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09:00 - 12 March 2004

Westcountry politicians yesterday added their voices to renewed calls for a full public inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis in the wake of the leaked Government vet's report. Opposition MPs and MEPs told the WMN that Jim Dring's document - in which he admitted that a "more rigorous" inspection of the pig farm where the 2001 outbreak started could have prevented the disaster - raised questions which could only be answered by a completely open investigation.

Neil Parish, Conservative MEP for the South West, said: "My position all along has been that there should have been a full public judicial inquiry in the UK where we could cross-examine witnesses.

"It has always been a travesty of justice that there has not been one. In the light of this evidence we should look at it again."

Lib-Dem MP Nick Harvey, whose North Devon constituency was badly hit by the crisis, agreed that only a full public inquiry could uncover the truth about how the epidemic was handled.

"We have still never really had some of the key issues investigated properly," he said. "I think this serves to remind us how unsatisfactory the Government's response to the whole thing was."

He added: "To withhold the expert testimony of the vet on the spot at the point of outbreak just seems to be a dereliction of duty."

Angela Browning, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: "I would support the call for a full public inquiry - but I do not think there is a hope in hell of the Government agreeing to it.

"We have still not got to the bottom of the start of foot and mouth so that lessons can be learned. We have never had a definitive answer about the product of the swill and where it came from."