NFUonly No to public inquiry

13 July 2001

NFUonly No to public inquiry

By Mike Stones

NFU is in a minority of one in opposing a full public inquiry into Britains worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth, according to a FW straw poll.

"We want to see a speedy, independent inquiry," said NFU president Ben Gill. "Public inquiries tend to be very long and we need to learn the lessons of foot-and-mouth very quickly."

NFU Scotland also wants an independent inquiry but does not rule out a public inquiry. "We dont want to see a public inquiry drag on for years and cost over £20m as did the Phillips inquiry into BSE," said NFU Scotland president, Jim Walker.

Meanwhile, the Church of England has joined farm and countryside leaders in calling for a public inquiry.

"A public inquiry would help to get behind the myths to realities," the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the right reverend Jim Thompson told FW.

"A terrible disaster has happened to us and we need to know the causes, how to deal with it and above all, how to work back to a position of trust between government, the countryside, rural affairs and farming in particular," he said. Although slow-moving, a public inquiry would achieve that, added Bishop Thompson who joined other bishops in calling for a full inquiry at a meeting of the Church of Englands General Synod in York.

Anthony Bosanquet, Country Land and Business Association president said: "Anything less than a public inquiry will make it much more difficult for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to establish itself with the public, rural population and the industry."

Richard Burge, Countryside Alliance chief executive, warned that: "Pressure for the government to announce a comprehensive and independent public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis is reaching boiling point in the countryside."

Restoring trust

According to Tim Yeo, shadow farm minister: "The only way to restore trust between government and the countryside is a full independent and public inquiry enabled to question government ministers and civil servants about their decisions and actions. Anything less would smack of a white wash."

DEFRA minister Margaret Beckett has expressed sympathy with calls for an inquiry (News, June 22) but would not commit to a public inquiry.

*The public can take part in public inquiries but not necessarily in independent inquiries which may be held in private, said Richard Barker, senior partner and head of agriculture with Ipswich law firm Barker Gotelee.

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