9 March 2001

Government had not learned lesson

MEMBERS of the House of Commons agriculture select committee have attacked the government for being unprepared for the swine fever outbreak that hit the UK last year.

The committee said it failed to learn from the Dutch epidemic in 1997/98.

In a report on the UK pig industry, MPs said MAFF had relied solely on disease simulation exercises by the State Veterinary Service for its disease planning policy.

"We believe that specific war games aimed at controlling classical swine fever should have been carried out following the Dutch outbreak," the report, published on Tuesday (Mar 6), said.

Over 250,000 pigs were slaughtered and many businesses were jeopardised as a result of the outbreak in East Anglia.

The committee also criticised the governments handling of the £66m pig industry restructuring scheme. "It is apparent that the process was more lengthy than necessary," the report said.

The scheme was announced at the March 2000 farm summit. But despite reassurances in the summer that it was "nearly there", did not open until December. This caused a lot of frustration, it said.

MPs also called on farm minister Nick Brown to confirm that the £26m allocated for the first year of the scheme will now be carried over to the second year. &#42