Just days before the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on the Foot and Mouth crisis is due to make its first visit to the UK, Green MEP and Vice President of the Committee Dr Caroline Lucas has spoken out about her shock and disappointment at the political manipulation of the Committee.


"First Labour tried to stop the Parliament from setting up the Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth by voting against the proposal, but it failed. Then it tried to limit the duration of the Committee to just 6 months, but again it failed. Now it is trying to ensure that public meetings in the UK are not genuinely "public", and that people's genuine concerns are muzzled. This is Labour control-freakery gone wild. I am horrified and dismayed to see the way in which such an important inquiry process is being politically manipulated."


Among her specific criticisms are:


7        The only genuinely public meeting is one to be held in Gretna. The meetings at Hexham, Carlisle and Kendal are by invitation only, and are politically manipulated so that the larger political parties get to invite the majority of the people they want there, while the smaller parties " like the Greens " are "allowed" just one person.


7        For the visit to the burial site at Great Orton airfield, committee members were initially told that they could invite guests or experts, but that they would be unable to speak (what kind of Inquiry refuses to listen to those it invites?). Instead, members were to receive a briefing from DEFRA alone " hardly a neutral party in the crisis.


7        The farmers who the committee will visit are being carefully selected " the committee secretariat is being advised on farmers to visit by the NFU " again, not a neutral player in the Foot and Mouth debacle.


She concluded "I am very disappointed. As Vice-President of this Committee, I am doing everything I can to ensure that people's genuine grievances are heard, but I am being obstructed at every turn. I started out with high hopes that this Committee could ask the questions which are being carefully avoided by Tony Blair's three separate inquiry processes which are neither public nor truly independent. But it seems that Blair's paranoia is not limited to Westminster, but stretches to Brussels and the European Parliament as well. People deserve better: with up to 10 million animals killed and thousands of livelihoods needlessly destroyed, the public has a right to know what really happened. The Committee must resist attempts to manipulate its work so that it can fulfil the very real potential which it has to help ensure that such a devastating outbreak, and response, can never happen again."


Note to Editors:


1. The European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry was set up in January (UK Labour MEPs voting against) with a 12 month mandate to, inter alia:


7        analyse the management and implementation of Community law in relation to outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease so far and to invite the Commission, governments and public officals to attend hearings of the Committee.

7        assess EU policy and control of meat imports from third countries in the context of the epidemic

7        make proposals to look into vaccination policy in particular and for political and legislative initiatives, with regard to the prevention and fighting of diseases in the agricultural sector in general


2. Two visits to the UK are planned by the Committee: to Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland between 18-20 April, and to Wales and SW between 20-22 June


For more information, contact Caroline Lucas: 07802 721996