21 January 2000
Minister apologises for beef fiasco

by FWi staff

WELSH agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther has issued a “full apology” after the accidental leak of a warning that the beef-on-the-bone ban could be reinstated.

Ms Gwyther sought to appease the industry as opposition parties and farmers leaders raged over the warning which they said could damage the beef industry.

The memo was, which was written by a junior official, was sent in error via e-mail to journalists by the assemblys press office.

It warned that new EU regulations due to come into force on July 1, “will have two very serious effects”.

In-bone beef will once again be removed from shop shelves and vertebrae and intestines from sheep over 12 months old will have to be removed after slaughter.

The e-mail adds: “Efforts to get the Community to reverse this decision are proceeding.”

But while European Commission officials are discussing new rules relating to specified risk material, no decision has yet been taken.

Many observers believe Britains work on BSE prevention gives it a very strong case for arguing that there should be no ban.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown dismissed the e-mail as “inaccurate in tone and content” and said it should not have been circulated.

Farmers Union of Wales Spokesman Alan Morris, said: “It would be extremely damaging if the ban was re-introduced. We have just had it lifted after several months of argument.

The Assemblys agriculture committee chairman, Plaid Cymrus Ieuan Wyn Jones, was equally angry.

“Having taken the step of lifting the ban before Christmas and finding it could be reintroduced by Europe in July is potentially very damaging.”

Dr Peter Gooderham, prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire said: “This has all the makings of a sick joke.

“We have addressed the BSE problem in the United Kingdom whereas the EU as a whole has not. Let Wales lead the way in rejecting daft EU rules in favour of common sense.”