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In his opening address to the Inquiry at what marked the beginning of the Autumn Hearings, Sir Brian reflected on the last six months. He discussed the pandemic and reflected on how resilient the public had been. Nonetheless, Sir Brian reminded the audience that the Inquiry had not stopped working and had continued to work relentlessly behind the scenes.

The first witness to take the stand was Lord David Owen. Lord Owen was the Minister of State for Health between 1974- 1976 during a Labour government led by Harold Wilson. He is also of course a qualified doctor.

The first topic raised by Jenni Richards QC concerned the relationship between the Minister of State for Health and the Chief Medical Officer. Lord Owen said they kept in touch continuously and discussed some of the sensitive issues regarding haemophilia. The chief medical officers role was to give advice to medical professionals.

Lord Owen touched on the fact that as a trained medical doctor, he often needed to remind himself not to mix his expertise with his role an MP. He remarked he was an “MP first and foremost”.

Lord Owen was asked about the budget for the Department of Health between 1974-1976. In his evidence, Lord Owen confirmed that he had made available nearly half a million pounds to regional health authorities in order to achieve self-sufficiency. He stated that it was always easy to find money for popular and current health issues but believed it was important to focus on minority issues.

During his evidence, Lord Owen was asked about his thoughts on the size of blood donor pools during his time as Minister of State for Health. Lord Owen acknowledged the larger the donor pool the risk of infection increased. He described his involvement in the ITV World in Action programme which aimed to shed light on this issue.

Lord Owen described an odd occasion where his private ministerial notes became lost. When one of his employees attempted to retrieve the notes they had been destroyed because of the 10 year rule.

The concluding part of Lord Owen’s evidence focused on the chain of command amongst the devolved nations. Lord Owen answered questions on this but wasn’t personally fully aware of the detailed mechanisms involving the chain of command in those devolved nations at the material time.


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