israel is being singled out in a way that does not happen to other countries.

There are new BDS campaigns directed against Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime guilty of killing more Muslims in living memory than any other.

There are no student encampments, urging university administrators to cut all ties with China given what is happening in Xinjiang or Hong Kong, or what happened in Tibet.

I know of no efforts to organise marches in their thousands to demand immediate action to stop the persecution of the Rohingya or Korean people by Myanmar’s government.

I may have missed it, but agitation to end the war in Sudan or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Mali, or Ethiopia, does not seem to energise our campuses.

And nor is there any suggestion, other than with Israel, that the errors or even crimes of a country’s leaders should necessitate the end of that country’s independent existence.

Michael Gove giving his speech on antisemitism this morning Photograph: Guardian
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Factor 8, one of the organisations campaigning on behalf of people affected by the infected blood scandal, has said Ken Clarke should have his peerage removed.

Strip Lord Ken Clarke of his peerage now.

Infected Blood Inquiry findings are clear. He Lied, We Died.

— Factor 8 (@Factor8Campaign) May 21, 2024

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Michael Gove starts his speech by describing the 7 October Hamas attack as the largest pogrom against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

But, soon after the attack, a remarkable thing happened. People started questioning whether the attack had happened, he says.

He quotes a Jewish peer saying in the weeks after the attack that he was more worried about the safety of his daughter in London than he was about the safety of his son, who was serving with the Israel Defence Forces.

Every day there are incidents of Jews experience antisemitism in the UK, he says. And pro-Palestinian marches are taking place regularly where compassionate peope, “driven by a desire for peace and an end to suffering”, are marching side by side with people “promoting hate”. He goes on:

And we know now that it is genuinely dangerous for people to be openly, clearly proudly Jewish near these marches. At a time when we’re all encouraged to be our whole, authentic selves, to celebrate our identity, to be out and proud, there is only one group told that they and they alone can only be tolerated on terms set by others.

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Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, is about to give his speech on antisemitism.

There is a live feed here.

Communities secretary Michael Gove delivers speech on antisemitism – watch live

And here is Pippa Crerar’s preview story.

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Minister says Ken Clarke has questions to answer, as infected blood campaigners say he should lose peerage over scandal

A cabinet minister has said Ken Clarke has questions to answer after campaigners said he should lose his peerage over his role in the infected blood scandal.

Clarke, who was a health minister and health secretary in the 1980s, was one of the former ministers criticised most explicitly in yesterday’s report. Although Sir Brian Langstaff made it clear that the scandal went on for decades, and involved politicians and officials from multiple administrations, Clarke is a particular bête noir for campaigners because of the unsympathetic tone he struck when he gave evidence.

Des Collins, a solicitor representing victims of the scandal, told the Daily Telegraph: “The chair to the inquiry thinks [Clarke] was wrong back in the day and I think yes, he should have his peerage stripped. Take no prisoners. There are a lot who haven’t been singled out but he was one of them.”

This morning Clive Smith, chairman of the Haemophilia Society, told LBC that Clarke gave evidence to the inquiry that was “breathtaking in the extreme”.

Asked if Clarke should lose his peerage, Smith said:

We wrote to the upper house when it was suggested that he was going to get a peerage, saying ‘Please don’t do that yet, wait until the infected blood inquiry has reported’.

Now we have the conclusions of the infected blood inquiry report, I think our letter was well-timed and entirely accurate. The way in which he gave his evidence (to the inquiry) was appalling.

Yesterday Smith said Clarke should apologise to victims, not just for what he did as a minister, but for the manner in which he gave evidence to the inquiry.

Removing a peerage from someone is an extreme measure. It requires an act of parliament, and it has not happened since the first world war, when some peers lost their titles because they had supported Germany.

In an interview with Sky News this morning, Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, ducked a question about Clarke’s peerage, saying that was a matter for the honours forfeiture committee.

But Stride did not fully support his Tory colleague, and he said Clarke had questions to answer. He said:

Sir Brian has come forward with some very strong observations of Ken, in the context of the scandal. Clearly there are questions that I’ve no doubt Ken will be addressing in time.

As PA Media reports, in 1983, an Aids leaflet was published alongside a press release in which Lord Clarke said: “It has been suggested that Aids may be transmitted in blood or blood products. There is no conclusive proof that this is so.” That line was repeated over several years.

Langstaff said in his report on Monday:

This line to take, whilst technically correct, was indefensible. It did not spell out the real risk. It gave false reassurance.

It lacked candour and, by not telling the whole truth, was misleading.

It was not an accurate reflection of the (Department of Health’s) actual understanding, which was that it was likely that Aids was transmitted through blood and blood products.

No minister challenged the ‘no conclusive proof’ line. They should have done.

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Max Hill, a former director of public prosecutions, said this morning that, although the corporate manslaughter charge could not be used to prosecute people involved in the infected blood scandal, other options were available.

He told Times Radio:

If the evidence is there, there is no bar to an investigation and a prosecution.

Now, sadly, corporate manslaughter came into force as a criminal offence on April 6, 2008 – much too late to deal with this case.

However, there are other criminal offences which pre-date corporate manslaughter, where individuals have a duty of care and [if] they breached that duty in a gross way – that’s a legal term – they can be held liable.

Gross negligence manslaughter comes to my mind and also misconduct in public office.

It’s not for me to know whether either of those are feasible in these circumstances, but the criminal law does provide answers such as this even decades after the event.

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Rishi Sunak with the Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna this morning. Photograph: Alex Halada/AFP/Getty Images
Sunak and Nehammer inspecting an honour guard. Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/AFP/Getty Images
Sunak and Nehammer entering the Federal Chancellery Ballhausplatz in Vienna. Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/Reuters
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Austrian chancellor says Rwanda-style policies needed to deal with EU’s illegal migration problem after meeting with Sunak

The Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has described Rwanda-style deportation policies as “part of the solution” to the problem posed by illegal migration.

Nehammer backed Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy after the two leaders met in Vienna this morning for talks. In comments to the press afterwards, Nehammer said that he supported “the British path and the British model” for dealing with illegal migration and he welcome the fact that 15 EU countries have now spoken out in favour of gettting safe third countries to process asylum seekers.

In a message posted on X, Nehammer also thanked Sunak for his “strong support” on this issue.

Prime Minister @RishiSunak and I agree: asylum procedures should be carried out in safe third countries. This approach requires robust protection of Europe‘s external borders alongside the establishement of well-functioning asylum centers in these third countries. Thank you for… pic.twitter.com/9RBLnrT6Lv

— Karl Nehammer (@karlnehammer) May 21, 2024

Prime Minister @RishiSunak and I agree: asylum procedures should be carried out in safe third countries. This approach requires robust protection of Europe‘s external borders alongside the establishement of well-functioning asylum centers in these third countries. Thank you for your strong support.

In their joint appearance before the media, Sunak said that illegal migration has become “truly one of the defining issues of our time” and that “we face criminal gangs that are growing in strength across the European continent and beyond”.

He said Nehammer had been “right on this issue for a long time” and has been bringing attention to it in Europe. He added:

It’s increasingly clear that many other countries now agree that that is the approach that is required – bold, novel, looking at safe country partnerships.

Rishi Sunak and Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer speaking to the media in the Austrian Chancellery in Vienna this morning. Photograph: Max Slovencik/EPA
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Minister claims it’s ‘not inconceivable’ that officials or politicians could face prosecution over infected blood scandal

Good morning. Today there will be further reaction to the vast and damning report from Sir Brian Langstaff’s infected blood inquiry. Rishi Sunak told MPs yesterday that the government would pay “comprehensive compensation to those infected and those affected by this scandal” and John Glen, the Cabinet Office minister, will make a statement to the Commons on this after 12.30pm. But there is also increasing interest in whether any of those responsible may face prosecution.

Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, was doing a media round this morning and he described prosecutions as “not inconceivable”. Asked if officials or politicians could be taken to court over what happened, Stride replied:

I think all of those things should and will be looked at … I have no doubt that all of those things will be extremely carefully looked at, because in that 2,700-page report, there are many questions and many short failings that have surfaced, and they all need to be looked at very carefully. And it is not inconceivable that what you’ve described may be something that transpires.

Stride is one of several politicians giving speeches on what is set to be a busy day for political news. Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is meeting Karl Nehammer, the Austrian chancellor, in Vienna.

10am: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gives a speech on antisemitism.

10.45am: Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader and shadow levelling up secretary, gives a speech on Labour’s plans for new towns.

11am: Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, gives a speech on welfare reform.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Lunchtime: The government is due to publish a long-awaited report from John Woodcock (Lord Walney) on political violence and disruption.

After 12.30pm: John Glen, the Cabinet Office minister, gives a statement to MPs on compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal.

2.30pm: Andrew Mitchell, the deputy foreign secretary, and Alan Mak, a trade minister, give evidence to the Commons business committee on arms exports to Israel.

If you want to contact me, please post a message below the line (BTL) or message me on X (Twitter). I can’t read all the messages BTL, but if you put “Andrew” in a message aimed at me, I am more likely to see it because I search for posts containing that word. If you want to flag something up urgently, it is best to use X; I’ll see something addressed to @AndrewSparrow very quickly. I find it very helpful when readers point out mistakes, even minor typos (no error is too small to correct). And I find your questions very interesting too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either BTL or sometimes in the blog.

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