More Labour U-turns on BSE costs and right to roam

26 February 1998

More Labour U-turns on BSE costs and "right to roam"

TREASURY will pick up the £70 million bill for new measures to tackle BSE, removing the burden from farmers, agriculture minister Dr Jack Cunningham announced yesterday.

Dr Cunningham said the Government would pay for the start-up and the first years running cost of the national computerised cattle database. This was expected to run to £35m.

Government also reversed its decision to charge the meat industry the £35m annual cost of removing specified risk material from beef, sheep and goat meat, which was to take effect from April 1.

The change of heart comes on top of the £85m aid made available to the livestock industry before Christmas. Only weeks ago Dr Cunningham told farmers that there was no more money in Government coffers to help them.

Dr Cunningham also announced that a consultation paper for early retirement would be drafted to assist those farmers wanting to leave the industry.

Farmer leaders across the country welcomed the change of heart.

In another move, Michael Meacher, environment minister, shelved plans to give ramblers a legal “right to roam” across the countryside.

Landowners will now be asked to increase access to their land on a voluntary basis. However, he warned that if there was no evidence of farmers granting greater access to ramblers, then Government would legislate forcing them to comply.

The Country Landowners Association and the National Farmers Union both welcomed the move saying they believe agreements could be reached. The Ramblers Association was critical of the Government for reneging on an election promise to pass laws opening up the countryside.

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