Major refused to pay for fight against BSE

11 November 1998

Major refused to pay for fight against BSE

JOHN MAJOR, the former Prime Minister, resisted demands to spend public money on fighting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), despite the fears of Government officials that it could endanger people.

Mr Major was reluctant when he was chief secretary to the Treasury to compensate farmers for the destruction of cattle suspected of carrying the brain disease, the BSE INquiry was told yesterday (Tuesday).

He wrote to John MacGregor, then the Minister of Agriculture, in July 1988, saying: “I share your reluctance to introduce new Government funded schemes to control animal diseases and do not consider that a case has been made for such a scheme to control BSE.”

Mr Major indicated that he wanted farmers to pay for any scheme. But he grudgingly agreed to a slaughter policy with compensation based on farmers being paid 50% of the market value of their animals.

The Government did not increase compensation to 100% until February 1990.

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