12 June 1998
Tories rejected official BSE advice
to save money — inquiry

JOHN MacGregor, agriculture minister at the time BSE emerged in cattle, rejected civil servants advice to pay farmers full compensation for their disease-ridden animals in an attempt to save public funds.

In written evidence published yesterday, a top civil servant claims there was a perception in the media and the community – from the outset of the disease – that the Ministry of Agriculture was failing to take BSE seriously.

Alastair Cruickshank, who was under-secretary at MAFF, responsible for animal health from December 1986 to December 1989, will give oral evidence at the inquiry today (Friday).

In his written statement, Mr Cruickshank said he was concerned in January 1988 that if “the disease proved to be transmissible to humans the Government would be held responsible.”

He said this was a compelling argument for the Government to introduce compulsory slaughter of cattle stricken with BSE and full compensation payments for farmers.

Mr MacGregor made it clear in 1988 that he opposed any compensation for sick cattle and favoured an industry-funded scheme. He later agreed to pay compensation at 50% of market value.

Mr Cruickshank said this would have encouraged farmers to send sick animals to abattoirs for human consumption rather than have them destroyed.

  • Financial Times, 12/06/98, page 7