18 January 2002

Inquiry petition is delivered

MORE than 146,000 reasons for a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis were delivered to Downing Street on Monday. FARMERS WEEKLY Editor Stephen Howe was joined on the doorstep of Number 10 by representatives of Horse&Hound, and leading regional newspapers Western Morning News, Plymouth, The Western Mail, Cardiff and The Journal, Newcastle.

"Co-operating together, the readers of all the titles have sent a clear message to Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Give us the public inquiry we need to put the foot-and-mouth crisis behind us," said Mr Howe.

Horse&Hound editor in chief Mark Hedges agreed that only a public inquiry could deliver the truth. "Only a public inquiry can ensure that rural Britain never faces a rural disaster on this scale again."

Ged Henderson, editor of The Journal said: "Many communities in the north east have been devastated by foot-and-mouth and there are many unanswered questions surrounding the handling of the crisis. There is much anger in rural communities about the decision not to hold a public inquiry."

Lee Wenham, The Western Mail assistant editor confirmed the strength of rural opinion in south Wales. "A clear message has been sent to government that nothing less than a public inquiry will satisfy the country. The government must sit up and listen to ensure that the lessons of the devastating foot-and-mouth outbreak are learned," said Mr Wenham.

In the south west too, there is widespread support for a full inquiry, said Western Morning News editor Barrie Williams. "The response from our readers has been terrific – theres massive support for a public inquiry."

Shadow DEFRA secretary Peter Ainsworth voiced his support outside Downing Street. "The governments refusal to hold a public inquiry lies like a stain on their reputation," he said.

"For months its been clear that the country wants a public inquiry. It is staggering that the government is being so pig headed in refusing to hold one."

*The government could be forced to hold a public inquiry if the government loses the judical review hearing due to be held at Londons High Court on Tues Feb 19. &#42