9 July 2001
Bishop joins calls for virus inquiry

By FWi staff

A CHURCH of England bishop has urged the government to set out the terms of an inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jim Thompson, said delays by ministers have increased distrust of the government in the countryside.

Ministers have promised an investigation into the outbreak and the lessons to be learned, but stopped short of pledging an independent public inquiry.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4s Today programme, the Bishop said that ministers needed to make some sort of commitment now.

“An inquiry is urgent, not in the sense that it must begin now, but it should be announced now and it should be committed to now, he said.

Farmers leaders and the Conservative Party and the Countryside Alliance are among those calling for a public inquiry.

Writing to The Times, alliance chief executive Richard Burge says pressure for an independent public inquiry is growing in the countryside.

He argues that this need not begin immediately, but that it would take the pressure off growing demands for legal cases to be mounted.

It would only make sense for legal cases to be lodged after the inquiry, reasons Mr Burge.

Meanwhile, an Army officer who led the fight against the virus in Cumbria is launching a new battle to help farmers, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Brigadier Alex Birtwhistle, director of the Rural Heritage Trust since retiring from the Army in May, is seeking to raise 500,000 for the charity.

He hopes the cash will allow the Cumbria-based charity to expand nationwide to help farmers diversify, create new jobs and provide affordable accommodation.

Brigadier Birtwhistle became an acclaimed figure at the height of the crisis when his can do attitude helped speed up slaughter and disposal operations.

He said the trust aims to work alongside other bodies including English Nature, the National Trust, and the National Farmers Union.

Devon businesses hopes of securing compensation for the impact of foot-and-mouth have been hit by a new survey, reports the Financial Times.

The country wants 180m in government aid to help farming and tourism.

This figure was based on a study by Exeter University which suggested that the crisis could cost tourism alone 400m and 11,000 jobs.

But new research by Plymouth Business School, commissioned by the South-West Regional Development Agency, predicts losses will by a tenth of that.

It estimates that the likely outcome will be 1,200 job losses and 38m in sales.

A new report by the Council for the Protection of Rural England calls for farmers to be rewarded for environmental work.

This is the best strategy for bringing about a recovery from the foot-and-mouth epidemic, it argues.

Ten cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed since Friday (06 July) evening taking the UK total to 1829.

These included five cases each in Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

  • Financial Times, 09 July 2001, page 4
  • The Daily Telegraph, 09 July 2001, page 8
  • The Times, 09 July 2001, page 13

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