5 September 2001
Government is wasting BSE report

By FWi staff

THE government is ignoring key lessons from the 30m BSE Inquiry report and risks repeating mistakes regarding foot-and-mouth, claims a leading scientist.

Malcolm Ferguson, who was a member of the BSE Inquiry panel, said there was a real danger that the 16-volume report would become an expensive doorstop.

The evidence is that it is too much to read and no one pays much attention to it, he told the British Association conference in Glasgow.

That very large sum of money will have been wasted if people dont read the report and take the lessons from it.

Professor Ferguson told the conference that the governments decision not to hold a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth showed it had learnt little.

I felt rather devastated when I heard the foot-and-mouth inquiries were going to be held in private, because lack of openness leads to public mistrust.

The government wants the inquiries to be quick and cheap but I do not think that is a good bargain when you lose openness.

One of the things the government had failed to learn from the BSE inquiry was that it was important to bring in the best outside experts as soon as possible,.

Government tends to choose its scientific advisers on an ad hoc basis and without sufficient consultation with learned bodies, he said.

According to The Independent, Professor Ferguson predicts that the foot-and-mouth inquiries would not be finished within their allotted timetables.

I joined the BSE inquiry panel and was told it would take a few hours a day for six months. It took more than tow and a half years of 12-hour days.

He also warns that the same old gang seem to be in charge at the newly created Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

They do have a different mission and I hope that they have learnt some of the lessons, but that remains to be seen.