11 January 2002

WHATTHEINDUSTRYSAYSABOUTTONYBLAIR

"Its despicable – like lifting two fingers at the rural community. Mr Blair put himself in charge of the crisis but he is unwilling to engage with people whose livelihoods have been ruined. People will be left to conclude the government has something to hide."

Peter Ainsworth, Shadow DEFRA secretary

"The reply shows the Prime Ministers involvement with the crisis in the spring was pure electioneering. This government wants to put everything into boxes labelled sorted. Its typical of the way this government patronises people and refuses to share responsibility."

Malcolm Bruce, Lib-Dem DEFRA spokesman

"The people who signed the petition deserve more than the brush-off they have been given. People at the bottom end of the government pecking order should listen to the electorate and pass messages up to their masters – not pass the buck on."

Richard Burge, Countryside Alliance, chief executive

"The reply is tragic. It shows Tony Blair has scant regard for domestic affairs. Not just the PM but the whole cabinet should be involved because of the scale of what happened and the impact on so many peoples lives."

Nigel Embry, Farmstay UK, chief executive

"The Prime Ministers response reveals he is not in touch with the grass roots wishes, not just within agriculture but elsewhere, for a public inquiry. Worthy though the governments three inquiries are, some of the pivotal evidence will be given in private and therefore not open to the challenge of public scrutiny."

Robert Forster, National Beef Association, chief executive

"The PM himself set up the F&M inquiries. These should be open and transparent. No one should be under any illusion that the industry has recovered from the dreadful blow of F&M just because there has been no confirmed case in recent weeks."

Edward Greenwell, Country Land and Business Association, president

"I was surprised at the reply. It would be understandable if Mr Blair was not involved in the handling of the crisis. But clearly he was. Dr Ian Anderson has said he will interview the PM about his role – in private. Im surprised Downing Street pushed this off to DEFRA.

Barney Holbeche, NFU, head of parliamentary affairs

"Having taken personal command of the crisis, Tony Blair cannot pass the buck back to DEFRA over the question of a public inquiry. It is a disgrace the PM has refused to meet the editors to discuss the petition. I hope he will reconsider."

Bob Parry, Farmers Union of Wales, president

"Its worrying that Tony Blair suddenly became interested in farming when farming was in the news but now the subject seems to have drifted from his attention. We want the PM to make farming a top priority this parliament. If he can side-step this petition, he can side-step other important issues."

Pete Riley, Friends of the Earth, real food and farming campaigner

"We view the reply with the highest degree of disgust because Mr Blair took personal control of F&M last spring. But we are not surprised because this is the way government is treating farmers. When did Tony Blair make a statement saying he was handing responsibility back to DEFRA?"

David Handley, Farmers for Action, chairman

"This response is very disappointing after the government, from the very top, took responsibility for the crisis. It is important that a prompt and proper response is received on this issue. So many people cannot be ignored."

Douglas Rowe, Ulster Farmers Union, president

"The reply shows the Prime Ministers interest in the F&M crisis ended on Jun 7 after the General Election. Many encouraging noises were made about recovery packages but nothing has ever come of it."

Spokesman for NFU, Scotland

"Its a great shame that Tony Blair does not display interest when the industry needs a push in the right direction. Something more positive demonstrating real commitment from the PM would have been greatly appreciated."

John Thorley, National Sheep Association, chief executive