DAILY EXPRESS TUESDAY APRIL 16TH

OPINION

BLAIR MUST COME CLEAN ABOUT THE FOOT AND MOUTH FIASCO

Tony Blair might like to think he can wash his hands of the foot and mouth fiasco. However, 25,000 rural businesses think differently. They have launched a £7 billion compensation claim to recover massive losses sustained during the crisis and blame Government "negligence" and "breach of statutory duty".

Many unanswered questions remain about the way the foot and mouth outbreak was handled, such as whether the wholesale slaughter and the effective closing down of the countryside was the right way to tackle the problem. This action certainly led to the loss of income for many rural businesses.

The government has launched three separate and specific investigations but the remit of those has been fudged and their conclusions are unlikely to be made public. So far, it has refused to hold a full public inquiry.

In these circumstances the government can only expect that many of the parties involved will continue to want answers.

Now it looks set to find that by shirking these issues, it could face a much larger bill than if it had been prepared to face up to any shortcomings in the first place. Once again, Labour faces an expensive lesson on the merits of open government.