3 August 2001

Insider claims inquiry Yes…

A MEMBER of the House of Commons agriculture select committee claims he has been told by ministers that there will be a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

David Drew, Labour MP for Stroud, claims that the government is planning to hold a full investigation into the handling of the disease but is waiting until the outbreak is over before it makes a formal announcement.

"My discussions with ministers say there will be a public inquiry," he told FARMERS WEEKLY. "But first they are waiting for foot-and-mouth to be over and secondly they are looking at the form it will take as they dont want a long, legalistic inquiry."

The governments failure to agree to a public inquiry has frustrated farmers who feel that mistakes have been made. Prime Minister Tony Blair promised at the end of June that there would be a "proper inquiry". He added: "The nature of that, as I have made clear, is a matter for decision at a later time."

Mr Drew, who is a member of the Labour Partys rural revival group, said he hoped the announcement would come before the end of the year. "I would be disappointed if we dont get something by Christmas, especially because that would mean the disease is still on going," he said. &#42

Mr Drew added that he hoped the inquiry would look at the decisions that could have been taken as well as the ones that were taken.

The MPs comments came as former prime minister John Major called, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, for the government to commit itself to a public inquiry.

Mr Major indicated that he was wrong to reject a public inquiry into BSE when he was in power.

"In the event, the public inquiry produced an excellent report, with valuable lessons for the future," he said.

His letter concluded: "I am content for the prime minister to take advice on the precise nature of the inquiry, but he should commit himself to it without delay and ensure that it will be held fully in public. Out rural communities – both present and future- deserve no less."