26 October 1999
Ban refusal splits press

By Donald MacPhail

THE newspapers are split over whether the governments decision not to ban French meat is based on cool reasoning or is completely out of step with public opinion.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown yesterday (Monday) refused to impose a ban after a report by European Union health watchdogs accused the French of illegally using sewage sludge to feed livestock.

The European Commission also decided against a ban on French meat products.

France has already imposed a unilateral block on British beef despite the BSE ban being lifted in August. The French food agency questions UK BSE figures.

The Daily Telegraph says Britain should do what the French and Germans have done and “stop applying EU rules that do not suit us”.

The Daily Mail contrasts the Governments acceptance of Brussels advice on animals fed sewage and its refusal to believe British beef on the bone is safe.

It describes this as “staggering” and warns of a “rising tide of anger” which “the Government ignores at its peril”.

But The Times takes a different tack. “Although it may stick in consumers gullets to say so, the government is right to base its case on science and the law,” its editorial states.

It warns action could jeopardise a strong case for a ban. “To ban in populist haste could be to repent in leisure.”

This chimes with The Guardian editorial which says, “So far, the British government has played it correctly”.

But it criticises Nick Brown, who is personally boycotting French produce. It accuses him of “behaving as if the interests of the British farmer are coterminous with the national interest”.

It suggests this is another reason why the future of “that partisan ministry” should be reviewed.

However, Nick Browns stance is described as “laudable” by The Independent, which defends Mr Browns right “to be as eccentric as he wants when he next goes out shopping”.

It agrees there may be a case for ban but must be pursued at EU level not British “whether we like it on not”.

  • The Times 26/10/99 page 1, page 6, page 24, page 25 (Leader), page 25 (Letters), page 3 (Law supplement)
  • the Independent 26/10/99 page 1, page 2, page 4, page 3 (Review), page 3 (Review), and page 5 (Review)
  • Financial Times 26/10/99 page 1, page 4, and page 27
  • The Guardian 26/10/99 page 1, page 2, page 7, page 21 (Leader)
  • The Daily Telegraph 26/10/99 page 1, page 2, page 4, page 29 (Leader), page 29 (Letters)