10 August 2001
Virus inquiry what the papers say

By FWi staff

THE governments refusal to hold a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis comes in for criticism in several morning newspapers.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett announced three separate inquiries on Thursday (9 August).

These will focus on the governments handling of the epidemic, a scientific review and a commission on the future of the farming industry.

But the Daily Mail says that farmers have been “cruelly misled” by the government over promises of a full public inquiry.

Environment minister Michael Meacher told journalists back in April that there would be a public inquiry, it says.

And Labour MP David Drew, a member of the Commons Agriculture Committee, said he was told by ministers that there would be a public inquiry.

In its editorial the newspaper says the government is afraid to hold a public inquiry because its “incompetence and disingenuous ways would be exposed”.

Mrs Becketts “sneering contempt” for the idea of an inquiry reflects the governments “animosity towards the countryside,” it claims.

This follows leaks and briefings casting farmers in an unsympathetic light, and appointing the Blairite Lord Haskins to lead a rural recovery programme.

The Daily Telegraph says this is not the time to cut corners with an investigation into the crisis.

“It would be a mistake to be parsimonious in working out the two great questions that must be answered by any sort of inquiry: what went wrong and what should be done to prevent it happening again?”

It questions the powers of the inquiries, and says former Tony Blair advisor Dr Iain Anderson, who leads the inquiry into the epidemic, must prove his independence.

The Financial Times says it appears that Dr Anderson will have to answer some important questions on vaccination.

He will have to decide whether the government was right to reject vaccination on the advice of the National Farmers Union.

In addition to the three-pronged government inquiries another seven investigations will take place.

In a cartoon in The Times a man reflects that “the inquiries are beginning to outnumber the cases”.

The newspaper comments on the “curious timing” of the announcement, at a time when the Prime Minister was on holiday in Mexico

Mrs Beckett was summoned back from a caravanning holiday in France to make the announcement and DEFRA officials admitted they had been given little notice.

Meanwhile, it was announced that another 4000 sheep are to be culled in the Brecon Beacons, bringing the total to 10,000.

Five news cases of foot-and-mouth were reported on Thursday, including two each in Cumbria and Powys and one in Monmouthshire. The UK total stands at 1841.

  • Daily Mail, 10 August 2001, page 12
  • Financial Times, 10 August 2001, page 1, 3
  • The Times, 10 August 2001, page 1, 4
  • The Daily Telegraph, 10 August 2001, page 1, 4, 29

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage