Blair: Well do what it takes

22 March 2001

Blair: Well do what it takes

By Jeremy Hunt in Cumbria

TONY Blair has told Cumbria farmers to do whatever it takes to defeat foot-and-mouth at an emergency meeting in Carlisle on Thursday (22 March).

Stopping off on a flight to Stockholm, the Prime Minister assured farmers that they could have whatever resources they needed to get on top of disease.

Tell us what you need, where you need it and when you need it. We will ensure you get it. Anything you want will be provided, Mr Blair told farmers.

The Prime Minister announced new appointments in the battle to control the diseased in Cumbria, which has the highest number of cases in the UK.

Jane Brown, a senior Ministry of Agriculture official from London, has been appointed as the new director of operations for the foot and mouth crisis.

And well-known Cumbria farmer Les Armstrong, whose livestock farm has already been hit by the disease has been brought into the MAFF operations team.

The National Farmers Union suggestion that mart staff and other without work due to the crisis should be seconded to work for MAFF was supported by Mr Blair.

Army representatives at the meeting told the Prime Minister that new sites for mass burial and burning were urgently needed.

Mr Blair said he would speak with the Environment Agency to ensure sites were allocated.

The Army believes it has found a solution to a shortage of sealed vehicles to transport infected carcasses which has slowed efforts.

It believes it can customise other wagons with a special type of plastic liner which would provide adequate protection from disease spread during transportation.

Steve Heaton, the National Farmers Unions regional director for the north west, said that he could not fault Mr Blairs approach to the crisis.

He offered us any resources we need and told us to get on and do whatever we needed to do to get things under control.

I am adamant that we can get on top of this disease. We now have the go ahead to mount a major campaign with no restrictions on manpower and resources, said Mr Heaton.

There was no talk of vaccination during the one hour meeting.

A total of 473 cases of foot-and-mouth have now been confirmed in the UK.

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