10 August 2001
Inquiry bias claims are ‘silly’

By FWi staff

SUGGESTIONS that the inquiry into the handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic will not be fully independent have been dismissed by its chairman.

Dr Iain Anderson said accusations that he would not be independent because he had been a special advisor to the government were silly.

I will have the freedom to conduct this inquiry entirely as I see fit, the former advisor on the Millennium bug told the BBC.

I hardly think that chairing a pervious task force rules one out from doing a job of this type.

Dr Anderson also defended the governments decision to have an independent inquiry into the crisis rather than a public one.

The judgement is that the best way to proceed now is to consult widely, but not to do so in public. It is on these terms that I have agreed to undertake the inquiry, he said.

I am satisfied that, following the approach I have outlined, we will have the best possible chance of extracting lessons from the past and building on these lessons to set us out on the best track for the future.

Dr Andersons comments came in one of the few interviews he has agreed to give since his appointment was confirmed on Thursday (Aug 10).

He rejected claims from the Tory party that a public inquiry would be the only way to uncover the truth about what had happened throughout the crisis.

He would have the freedom to call whoever he wanted as witnesses — including Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said.

Meanwhile, the government has announced 3m to help the UKs food and drink industry recover from the foot-and-mouth crisis.

More than half the cash announced by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs will be spent in the UK.

It will boost the marketing and promotion of regional food such as farmers markets. The remainder will help promote British produce overseas.