08 May 1998
Tories protest at Blairs BSE jibe
By Jackie Storer, Press Association
THE Tories yesterday called on the Prime Minister to withdraw his assertion that “the Conservatives gave this country BSE”, claiming it pre-empted the current judicial inquiry into the beef crisis.
Shadow Commons Leader Gillian Shephard protested in the House that her correspondence with Number 10 Downing Street on the issue had been “terminated rather peremptorily” by Mr Blairs private secretary.
Mrs Shephard said the Prime Ministers remark to MPs on 4 March undermined the impartiality of Lord Justice Phillips inquiry.
During questions on forthcoming parliamentary business, she told Commons Leader Ann Taylor: “We on this side have made clear we welcome the judicial impartiality with which Lord Justice Phillips is approaching his work on the BSE inquiry.
“Is it not the more regrettable therefore that the Prime Minister, in saying on 4 March on the floor of this House that the Conservatives gave this country BSE, has clearly made up his mind about the outcome of what he and his Government have billed as an impartial inquiry?
“He apparently has no qualms in pre-empting the work of Lord Justice Phillips and his colleagues.”
She urged Mrs Taylor to “arrange for the Prime Minister to confirm or otherwise whether he regards the inquiry as impartial” and, if he did, “to withdraw his unfortunate remarks on 4 March”.
Mrs Shephard added: “I ask this since my correspondence with the Prime Minister, making this simple request, has been terminated rather peremptorily by a private secretarys letter refusing to answer the point.
“Quite apart from the ill-tempered discourtesy that this reveals – and it is hardly a demonstration of open government in practice – it does show, as we have all come to learn over the past year, saying is one thing and doing is another thing.”
Mrs Taylor retorted: “I certainly dont have any knowledge on the correspondence to which you are referring, so I cant possibly comment on that at this stage.”