18 January 2002

MEPsvote for F&M review

EURO-MPs have voted by 390 to 155 to set up a temporary committee to look at the causes and effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis, and to review European Union policy for fighting farm animal diseases. The committee will also examine controls on meat imports of non-EU countries where F&M is prevalent and issue proposals on vaccination to combat the disease.

The initiative came from British conservative MEP, Robert Sturdy, who secured the 186 signatures necessary to propose the committee. "We have faced obstacles every step of the way from the socialist group, which has been anxious to protect the UK government," he said.

The temporary committee will still be able to invite commission, government and public officials to give evidence. "It will also be able to address a wider range of issues and to look forward. A committee of inquiry could only look backwards."

The 30 members of the temporary committee will be decided next week, including representatives from all political parties. It has been agreed that the chairman should not be British. &#42

"There is widespread concern that the UK government has refused to hold its own public inquiry," said Conservative MEP, Neil Parish. "This committee will undertake the most comprehensive inquiry we will see. It will be independent, impartial and conduct all its deliberations in public."

It will sit for one year before reporting. An amendment by Labour MEP for the East Midlands, Philip Whitehead, to limit it to six months was defeated.