9 August 2001
Beckett back to launch virus probe

By FWi staff

RURAL Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has cut short her holiday to announce a major three-pronged inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

An independent inquiry into the epidemic will be headed by Dr Iain Anderson, chairman of BP Scotland, Mrs Beckett told journalists in London.

Secondly, a commission on the long-term future of farming will be set up under Sir Don Curry, former chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Thirdly, a scientific study will investigate the range of animal diseases – front foot-and-mouth to swine fever – which have crippled farming.

The study, which aims to prevent future outbreaks, will be headed by Sir Brian Follett, a zoology professor and vice-chancellor of Warwick University.

Mrs Beckett, who had been holidaying in France, had been under fire since it emerged that she was not due to resume ministerial duties until September.

Although many farmers will welcome the independent inquiry, they will be dismayed that it is to be held behind closed doors rather than in public.

Meanwhile, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher has been brought in as a “new broom” in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mark Addison, former chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service, was taken on a month ago to oversee the fallout from foot-and-mouth.

Mr Addison already has responsibility for personnel and communications and will act as a bridge between civil servants and Mrs Beckett.

He will hold the new post of director-general – a position below that of permanent secretary, according to a report in the Independent.

The newspaper says Mr Addison will take responsibility for foot-and-mouth in the autumn, following criticism of the departments handling of the crisis.

Mr Addison is a former private secretary to Baroness Thatcher at Downing Street. Whos Who lists his hobby as British motorbikes.

It is believed he was brought in with the approval of Downing Street and Sir Richard Wilson, head of the home Civil Service with a brief to modernise.

DEFRA replaced the Ministry of Agriculture, which was accused of being too close to farmers, in the aftermath of the General Election on 7 June.

Ministers have since repeatedly signalled that farmers concerns will not be allowed to dominate the departments vision for the future of rural Britain.

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage