22 June 1999
Ex-ministers to face BSE Inquiry
By FWi staff
FORMER ministers face criticism during the second and final phase of the BSE Inquiry, which opened in London this afternoon.
Lord Justice Phillips, who is chairing the inquiry, said he had pin-pointed “quite a few gaps and some areas of conflict” after an analysis of the evidence given to the inquiry so far.
“We identified a number of areas where individuals might, and I emphasise the word might, be at risk of criticism,” he told journalists and members of the public.
“Where a response has satisfied us that an individual should not be criticised, we have notified the individual of that.”
One former minister who is expected to be on the receiving end of criticism during the second stage of the BSE Inquiry is the Conservative MP Douglas Hogg.
Mr Hogg, who served as agriculture minister from July 1995 until May 1997, has already admitted that abattoirs and slaughterhouses flouted anti-BSE rules.
But Lord Phillips indicated today that other people too would face further questioning.
“We shall be seeking the views of quite a number of the key players in the BSE story, in the light of the dilemmas and problems they themselves faced,” he said.
The more specific question of whether there was an adequate response to BSE and its human equivalent, new varient CJD, will also be addressed.
“In considering what lessons are to be learned from the BSE story, it is not just permissible, it is absolutely necessary to use hindsight,” said Lord Phillips.
But the public should not prejudge the results of the inquiry before the publication of the final report , expected next spring.
“Those who read our report will wish to know why it was that the BSE story followed the course that it did,” he said.
“They will want to know whether that course was affected by vested interests – whether human health was pushed into second place.
“They will want to know what went right and what went wrong.
“They will want to be assured that, if mistakes were made, the lessons to be learned from them have been identified.
“We intend that our Report will tell them all these things.”