Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
1. Dr Anderson, who was the chairman of the Inquiry and Mr Alun Evans, who was the secretary to the Inquiry, welcome, and thank you for coming along today. I would just like to make it clear that you wrote the report, you did not handle the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, so I will ask my colleagues to remember we are not here to prosecute you, we are here to have a conversation about your report. If I may just make one preliminary point, obviously people's views on the report will differ but I thought in terms of a very clear, crisp, legible, almost journalistic account, it was an extremely good report; it was a readable report. I would like to congratulate you at least on that.
(Dr Anderson) Thank you.
2. So much of the time with these things you pick them up with dread and find them jolly hard going but actually this was a pretty easy read and I think you need to be commended on that, and the more government documents which can easily be read the better, though that will remove some of the mystique no doubt from this particular profession. Dr Anderson, we want to ask you a series of questions and in a minute I want to come to the way the inquiry was conducted, to get it out of the way, but I would like to start with one or two more general questions. Margaret Beckett made a statement in the House of Commons yesterday. I do not know whether you have had the opportunity to read the transcript of that or are aware of what she said?
(Dr Anderson) I have done.
3. The word which occurred very frequently during the course of that statement was the word "hindsight", and she implied a significant number of your comments were informed by hindsight. Would you like to say for the Committee to what extent you think that is a true reflection and how many of your recommendations and observations you believe you would stand up and defend despite that remark?
(Dr Anderson) From the outset of our inquiry I have recognised the dangers of applying hindsight, and as a result of that recognition have tried meticulously throughout our work and throughout the preparation and writing of this document to avoid falling into that trap. As far as I can see and as far as I believe, we have avoided it, and I believe that the observations made and the recommendations made—at least it was my intention—could have been determined a priori, not with hindsight.
4. Can I come to one of those issues, which is the contingency plan. As I read your report, it seemed to me you were isolating a number of important issues, and I summed those up in my own notes as planning, speed of response, intelligence, mobilisation and trust, as sort of chapter headings. The Secretary of State in response to your criticisms of the contingency plan said, "Hang on, we set up a plan in the light of the criteria set down by the European Union, they said it was a jolly good plan and it is really not reasonable to criticise us because actually we have the best plan in Europe." I do not think I am necessarily over-summarising. You said it simply was not adequate. Do you think that criticism is justified, or would you say that even given the framework set out by Europe there should have been nonetheless a more detailed plan?
(Dr Anderson) I am of course aware of the European dimension and of the remarks which have been made at the European level and the way Europe sets out its requirements for contingency planning, and I am also aware that that supports the use of the ten case example. I would add, however, it is not a very satisfactory practice to hide behind, the requirements of a bureaucracy in Brussels, I do not think that in itself is right. Secondly, I would add that the Commission's own worst case scenario is for 150 cases in an outbreak, and in a very general way they say that for Europe-wide we would consider the possibility over ten years of 13 such events, worst case scenario 150. Of course, this outbreak went very much further than 150, and I would like to make two observations on that. The first is that if we look at the history of our own country, the period from 1922 to 1924, 1952, 1967, in our own country we have in our experience these examples where foot and mouth disease resulted in one or two or several thousand cases. The virus for foot and mouth disease we all know is a dangerous one, a highly infectious one and, if I may use layman's language, has the capacity to bite; not often, rarely even, perhaps only once every 20 or 30 years, but it has that capacity, and it has done in our country several times during the 20th century. So 150, worst case, and our own experience over the decades very much worse than that. If I dwell on the 150 worst case, and I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to dwell on, I believe that it was early on demonstrated, long before we were dealing with the 1,000 cases, 2,000 cases which in the end were so overwhelming, long before that, in the early days in week one or two while still less than 150 cases were present, a number of systems had shown their weaknesses and some had failed.
5. The Government was clearly stung by your characterisation of the situation at one point during this crisis as "panic". Do you still stand by the term "panic"?
(Dr Anderson) Certainly. What I found, if one comes out from the centre of decision making and moves into the field around the regions and into those areas where people were fighting the real fight on the ground, that is where I was exposed mostly to that comment and that observation. As you know, and we may come to it in a minute when we talk about some of the methods of our inquiry, we of course visited all these regions and whenever we did we met with all the officials and some junior officials who were involved in the process, and that was the source of that input and I stand by it.
6. A final introductory question, did it surprise you that apparently the genesis of the bringing together of a group of scientists to look at what was happening and try to find a way forward was Sir John Krebs who did this informally as a sort of freelance effort and then that became more formalised? Do you think at the early stages there should have been a much greater effort to assemble a body of scientific opinion, epidemiologists, more forecasting, to try and have some idea of where this disease was going and hence what might be necessary to get in front of it rather than behind it?
(Dr Anderson) When I discovered what you have just described, I did find it surprising, as you suggest. I obviously did not know that before the process of the inquiry and I think it is regrettable and I lay out quite a number of observations on that in the report, and we may speak on that later, and I think there are several really very important aspects of that to discuss.
7. One of the things which the Secretary of State said yesterday in her statement was this was different. She tried to explain away many of the problems by virtue of the size, the extent and the speed with which the disease spread. When you look at the mechanics of MAFF and how they responded to the unfolding disaster, what do you think were the reasons which took them so long to galvanise, to produce the speed and size and scale of response which subsequently became necessary to control and contain the disaster? It was said, for example, that until the Prime Minister became involved that there was not a sufficient degree of urgency, co-ordination and logistical expertise brought to bear. What was it that made them not see what was coming and be so far behind the game in those early weeks?
(Dr Anderson) I think that is one of the areas where one has to say this was an epidemic with unprecedented characteristics. No one had thought of, nor could have imagined, from the very outset at least 57, as we know and perhaps more than that, separate seedings of this disease taking place, and I believe that that characteristic in itself posed an enormous challenge in the response mechanism. I want to acknowledge the scale of the challenge. Having said that, I think that the absence of purposeful application of speed and direction may have been the result, on the one hand, of lack of proper scenario thinking, preparation and rehearsal and it had not been thought through in that way, and on the other hand certainly as is described in some detail in the report here, the lack of information. If a command structure at a central place is directing the allocation of responses and resources in a very complex environment—and I draw a military analogy here as if people are fighting a military campaign—the generals in the centre are absolutely beholden to the quality of the information which comes in. I do believe there were significant failings in the information flow and that may also have contributed to it.
8. I remember when it started having the date of 10 March firmly embedded in my mind, because that was the date upon which all the infected animals which had got foot and mouth were supposed to emerge and then there was the three week period and incubation of the disease. I remember being almost quite surprised that suddenly there were a lot more cases popping up and that the scenario which had been explained, that it would all be sorted out by 10 March, did not happen, that then after that we were still running around desperately trying to get our act together to respond to it. That sent a signal certainly to me that there was something different about this, either the scope or scale, but the centre did not seem to respond, even taking into account your point about lack of information. Was there a reason for that?
(Dr Anderson) I understand your analysis and I share the view you are expressing. Around 10 March was the time when the epidemiologist team in MAFF itself had for the first time made their own forecasts that this epidemic could run much further than had previously been stated, and at that stage the internal epidemiological forecast emerged to be between 1,000 and 2,000 cases.
9. Dr Anderson, like the Chairman I was very impressed by your report. As a military historian I have had to look at many inquiries like the Gallipoli Inquiry and it is always fascinating to see the terms of reference and what is and what is not included. One of the things which struck many people I think was your own frustration, particularly which came out in your press conference yesterday, that despite the fact you were able to draw out from written evidence and from questioning everybody, from the Prime Minister to the men and women on the ground, there were a number of fundamental questions which you could not get answers to. If you were quoted correctly, it is said, "When pressed for a reason why many key questions remained open, Dr Anderson said, `Your frustration is nothing compared to mine. Most of the time people said "I was not present at the time a decision was made" and when I asked, "Well, where was the decision made" the answer was, "I'm not actually sure where the decision was taken". Obviously, you cannot expect in a fast-moving crisis to have the minutiae but it seems to me there were fundamental questions like, why it took 25 days to enlist the army, who decided to close the countryside, who made the contiguous cull decision. Do you think in retrospect that ministers and others might have been more forthcoming if this inquiry had been held in public? Do you think that it is just that no written decision was taken down, or finally, do you think that memories have been massaged?
(Dr Anderson) It is not obvious to me with regard to the three particular points that you are making what would be the features and qualities of a public inquiry which would be significantly different from what I have been through. You may be able to explain that to me.
10. Not here.
(Dr Anderson) It is not obvious to me. Each of the points you make—one was the bringing in of the armed forces, the other was closing the countryside and footpaths and, finally, the 48 hour contiguous cull—has different characteristics so I think we would need to look at them one by one. I am happy to do that if you wish now.
11. You may want to come back on the detail with colleagues, but it is the generic problem, that these are fundamental questions quite rightly flagged up, and what I was trying to get at was, there is no audit trail, we are into lessons learned, quite rightly, I am just wondering what you think happened.
(Dr Anderson) What I believe is, first of all, that people now are using the memory that they have as best they can to make it clear. The underlying and I think principally important thing which is very directly addressed in the report is that there was an inadequate system of record keeping at the height of the pressure on some of these decisions. The absence of proper record keeping, at the end of the day from my point of view, is unsatisfactory and requires people to recall from their memory which in turn I think has many weaknesses and is unsatisfactory. I do not believe that any information that is material has been withheld from me. I have looked at the papers around that time, it is not that they are being held back, they do not exist on these particular questions. Different people of course, understandably perhaps, have different memories of it.
12. Can I take the first one, why it took 25 days to enlist the army. We know that almost on day one the Ministry of Defence was alerted to the possibility that they might be required to give help and I would have thought, having done 21/2 years as a special adviser in the Ministry of Defence, they are the sort of people who on the whole keep records. Surely this was a fundamental question, military aid for a civil power, and there must have been some record, either within the Ministry of Defence or the Cabinet Office about this. Did ministers in the Ministry of Defence, having been alerted, not at some stage come back either to the Cabinet Office or to MAFF to say, "We have got things on hold, do you want us now to proceed to issue the warning orders to units, logistics", this kind of thing? What you are saying is, there is no record.
(Dr Anderson) Perhaps I can shed some light on that. First of all, there was without doubt a proper and formal communication on day one, and there is a record of that. I think we need to remember at that stage, the early days, up until the middle of March, it was absolutely clear to everyone that MAFF was in charge, MAFF was taking the decisions, MAFF believed they had the epidemic under control; they had one absolutely critical shortage which was identified in the early days, which was vets, but other than that MAFF was coping with what needed to be done. I do believe that that translated into, I would like to suggest, a reluctance but perhaps simply a sense that additional resources from the armed forces were unnecessary. I think that is one element. I think another element is there was a failure to identify precisely what it was that the armed forces would bring, and there was a reluctance on the part of the MoD to provide labour for digging holes or slaughtering tasks, manual tasks, arguing that was not really their job, and in any event it was not really asked for. So there was a reluctance to come forward because that is not what we want to do, and there was a reluctance to ask because we are in control, we are managing on our own. I think that arises from a failure to appreciate early enough, in my view, the scale of the unfolding task and the challenges. Eventually—and that eventually emerges around the middle of March—you can start to identify a change in some of the discussions taking place and it was identified that that managerial help with the specific emphasis on logistical help would make a massive contribution. Once that debate started, and it is absolutely clear when it did start and we know exactly the weekend when the two specialist senior military officers were deployed to think through all of the issues, that is 17/18 March, by 19 March the whole process had taken place. That was the point when there was considerable challenge growing around Westminster, Whitehall, that MAFF may not in itself have the resources necessary. There is no doubt that Number10 played a role in that and at that stage the army was brought in. What the army provided, and this is now clear from all the records and in many of the commentaries from many of the brigadiers and senior officers, and we have spoken to most of them, was, as they put it, "What we provided was simply leadership, management and some logistical knowledge and skills."
13. In this 25-day gap, what was the role of the Prime Minister? When you interviewed the Prime Minister was he out of the picture? Had he effectively just been kept informed by the Minister for Agriculture and therefore he was not aware of the scale of the problem? Did it come as a shock to him? What I am trying to get at here is the communication systems as much as anything else, because it seemed to me either the Prime Minister did not realise or was not informed of the extent of the crisis or, alternatively, he knew about it but perhaps his eye was not on the ball?
(Dr Anderson) No, I think that in these early days, the first two weeks perhaps into the third week, and the records are absolutely clear on that, in all of the meetings and discussions which had taken place the general message was, as we discussed a moment ago, we know what is going on here, MAFF has the measure of it, we have what we need. There are repeated examples, to address your specific question, of the Prime Minister asking, "Is there anything else which MAFF needs", and the answer to that was always—apart from vets, which I do not need to refer to again, it is obvious—that there was nothing else which MAFF needs. I think what happened around that second week in March, from 10, 12, 15 March, was that that argument started to break down and it became progressively more and more clear it was not like that, and that was a very big turning point.
14. Dr Anderson, the part of the report which refers to your comments at the press conference is recorded on page 93 of the report, where it says, "It has become apparent to us that, while some policy decisions were recorded with commendable clarity, some of the most important ones taken during the outbreak were recorded in the most perfunctory way, and sometimes not at all." That must raise the suspicion with those reading that that there could have been a re-writing of some of those notes which were then of course passed to you, or of course they were then conveniently lost. Because it seems rather strange that in those particular areas where the decisions were of lesser importance they were so detailed in their note-taking, yet those which seem to be the most important and will provide the signposts in your audit trail, appear to either be not there at all or done in a way to be of very little use.
(Dr Anderson) I do not believe that to be the case. I certainly have no hint of evidence that that is the case. I think that we have had access to all the necessary documents and original documents and it is clear the documents we have are original documents—they have little hand scribbles and all the normal things—and I just believe there were certain moments which were critical moments which you can single out, like the 48 hour contiguous cull, and these were moments when you can look back on the activity of rather high tension and some drama. There were massive pressures at the time—for whatever reason, insufficient discipline I believe—to capture with clarity the decision-making process that led to it and in particular the way that scientific advice dovetailed into that decision-making process.
15. But it is not impossible that notes were re-written and others lost?
(Dr Anderson) I cannot comment on that.
16. It is not impossible?
(Dr Anderson) Obviously nothing is impossible. I simply say I have no evidence which supports that.
17. Can I tease out the mechanics of who you saw as part of this inquiry and on what basis you saw them and the format of those meetings or whatever. On the one hand, you have been criticised, certainly in my own area of Gloucestershire, that you breezed in and saw who you wanted to see, other people who might have wanted to see you were excluded. On the other hand, there could be a criticism that you were chased, as many of us have been chased, by fringe elements who have their own agenda, who wanted to prove that agenda regardless of, if you like, the reality of what was really happening out there and should have been reported. How do you take those two extreme views and how do you respond to them?
(Dr Anderson) Your first remarks relate to Gloucestershire, and the inquiry actually did not visit Gloucestershire except for one meeting we had there. I will explain to you what we did: we believed we would visit six of the worst affected areas looking at the clusters around the country, and we did so. The Gloucestershire zone happens to be in the order of severity number seven, but wherever we are, we have to cut off somewhere. Recognising we were in Devon, as you know, over a period of two to three days, we actually did hold one meeting in Gloucestershire to which we invited a group of people—I recall about a dozen—around the table for stakeholder discussions. That is the background to Gloucestershire.
18. I am using Gloucestershire as an example area, I am not—
(Dr Anderson) I am simply wanting to make it clear that the Gloucestershire example is atypical of what we did around the country, for the reasons I have explained. We have been subject to many special interest groups, fringe groups as you describe them, in many different ways both when we have been on our tours around the country physically and in the submissions which we have received in writing. That is part of the normal process, we understand that, and I believe we have taken a very objective stance and not been exposed to that kind of extreme influence.
19. Did you actually interview any dealers?
(Dr Anderson) We interviewed several people in and around livestock markets but I do not recall interviewing a specific farm dealer.
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
20. Did you get any evidence besides the, one presumes, cause which you confirm, of the illegality which was initially involved, which obviously resulted in a court case? Did you get a feel for other aspects of illegality of what was going on certainly during the early period of time of the foot and mouth outbreak?
(Dr Anderson) The illegality you refer to, Sir, is?
21. Principally to do with animal movements and possibly deliberate spreading of foot and mouth once compensation schemes were locked into place.
(Dr Anderson) Yes, we have had quite a number of representations made to us about that. We note in our report that in the very early hours—and I mean hours—of the declaration of the arrival of foot and mouth there was an unprecedented movement of animals. I guess that is one of the things you are referring to. You may also be referring to what we have learned is called "bed and breakfasting" and we have looked at that with great care because it was brought to our attention by many people as one of the contributory factors. I think it is clear that there is an incidence of that activity but our conclusion was, after a lot of thought and analysis, it was unlikely to have been a major source that contributed to the spread of the disease. That is the issue of bed and breakfasting. The illegal movements, of course, made a significant contribution in the very unusual circumstances of 2001 to the spread of the disease.
22. Any evidence of deliberate spreading of the disease?
(Dr Anderson) I have got none of deliberate spreading. We have been given a lot of anecdotes. Can I say on so many subjects we have been exposed to anecdotal accounts of improper behaviour of all kinds. I tried, and really tried meticulously, and many of the transcripts will reveal this to you should you decide to plough through them, and said, "These are very serious allegations you are making, if you have anything whatsoever other than what you are saying to me now that you can let me have, anything, I would be very pleased to receive it and use it and follow it through very carefully." I repeated that countless times around the country when faced with these anecdotal charges and on no single occasion has anybody written to me afterwards and sent me anything.
23. One of the results of the foot and mouth outbreak was the huge detrimental impact to the rural economy and particularly tourism, and one of the triggers for that was the blanket closure of footpaths so people physically could not go out into the country. You talked about the quality of information from outside the centre being poor, about decisions being made and nobody really knowing who was making the decision, and communications between people, and I wonder if we could talk a little bit about the decisions and what happened with the footpaths. You have said on page 64 of your report that there were meetings between the NFU and other stakeholders and dialogues between MAFF and Number 10. I wonder if you could tell me if those stakeholders at those meetings were people like representatives from Forest Enterprise, the National Parks, the National Trust, the Ramblers Association, the Countryside Agency, the tourist boards, the tourist industry and indeed from the Minister of Tourism, because that is in another department, the CMS? Were any of those stakeholders involved in those discussions about the blanket closure of footpaths?
(Dr Anderson) I need to use my memory here and if necessary I will check our records on that, if you wish, to be absolutely precise on this important point. My memory is that those present were taking farming—
(Mr Evans) If I may add, most of the people at those meetings were from MAFF and the decisions were taken by MAFF ministers. As you have observed, the department responsible for tourism and the department responsible for rural affairs were not present at those meetings.
(Dr Anderson) That is what I was trying to say with more clarity.
24. But the NFU were there.
(Dr Anderson) The NFU was the primary external input at that time. They had a very high profile on that particular issue, as you know.
25. So on that very important issue which led to millions being lost out of the rural economy and particularly the tourist economy, the decision was made essentially with pressure from the NFU and MAFF, not the other stakeholders who actually know about the tourist and rural economy and its dynamics?
(Dr Anderson) I would like to comment on that, if I may, in two ways. One is that, as Alun Evans has just confirmed, that is a matter of fact as far as these discussions are concerned, however we have found nobody who had an interest in the wider countryside at that date, 27 February, who was arguing against the closure of footpaths. Indeed many—
26. But did not the Countryside Agency make a statement on 2 March that there was going to be a huge impact on the rural economy? The Ramblers were saying to people not to go for walks but since they were not in the discussion about closure, the stakeholders' view was not really brought forward. What we had here was a view being put fairly strongly by the NFU and, as we know, many farmers do not like people walking along the footpaths across their land anyway.
(Dr Anderson) I understand what you are getting at but may I take the example of the National Trust? They took their own initiative, they spoke strongly in support of this action and then later—and they discussed this with us when they came and they submitted written evidence—and it was after their support, after the closure, they realised the implications of this step and notwithstanding the fact they were advocating and acting in that way at the time, they have now very openly said to us they believe that was a mistake.
27. What scientific and veterinary advice was taken by MAFF on this decision? With hindsight now many people say that the impact on the rural economy, the tourist economy, was so much greater than on the livestock economy, they would never do this again and it was a mistake to have the blanket closure of the footpaths. But to come to this decision, to take this draconian step, what scientific and veterinary advice was communicated on the decision?
(Dr Anderson) I do not believe that scientific advice was taken into account in making that decision. I think there was an element of speculation here based on all the evidence I have that a large group of people, deeply concerned at the time, were basing their judgments on intuition, what they saw as commonsense, driven by fear of the unknown, supported pretty well by everybody and a decision taken. Two things happened with the passage of time and the consequences became clearer and clearer and time allowed for reflection on the scientific input and advice and later, as we know, a few weeks later in the course of the epidemic, it was then possible to bring to bear that scientific advice, which was in general that outside of infected areas there was not a risk to have people walking in the hillsides.
28. Many of your submissions said afterwards, as you rightly pointed out, it was a mistake to have a blanket closure, but you did not put that as one of your recommendations and lesson to be learned. Why was that?
(Dr Anderson) The lesson to be learned was, do not have a blanket closure.
29. But you did not put that in your recommendations.
(Dr Anderson) May I just remind myself what we said?
30. What you said was from day one there should be provision and record of all decisions and actions to be taken; you said that stakeholders felt the blanket closure was a mistake. I could be wrong here, but having looked through the recommendations in Chapter 4, on pages 16, 17, 18, 19, there is not a recommendation from you, from Lessons to be Learned, that a blanket closure of footpaths should be avoided in future.
(Dr Anderson) I have actually tried quite hard to avoid making overly specific, context-dependent recommendations, because it is very, very hard to capture the generic possibilities. What I have said, which bears upon your point and which is absolutely to the heart of your point, and I deeply believe this is important, in Lessons to be Learned is, base policy decisions on the best available science, et cetera, et cetera. I think that covers the point you are making, without anticipating the very specific and inevitably unique circumstances that prevailed.
31. Dr Anderson, you told us earlier on that in the middle of March the army brought leadership and management to the crisis when it became clear that MAFF had not got the resources to deal with the issue. I was struck by your foreword to the report. In your foreword—and you call this your personal observations—the bit which caught my eye and rang out a lot of bells with me was the penultimate paragraph, where you say, "Within MAFF, and now DEFRA, I detected a culture predisposed to decision taking by committee with an associated fear of personal risk taking." This has implications not just for the handling of the outbreak but how DEFRA operates as a body. What you are telling us, and you will tell us yourself I am sure in a minute, is that the management atmosphere, the management skills, is very risk-averse and not very entrepreneurial.
(Dr Anderson) That is what I am trying to say. I believe, prompted by all this experience we are discussing this morning—and that is my prompt and you may have other prompts but my prompt is that—a reappraisal of prevailing attitudes and behaviours would be worthwhile. I believe that to be so.
32. Over the years you have got a lot of management skills, what would you do to resolve this problem?
(Dr Anderson) That is a long subject to discuss, I must say.
33. Give us three pointers to management skills. What would you be saying?
(Dr Anderson) One thing which I believe is needed and should be assessed now is to what extent the department, now DEFRA, should foster abilities in operational management and project management. Much of the life I have learned through this inquiry of the many officials in MAFF has been concerned with policy work and a very large amount of that work with a European dimension, at which it is top-flight. Different skills are needed for operational management and project management, and different skills in turn are needed when operations and project management have to be conducted in crisis mode. I believe that is an appraisal which should be made, to what extent should that be fostered, how does one then go about that, what are the budget implications of that. One last point just to make on budget implications, I do not have a sense it would take more people, but they could take people trained in a different way, maybe some different people with different skills and experience, and I think that could make a telling difference.
34. Your involvement with the Department has been over perhaps a year?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
35. Do you see signs of improvement? Do you feel the management atmosphere and management skills have improved during that period of time?
(Dr Anderson) I cannot say that, I do not have any information on which to base that.
36. I am glad Paddy drew attention to that paragraph because I and others had also noted it. Many of us would disagree with the positive remarks incidentally on the policy aspects which you passed on and said were top-flight.
(Dr Anderson) I have not enquired into that.
37. Exactly and we have.
(Dr Anderson) I was making an assumption.
38. I would not necessarily agree with you. I remember making a speech nearly a year ago now in which I said I thought MAFF at that time had an abysmal track record in strategy, appalling communication skills and was deeply introverted, in other words it was an organisation which did not look outwards either to its stakeholders or to other partners when resolving issues, and displayed very few leadership skills and competences which would help in a crisis. Do you think that looks like—you are nodding and sharing much of that?
(Dr Anderson) I understand where you are going. I think the leadership skills issue has a disproportionate impact at times of crisis, and so should be husbanded and treasured and developed. In routine, they are always important; in crises they are absolutely essential. There is one thing, if I may, which I would like to pursue, from not only your remark but also Mr Tipping's remarks, and that is the importance for a department such as MAFF was, and DEFRA is, to be guided by very penetrating contact with its customer group. I have come to the view as a result of all my readings and exposures and discussions that it would be beneficial for such a department to really lock on to its customer group. I think it is now particularly pertinent and appropriate, and I hope there will be a chance to discuss this this morning as we move on, that in the context of DEFRA, not MAFF, the customer group is the total rural economy, and to really get out and about and engage with that. I have made some particular recommendations in the context of the state veterinary service but in the light of this discussion I could perhaps broaden it a little bit to try to relocate some of the efforts of the Department to be more deeply engaged in the regions.
39. Was not one of the critical factors—and I referred to this introverted culture—a difficulty in understanding that others needed to be engaged, others both in terms of the rural stakeholders with whom actually MAFF dealt with habitually all the time, they are constantly filling in their forms and so on but engaged in a more effective way, but also with other ministries? MAFF had long ploughed its own furrow, it had its own regional structure which you referred to, it was not integrated with the rest of government, and was singularly unable to communicate its problems, or even to understand it had a problem sometimes, to other people. To me that seemed to be the heart of this, that poor preparation, which you have analysed, and once the problem arose it did not understand what the problem was and how quickly it was moving, and it was not able to communicate with the outside world effectively to cry for help or feel it needed help.
(Dr Anderson) My personal experience is that under crisis groups of individuals and groups of people resort to type and fall back into what they are, and a crisis is no moment to reflect on changing behavioural needs. The depth of attention needed to change behaviour is only possible, if I may continue to use this military analogy because I think it is appropriate, in peacetime. Peacetime is the moment when these things need to be embedded and under crisis then these are the qualities that would emerge, and I do believe that we are seeing some of that. I think, again from my experience, in order to acknowledge the need for help and to engage with others who may know more than I know requires a certain confidence. It is not a behaviour that one will normally find in a defensive stance. I think and hope that in the context of a whole new construction which I think is absolutely right for the times, DEFRA versus MAFF, that that may provide a climate and a context within which some of these more fundamental things can be addressed.
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
40. You have been involved in the management of large organisations for a long time and you would, I am sure, recognise that changing name plates and migrating one group of staff into another large organisation does not necessarily yield any substantial change in the component parts and produce a new organisation in which people can have confidence. I recognise it was outwith your brief to consider this and you have said to Paddy that you could not really comment on whether you felt there were signs of change there, but you have of course interviewed some of the key players in this in the preparation of your report, have you formed any impression they have understood the task which lies ahead of them?
(Dr Anderson) I have certainly formed the impression that around the top of the organisation there is a clear recognition of the need for very substantial change. I certainly recognise that. I cannot judge at this stage whether in assessing that proper account has been taken of the scale of the task and the effort which would be required. I certainly support your remark fully that this is not a matter for changing name plates or shuffling cards, it is a much more fundamental heart and soul issue than that. In my experience, which is from an industrial context, an industrial setting, when major changes of attitude and behaviour and cultural values, all of these things, are required, almost always some people have to go because some people are unable to change.
Mr Todd: I would agree with you from my industrial experience too.
41. Does it not strike you as a slightly perverse phenomenon that agriculture must be one of the most managed industries on the planet by governments and, as colleagues have alluded to, there is a minute degree of control over payments, for example, a great deal known about what farmers are planting and how much they are due and we know from the control of set aside it is very hands-on control, yet at the same time the Department did not actually know a great deal about the shape of agriculture, they knew a great deal about the detail but not about the actual shape. In my constituency with a violent foot and mouth outbreak the Department did not seem to realise that different holdings constituted a farm, that they could be widely scattered, that you did not have the sort of chocolate box image of a farm with the barns and hedges and cows all round it and that was your enterprise. How is it that a department spends enormous amounts of manpower on the minute direction of agricultural finance but does not know the shape of its own industry?
(Dr Anderson) I am unable to answer your question but I identify with the substance of it and the direction that you are going in. I have come to very similar conclusions and questions. It was not directly the focus of our inquiry of course, but it did have a bearing. I believe that MAFF is not, as we have just been discussing, deeply connected to what I call its customer base, and I think you know what I mean by that. I think it would be quite wrong to say that nobody in MAFF knew some of these things, but in terms of a collective understanding, Government behaviour of the body as a whole, there is no doubt that a number of important developments in agriculture had not been internalised and the implications of some of the changes, which I think brings us very much into the field of our inquiry, had not been appreciated fully and had not been taken into account in strategic thinking and response.
42. You say, Dr Anderson, that in Scotland things were handled a great deal better. You say that perhaps it was Lockerbie which compelled people to have a much more state of the art response. What was it that worked in Scotland that did not work in England? Was it culture? Was it organisation? Was it leadership? Was it information? What was it that led you on the whole to praise the Scots response but to be so cautious and critical of the English response?
(Dr Anderson) I think that there is first of all a scale effect, a very much smaller field of activity. The lines of communication are much shorter. The relationship between a relatively small central organisation and the regions is traditionally quite strong and I have discovered that in other activities that I have been engaged in only once before in Government, which was part of the Y2K preparations. At that time I covered the country and looked at the relationship between central government and local authority government, and at that time I learned how much closer was the relationship in Scotland between central government and local government, and I think that played a crucial role, perhaps down to staffing issues, I am not sure, but I do think that there was more understanding in the centre of what was going on in the agricultural context. Many of the agencies that needed to work together had coterminous relationships. This is not a word that I was very familiar with until recently but I now understand how important it is because it makes the decision making across boundaries massively more straightforward. Then there is Lockerbie. I think one has to say without signalling that that was the only thing that the preparations that were prompted by Lockerbie definitely put in place devices and methods that were rehearsed as a routine. Having met all sorts of people there from central government, from the local authorities, other agencies, farming communities and so on, there was very much a sense of more joined-up work.
43. I have vivid memories in my own constituency of orders being issued in London, statements being made in the House about movements. Ten days later I would go to the trading standards office in North Yorkshire County Council, which had to administer these, and they had not been issued with the detailed instructions to enable them to carry out the Government's own intentions. There seemed to be an enormous dislocation between the centre and other governmental organisations.
(Dr Anderson) I agree with that. I think that was a very striking finding of our own inquiry and came to us from many different sources in different parts of the country as a constant refrain, I must say. There are quite a number of things said in the report and recommendations made on that. It is really vital that in peacetime again preparations are made to work in harmony in a joined-up way. The role of the local authority and the trading standards offices to which you made particular reference is absolutely fundamental and central to the implementation of these things on the ground, and this surely I regard (and have said) is an absolute necessity, that they are deeply involved and taken into account when some of these things are designed. That was not the case on several different fronts during this experience.
44. In the Secretary of State's statement yesterday to the House of Commons, and I quote from Hansard, she said: "While awaiting the report we have already published a draft interim contingency plan and invited stakeholders and operational partners to comment", and the impression that I got was that, okay, we have had an advance look at some of these things; we are on the job; things are going to get better, but against a background where animal diseases in the last 15 years, according to the Royal Society's report, have cost this country #15 billion, your comments about the suitability if you like of the DEFRA culture to react to change do cause me some concern. In your chapter 4 you put a principal recommendation: "We recommend that the Government, led by DEFRA, should develop a national strategy for animal health and disease control positioned within the framework set out in the report of the Policy Commission on the future of food and farming. This strategy should be developed with the stakeholders, the European Commission, ..."—and, if I may add, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. That is a fantastically powerful and big task which you have identified. I just worry, given that the cast list that is in DEFRA does not appear to have significantly changed from the cast list that was in MAFF, whether they are going to be capable of carrying out the enormity of the task you have identified.
(Dr Anderson) I certainly agree that task is fundamentally important and cannot be shirked. It is to be done and I think it will then have the potential to make a huge difference to future outcomes and for all those people going forward. It is not a task for a minute or two or a week or two. It is a task for months and years. All of those involved in that process in my judgement, and I have made it number one; I cannot give it any higher profile than that, will ensure that those involved are up to that task and are challenged to be sure that they are making progress according to the needs of that task. One of the ways to do that is to publish and review and make it transparently obvious what progress is being made.
45. I do not disagree with any of that and it is what I would assume is the natural reaction of somebody who has seen failure and looks to improvements for the future. What concerns me is how they get from where they were to where you would like them to be, because you also said a moment ago, and I do not expect you to produce out of your top pocket a list of names, that some people might have to go. One of the things that your report does, in its remarkably balanced way, is that it de-personalises some of the areas as to where responsibility actually lay for some of the difficulties which have ensued and upon which you very accurately reported. It does strike me because you have laid particular emphasis on the people part, and in fact colleagues in their questions have asked that. Is it not the case that somebody in DEFRA or in government is going to have to go through that department with the finest of toothcombs and weed out the duffers, and put in some good quality people to be able to produce (a) the strategy and (b) the follow-up that is mentioned, and who would be the person best positioned to do that task if your recommendations are to be enacted in the way that you would like to see?
(Dr Anderson) I believe that it starts naturally with the Permanent Secretary—I cannot imagine any other person who it would start with—and would cascade out from the Permanent Secretary through the senior team and beyond.
46. Did you see in your contacts with the Permanent Secretary clear evidence that captured in your mind the spirit of the recommendations that you want to see? Did you get the impression that they were now travelling, under the Permanent Secretary's leadership, in the right direction?
(Dr Anderson) I think the mountain has still to be climbed.
47. I would be very interested then as a would-be sherpa to know how the preparation for the assault clearly on the Everest which now DEFRA represents should be organised because this report deals with one outbreak of an animal disease: foot and mouth. The department in its old guise as MAFF had to cope with BSE and, chillingly, the Royal Society's report has a table in there of probably eight or nine other quite fearsome diseases that could come our way, and they also comment on the fact that expenditure on the necessary research to deal with these has been declining against the background of that #15 billion bill. If you were asked to give some pointers to the would-be DEFRA mountain climbers, what would they be to get to the top of the mountain?
(Dr Anderson) I do not know that I can readily go into that, to tell you the truth, at this stage. My own personal response, if it were me, and I guess that is what you are pushing for it being, would be to say to the team of people that it is completely clear from the experiences of recent history that we have a lot of work to do and a lot of changes have to be made, and let us set out together to find out what it is that our customer base demands of us, and let us have no hesitation to change anything that is necessary in order to deliver the outcome that people are wanting. I would start therefore to look for something that was a huge difference of culture and behaviour. It is not my experience, apart from a very small minority, that there are, as you call them, duffers, to be replaced by good quality people. I think that most people have got potential well beyond what they or others may think. It does, however, need leadership and atmosphere and culture and all of the processes of good management. Some people are not up to it; I accept that. Sometimes it is surprising where that may be found; it is not so obvious, but it is a process of management development which is, I guess, what we are now debating. I have often said it is a beautiful process because properly constructed management development, giving people challenges, allowing them to make mistakes and accepting mistakes for what their value is, and learning from mistakes and moving on, that route map, can create transformation. I believe that that is probably what is needed. I earlier referred to the need to assess the requirements for operational and project management skills which should be related but is a somewhat separate issue to that. I would bring that to the fore. You also said, and I would like if I may to take the opportunity to address it, that in my report I had de-personalised it. That has been a deliberate step. It is not because I would find it difficult if I had come across a case where a particular personal reference should be made blaming someone in a culpable way for what happened. It is because I do not believe that singling out individuals, in absence of that negligent type of behaviour, reflects reality. I think that these are very systemic issues and they are fairly interconnected, and when you take individual questions and examine them in isolation you will not get the right picture. It is necessary to look at the collective activity in which everybody has played a role. In that context I think it is inappropriate to single out names for specific blame. The totality was not up to the task and there are some changes that needed addressing and that is what I believe is the way forward.
48. Dr Anderson, we have rather worried this issue to death almost. You quite rightly put your finger on it when you spoke about leadership and you said that that was the sort of immediate contrast when the armed forces were brought in and you made the peacetime analogy, because they had to deal with crises and frequently they had no experience of it. We know that Brigadier Birtwistle was doing things on the back of an envelope in a car park but his practical experience came in. You talk about leadership and we have concentrated on DEFRA itself. In your conversation with the Prime Minister have you put this in such an informal way to him, because it seems to me from everything that I have heard and read about the Prime Minister that he believes that you can only drive through change from the centre. You think he is really aware of the scale of the problem, the mountain that has got to be climbed, and that he is going to apply his influence and leadership to delivering this?
(Dr Anderson) I believe so. I have spoken to him about it. He knows my view on the matters we have just been discussing and I believe he has listened very carefully and understands the significance of what I am saying, and he at least implies that he identifies with the direction that we have been discussing here. In terms of the leadership at the highest level, at the centre, in conversations with the Prime Minister, let me say, because it is mentioned many times in our report, that the role of the Prime Minister himself in the outbreak was extremely important. I think there is a very positive side to it and potentially a negative side to it. The very positive side to it has not come from my discussions with him, of course. I would not be particularly interested in the Prime Minister telling me that he had exercised good leadership. It has come from raising these matters with many more junior officials around who were involved at different stages and time and again I have picked up this sense from these encounters that the Prime Minister's intervention was decisive and made a massive contribution to the focus and the delivery of joined-up government, and the resources of joined-up government and the seriousness then which everyone took to be absolute top priority. It is as if it needed that level of involvement and assertion before the penny dropped everywhere that this was the absolute top priority. The down side of it, which again is reflected in another section of the report, is that I am slightly worried by the fact that when one has an extraordinarily important crisis, which this certainly became, everybody, to the very top, is involved in managing it. Again, my experience would suggest the value of having a more detached and objective view on the side, and if everybody is involved that has now been potentially frustrated.
49. On page 7 of your report you emphasise that "one finding of this inquiry has been the extent of the breakdown of trust between many of those affected, directly or indirectly, and their government". We have all seen this and it is across the board over maybe the last ten years that the public, with the media driving it on, as some people think, that there is now a reaction by many people not to believe government. How would you say that government can rebuild in the area that we are talking about here that level of trust? How do you get that back in place?
(Dr Anderson) I personally have no experience of dealing with an issue of this scale at national level, but in more focused and specific ways where trust has been damaged my experience suggests that those who are in the leadership position who have got to go on the front foot need some victories in order to build trust. You need victories. You need to be able to demonstrate afresh to the group that you are referring to that you have actually achieved something, you have done something, and you start from a process of rebuilding that trust. Absolutely focused things need to be achieved and shown to be achieved and a series of these is the way to rebuild trust.
50. I am very conscious that we have talked a lot about management issues and you have made an important point about the role of the centre and the involvement of the Prime Minister to drive things forward. All that is very positive. On the down side in a sense a strong centre could be dysfunctional too. One of the points you made earlier on was about empowering and enabling managers. If you have a very strong centre—and I had better be careful how I phrase this—there is a danger that that is dysfunctioning to other managers around because you have got to devolve decision making, you have got to empower people. A point that you made very rightly earlier on is that you have got to allow people to fail and to support people through failure. There is a criticism that our management style as a government is too centralised, too prescriptive in a way. We are straying a bit from the inquiry but is that your perception as well?
(Dr Anderson) I think there are, as you have heard me say in reply, definitely some dangers in requiring deep engagement in obvious activity from the very top and the very centre. It can be dysfunctioning; it certainly can be discouraging, but if one imagines a vacuum has been created then it has to be filled. I would need to look for some deeper reasons and try to address it at a deeper level. You are collectively far more experienced in this than I am but I think one of the things that may bear on this has been brought to my attention many times and that is the tendency across government to work in silos. I think there is a weakness in there that needs to be addressed because if silo culture is to prevail then it will imply that from time to time central intervention, with all its dysfunctional elements, will be called upon. I think the reality is that the evidence we have is that very clearly in the early weeks of this outbreak MAFF was in charge and that may have been uncomfortable for many of the people in MAFF but it was pretty comfortable for most of the people in the other departments of government. That changed of course eventually but in the early days that is how it was.
51. I accept most of that, but you used the phrase "a vacuum" and a very strong centre, a very strong management style, can be disabling and dysfunctioning and can produce a vacuum around it where people do not have the confidence and do not feel that they have the experience and do not feel that the responsibility has been put on them. That was the point I was making.
(Dr Anderson) I completely understand.
52. And you accept that?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
53. Dr Anderson, you will recall that there was considerable opposition to the contiguous cull during the crisis and indeed some legal challenges to the ability to carry out some of that under the provisions of the Animal Health Act 1981. In your report on page 163 you say, "It is a matter for the court to determine whether the powers available to the minister were sufficient to support the use of the contiguous cull as a disease control strategy. However, we consider the powers to be insufficiently clear." Since then you have presumably looked at the provisions of the Animal Health Bill that was proceeding through Parliament which sought to rectify some of those. In your view does that clarify the position of the contiguous cull?
(Dr Anderson) It would have removed the ambiguity. Our way into this discussion, as you know, in our report is without taking a legal position; I am not qualified to do that. What I am qualified to say, because I know that to be the case, is that there is a lot of uncertainty through ambiguity and that is by no means a good thing in the middle of a crisis. My reading, again as a layman, of the previous Bill, is that it appeared to have removed that ambiguity.
54. Were you surprised that the Animal Health Bill came before Parliament before you had even started your inquiry?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I was surprised.
55. You were a bit surprised?
(Dr Anderson) I did not dwell on it too much. My head was down so much and we were so busy with other things that I did not take time to dwell on the issue, but when we realised that it was a big surprise. I did not give much thought to it at the time, I have to say.
56. Finally, have you and Sir Brian Follett and Sir Don Curry met together over a period of time to discuss this?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
57. Are there any notes of those meetings?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I think so. Touchi!
58. One of the critiques of the Animal Health Bill strikes a very big chord again with your report because the critique was that this was a major piece of legislation placing substantial duties, and penalties in some instances, on the farming industry which had been put forward without any consultation and without any obvious willingness to consider amendments to it, and without any balancing elements, for example, import controls, which were raised on a number of occasions. The Secretary of State yesterday indicated an intent to proceed once again with the Bill. Would you advise her to consider carefully the building of trust with the community that is most affected by the Bill before proceeding in this way?
(Dr Anderson) I certainly would caution anyone that the building of trust is an extremely important and pressing matter. Whether or not I would advise that that has to be done before an important piece of legislation may need to be put in place is another question. I think there are some things that need to be put in place, as we have just been discussing, for example, to remove ambiguity, and I do not think that can wait for the process that may be necessary to rebuild. I would have it in the front of my mind, not in the back of it.
59. I was more thinking that in proceeding with the Bill one needed to examine the balance of stakeholder interest in this matter so that any outcome people felt was a reasonable response to the need to handle this at all levels through the process, and we will come at some stage I think to discuss import restrictions.
(Dr Anderson) I certainly accept that.
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
60. Clearly an approach which simply singles out one element of this for legislative action might seem to be inappropriate and one-sided in trust building.
(Dr Anderson) I accept that and we may come to it later but we write quite extensively on the context within which these things should be considered and the appropriateness or otherwise of looking at the total rural economy as opposed to individual sections of it when these things are considered.
61. No issue crystallised the degree of controversy and conflict more than vaccination. Can I pry into your meeting with Sir Brian Follett and Sir Don Curry just to tease out from you that you are all speaking with one voice and that you sign up to the Follett recommendation that vaccination could and should be considered in both a preventive and perhaps even prophylactic use of that particular strategy? Is that your personal as well as your committee view?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
62. Hang on. Prophylactic means mass vaccination of the flock. You have not signed up for prophylactic vaccination, have you?
(Dr Anderson) Chairman, that is a misunderstanding on my part. I apologise for that. I thought you were asking me if I had signed up to the Follett view. To be absolutely clear, there is in my view at this time no case to start a process of general prophylactic vaccination.
63. It is useful to clarify it. If we can look at the nature of what happened last year, is it your view that part of the problem with the strategy that was pursued and there being a possibility of an alternative strategy, which was vaccination, was that it was very difficult to get any consensus amongst stakeholders?
(Dr Anderson) That was definitely an important element in my view. It was not the only element but it was important.
64. How important? When you say it was not the only one—
(Dr Anderson) At the end of the day it was absolutely clear to me from the paperwork and all the discussions that I have had internally, and we have looked at this, as you imply, very carefully, that the Government itself came to a view to vaccinate and that that was not implemented. It was not implemented because of judgements that were made at the time after consultation with other stakeholders. Other stakeholders had put up very strong resistance to that at that time.
65. Can I be very clear, when you say that the Government was of a view to vaccinate, who in Government and who did they communicate it to and why was that not acted upon? This is the Government. If the Government makes a decision in this country I thought that that was the natural course of events.
(Dr Anderson) Let me give you from my recollection a brief account of that. As I say, we have looked at it as a central issue very carefully. If I start on 12 March, there was an important meeting at which the Prime Minister, the Minister and the Chief Veterinary Officer and others were present, at which time the Chief Veterinary Officer advised that vaccination was not appropriate. That was 12 March. That was accepted. One week later on 19 March, following visits to Cumbria and discussions in Cumbria, the Chief Veterinary Officer wrote that now it was important and an urgent plan was needed to prepare for vaccination. On 23 March, in pursuit of preparations for that, ADAS, now ADAS Consulting, was engaged and briefed to prepare themselves for the logistical challenge of vaccinating. On 27 March that proposal and detail was put to the Prime Minister and had come already through MAFF. That proposal was accepted. It went to Europe, which it has to do. It is not possible, it is not legal, for us to take a vaccination decision without agreement in Brussels. That EU approval was secured on 30 March. On 10 April there was a unanimous decision by the Science Advisory Group recommending vaccination of cattle in Cumbria. At that point, and that is what I am now referring to, Government was completely lined up and Europe was lined up behind that. On 12 April there was a meeting, much discussed in Chequers, at which the National Farmers' Union and representatives of the food industry were opposed to vaccination and gave their arguments. These oppositions were still being considered a week later on 18 April. By 25 April the case had been overtaken by events because by such time the issue that was being addressed, which was the moving of cattle out from their winter quarters on to pasture, had perforce taken place. That is the sequence of events.
66. So, just to make sure this is absolutely clear, you are totally convinced that the Government had taken the decision to vaccinate at one time?
(Dr Anderson) It is a matter of record.
67. And then it was persuaded that this was not appropriate and by the time it could have locked the policy into place it was too late?
(Dr Anderson) As I said, it is a matter of record. There might be some room just at the margin on the last line in that I am not sure that I have read anywhere where Government changed its mind to say it was not appropriate, but I certainly have come across many times that in the absence of the support of the farming community it was not possible.
68. I want to clarify this. It is an issue of immense controversy. There were many groups who argued in practice that when we had an outbreak of foot and mouth the Government was faced with a choice of two routes to go down. One was slaughter or stamping out and the other was vaccination. Your report does not, as I understand it, and I have read every line of it, suggest that it was a choice between plan A and plan B.
(Dr Anderson) That is correct.
69. You argued that there was a time at which there was scope for vaccination but you also highlight that because of the non-specific nature of the vaccines, because of the absence of field tests, because of doubts over the efficacy of the ability to distinguish between vaccinated animals and foot and mouth disease, and because of the international trade laws, and all those factors have changed somewhat over the last 12 months,—
(Dr Anderson) That is correct.
70.—you saw a particular role in the particular circumstances but at no stage did you suggest that the Government could quite simply have solved this crisis by vaccination. Am I right in that?
(Dr Anderson) That is correct. That is what we said.
71. Can I take us forward from last year because clearly one of the issues the Government has to think about, and this came out in the previous discussion on the Animal Health Bill, is how it builds a consensus given that you could argue that one of the problems for the Government if it had a policy was that it could not implement it because it could not get the stakeholders to agree to that. I wonder if you could take me through how you think you could build a consensus so that a policy could be more acceptable to the many different stakeholders? I might come back in a minute on who you think those major stakeholders are, but how would you go about building a consensus to get policy agreement?
(Dr Anderson) That is very clear and I understand the importance of your question. I would like to refer back to a point we were making earlier this morning on what is possible in wartime and what is possible in peacetime. My starting position now would be that it is important to address these extremely complex issues in the relative peace and quiet where people can, with measured reflection, take into account all of the issues and take time over coming to a view. I believe that that has the potential to deliver consensus. I am not suggesting that consensus is something struck easily. These things have been done. There is a challenge and it has to be done but in an attempt to do it in the heat of the epidemic I think would be virtually impossible. I would not know how to do it personally. I would not know how to do it. One thing I have learned as a result of the meetings and the discussions and all the things read about vaccination is that it is a very complex issue, one of the most complex of all that we have tried to address and develop some understanding of throughout the inquiry. I find that it is difficult even for professionals to get their mind around all of the dimensions that are involved and for a layman such as myself and many of those involved almost impossible. In wartime, in the heat of the crisis, I think it could not be done.
72. Is part of the problem now, and this is really comparing with mid-1967, that there was some degree of homogeneity about the farming community and they would generally speak with one voice, which meant that they could see that a policy option introduced by the Government could be administered and there was a fair chance that it would be accepted, but that homogeneity does not exist nowadays? There are people on the land "farming" for very different reasons, some because it is their livelihood, others because it is a choice and they do not necessarily have to earn their main income from that. Those groups will take very different responses to what appears to be the position, one way or the other, either for vaccination or against vaccination, and the worry would be, if we were to get into this situation again, that you could see those forces being implacably opposed to one another and therefore, even though you may have prepared the ground for consensus beforehand, that consensus could never be arrived at. What are your views on that?
(Dr Anderson) I do not think that my concept of consensus is one in which 100 per cent of the people sign up fulsomely to every single thing that is done, but that it is a process where people can acknowledge that the information required has been properly gathered and properly communicated and that the decision-making process has been fair and open and done in a proper construction. One of the things that needs to be added at this time and which is picked up in another section of the report (not the vaccination section) is that these decisions need to be based on a proper cost/benefit analysis, taking risk assessment into account, and that needs to be done in the context of the most appropriate economic framework. I believe that following these principles—openness, engagement in the proper economic context and laying out the arguments on the cost-benefit—is the way to get consensus and to get the support necessary to proceed.
73. But ultimately the Government should have the right to impose a solution on people who will not necessarily agree to it if it is for the betterment of the wider community?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
74. You told us earlier, Dr Anderson, that when in the early days the Prime Minister asked MAFF, "Is there anything more that you need?", more vets was the one thing that MAFF asked for at that stage. Your report describes to us the State Veterinary Service, which I believe you tell us now has two-thirds the number of vets that it had in 1967, where there are something like 220 vets now employed by the state in the front line. The numbers have fallen gradually since 1979 and the 1999 review of the State Veterinary Service talked about the need to balance the number of vets employed directly by the state with work done by those in the private sector and by agencies. You also described I think the number of vacancies at the headquarters of the State Veterinary Service, ten posts vacant out of 27, at the time you wrote the report. A very simple question, I suppose: do we have enough vets in the State Veterinary Service?
(Dr Anderson) While manifestly not if the vacancies exist, which I believe is still the case, I think that I can hardly do any better than repeat the recommendations from the 1968 Northumberland Report. I think they are as pertinent today as they were then, and it may be my language a little bit, but they are the backbone of our defences against such matters as we are discussing. A strong State Veterinary Service is a sine qua non and it seems to me that that is exactly what we must and should maintain. It is now regrettable, as a matter of record, that that service was somewhat depleted.
75. More than somewhat depleted if we have two-thirds the number that we had in 1967 at the time of the last outbreak, a steady decline, rather than action on the recommendations that followed the 1967 outbreak. You talk in your report about a system of veterinary paramedics as one idea for the future. Could you say a little more about what you are suggesting there?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I am happy to do that and it is something that came up as we were going around the country. Given that the highest level of veterinary training is such a specialised matter, and given that there will always be a shortage, and it is probably a national shortage, there are many tasks that could possibly be given to people with a training in the veterinary sciences but not fully qualified vets and that that could take quite a burden off and relieve the highest level of professionals at times when their resources are most stretched. Since that idea came up and was put to us it had a certain appeal and it is therefore for those who know more about the veterinary profession than I do to reflect upon it.
76. But no substitute perhaps for attempts at recruitment to the service?
(Dr Anderson) It is not intended to be a substitute whatsoever. I would repeat that the backbone of the whole process that we are talking about is the fully qualified State Veterinary Service. I am now talking about adjuncts to that which may be able to provide a role in the event of an outbreak but in peacetime may also be able to provide a role more in surveillance activities, for example, and, possibly depending on the way some of the assurance schemes work, could be involved in that area as well.
77. Do you feel that there are things that could be done to improve co-ordination between the state service and vets in private practice?
(Dr Anderson) I think it is probably down for a review on that. I believe that that is likely to happen now with the profession in the private sector. I think it is a timely review and the background of 2001 provides a good platform for that.
78. You do have something to say in your report about the need to overhaul the local veterinary inspectorate and the way that operates. Am I right in that? It is in chapter 17.
(Dr Anderson) I think that what we are saying here is that there is an opportunity in a timely way to update the arrangements that have been in place for a very long time.
79. Since the 1930s.
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
80. So you are trying to update something that has been around for 70 years.
(Dr Anderson) A long time.
81. Are you satisfied with the way the management of the State Veterinary Service links with the management of DEFRA as a whole or do you think that perhaps the semi-autonomous status of the state vets ought to be reviewed?
(Dr Anderson) I think it has been a weakness and I think it has been somewhat isolated and I believe that has been and is being and needs to be addressed, and the integration of veterinary policy and veterinary operations and overall policy needs to be better.
82. Can I pick up a little bit about these paramedic vets that you have mentioned in your recommendations on page 160? One of the biggest problems that I experienced in my constituency was that many of the so-called hobby farmers would not accept the clinical diagnosis by the vet that foot and mouth was present in their animals because they said that vets never see this, they have not seen it for 20 years and it could be all sorts of other things and it is only slight and it is difficult to see in sheep, etc. You are not suggesting, are you, that in the middle of the so-called war that you keep alluding to that is the foot and mouth outbreak, paramedic vets would be used to do the clinical diagnosis for confirmed cases?
(Dr Anderson) I am absolutely not suggesting that; the exact opposite, in fact. I am only suggesting that there are in the heat of a crisis so many tasks, such as the one you have just described, that cannot be delegated from a fully qualified professional vet, but there are many more routine tasks that the veterinary professionals have to cope with, a lot of very complex record keeping tasks, that I believe could adequately and properly be considered in that context.
83. I want to move on now to certain farming practices. This outbreak went to such a huge size because it got into the sheep and prior to the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 the sheep never seemed to be, in some cases, off the back of a trailer. They were moved all over the country repeatedly, into market, sold, passed on, dealt with a dealer, put into another trailer and moved around, and as a result of that we brought in the 20-day standstill on cattle and sheep, but you do not in your report make a recommendation to keep that for enhanced bio-security. You recommend that there should be a risk assessment taken about it because you are concerned about, no doubt from the farmers' point of view, their inability to carry on the effectiveness of their business. They do complain, do they not, that the 20-day standstill hinders their ability to trade sheep, to carry out their business? You are saying that you want to take a risk assessment and you do not actually put it in. Why did you not do that when it seemed to be so effective in helping with both animal welfare and bio-security during the disease? Why did you not make a recommendation to keep the 20-day standstill for sheep and cattle?
(Dr Anderson) It seems to me that we have made that with a qualification.
84. Why the qualification? What evidence did you have that made you put in the qualification?
(Dr Anderson) I think that the qualification is very simply to allow the opportunity to tie down a proper risk assessment in an economically relevant way through a proper cost/benefit analysis what the implications of that would be and it is simply a response to many submissions that come to us from across the industry that there may be other ways to provide the security and this particular way has a special economically limiting effect on sectors of the livestock industry. In the context of our inquiry that limitation is not only in terms of professional knowledge but also the timeliness that there would have to be, and we have said that there are no arguments today in our judgement for removing the restriction, so the restrictions are staying, according to our recommendation, but that there are well made arguments that would call for a sober assessment, an economically sound assessment, of the risks involved before final decisions can be taken, and I believe we are also saying that that should be kept alive in as much as if situations change, if risks change, then that should be viewed in turn one way or the other.
85. The other point which comes into this is that you talk about the necessity for training and farm assurance and other issues to do with it, but you make a passing comment about licensing farms. If you take food production further down the food chain, any sort of outlet that is providing food to the consumer has to be licensed. Why have you fought shy of not actually suggesting that farms should be licensed?
(Dr Anderson) I think we say it should be considered and I understand from evidence put to us that that raised quite a number of complex issues. We ourselves came up with an idea in discussion with some others that a negative licensing scheme may be particularly appropriate and a negative licensing system being designed in particular to cut red tape and get the effect that you might like, which is in essence that someone who wishes to farm livestock will be granted a licence but that licence may be revoked, so it is the negative licence element as a result of failure to perform to particular standards. I think that that is an idea that merits quite careful consideration.
86. And those standards would be to do with animal welfare and bio-security and so on?
(Dr Anderson) Environmental issues and so on and so forth, and that could be laid out in codes of practice. The getting of the licence would be very straightforward but failure to conform to a proper code of practice would cause the licence to be revoked.
87. We all know that the 20-day rule is a very restrictive measure, of course.
(Dr Anderson) That has been very clearly put to us.
88. Did you form a view that the 20-day rule as applied in Scotland might have things to commend it as being somewhat more flexible than the one applied in England?
(Dr Anderson) I cannot comment in detail on that. We are aware of the differences but I am not able, I am sorry, to comment on the detail.
89. We assume that you start, understandably, with the preparation of contingency plans and there has already been a brief discussion about whether we comply with the European Union obligations or not. In your subsequent discussions with Ministers and officials have you gathered that they have understood the need for a much more heavy-duty contingency plan which deals with a much wider range of potential outbreaks?
(Dr Anderson) I hope so, certainly. We have had some very important discussions along that line. I think that the step in the direction of the interim plan was a good step but it has got quite some way to go still, particularly in engaging many external bodies and agencies not simply to review drafts but equally in consultation at the process of designing what contingency planning should be about. For example—just to give an example of what we might have in mind in that respect—in the interim contingency plan—I accept that it is labelled as such, interim—there is or was no reference to the involvement of the Pirbright Laboratory. I would think that would be a very important part of the preparations. There was virtually no reference in contingency planning terms to the issues raised by the livestock welfare disposal issues and it would seem to me that would be very important also.
90. I think we have explored already pretty modest references, if any, to the way in which local authorities would carry out their functions on movement control. I think we found little evidence of that. You did highlight some good performance. I am glad to say in my part of the country, in Staffordshire, the Veterinary Service covered the outbreak in South Derbyshire, and I share the view in the report that control of the outbreak, was done extremely effectively, although I did run into some arguments when we attempted to get restrictions lifted at the end of the process and the director was pretty adamant about his timetable on that. It does demonstrate that hidden away within the MAFF organisation were some people who did understand roughly how to address this at the local level.
(Dr Anderson) Absolutely.
91. Was that the only example you found or were there others?
(Dr Anderson) No, there were some others, yes.
92. Okay. The Drummond Report, you touch on—did seem to hit a glass ceiling in MAFF and did not lead to the conclusion which was reached which was that further steps were needed to improve the contingency plans—it did not reach the highest levels within the Ministry. Do you think that would have made a substantial difference if it had?
(Dr Anderson) Who knows, with hindsight, I am not sure but I would like to hope it might by changing priorities. Priorities struck at the highest level. One thing that is clear, and I have said in the Report, is that contingency planning as a whole, and all of the things which support contingency planning, was not a priority in MAFF prior to this.
93. Without wishing to draw you into personalisation, which you have sought to avoid, you do report that the Chief Veterinary Officer was aware of the lack of progress on contingency planning. I think the Drummond Report had reached his level within the organisation. Do you feel that greater urgency should have been shown by him and his team in responding to that?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I do. I think this Report is a very important statement in the context of the history of the epidemic. It was provoked as early as 1998 when discussions within the State Veterinary Service raised concerns of potential weaknesses. It was published in February 1999 and was reviewed at intervals all the way through until July 2000 without any substantial progress being made but always with calls for the need for that progress to be made. Then in July 2000 as you know it was overtaken by events. I think that is unfortunate.
94. Even more unfortunate when the external warnings of foot and mouth disease spreading in Asia and Africa and the potential implications of that were known in the veterinary community and within the veterinary community in MAFF?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, that is correct.
95. Does the word "unfortunate" need to be replaced with "culpable"?
(Dr Anderson) I do not believe that I would use that word but of course that is for you to decide. I think it is unfortunate. I think it reflects the atmosphere and the culture. The SVS is, and in many ways rightly, very proud but rather an isolated organisation. It was dealing with its own affairs and obviously it felt that the risks involved justified their actions. In the event the unfolding of this epidemic, which no-one had anticipated, was not anticipated.
96. To some extent the silo culture that you defined as a problem within Government, I think you say it pretty explicitly in the Report, was a problem also within MAFF itself.
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
97. The Veterinary Service saw itself as a little group of people who knew what they were doing and did not need to tell anyone else too much about what they were finding out and the concerns they might have?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I think it was isolated. It is a very proud and professional organisation. I have come across it before in other contexts. I do not think it is unique to the veterinary professionals or to MAFF, I have seen it before, as have others obviously, from the nods around the table. I do think in the light of this experience that needs to be broken down.
98. On page 58 of the Report under "The ban on animal movements". You say "Between 20 and 23 February the number of animal movements was substantial". In your view was that a normal three day traffic at that time or was it a heightened figure, bearing in mind some people may have anticipated the fact that a ban was going to happen very shortly?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, I think that is the implication. As I say it is anecdotal but that is the implication.
99. The implication is there was a lot more extra on those three days than would normally go through?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-115)
DR IAIN ANDERSON AND MR ALUN EVANS
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
100. And there is the comment that it would have been between one third and a half.
(Dr Anderson) Yes. Of course you never know.
101. The other little matter was on page 61. Bearing in mind we were told in the 1967 report it was speed, speed, speed which was of the essence, we would have known that speed by the 8 March would have been very important. You say "As late as 8 March . . ." MAFF officials ". . . were still writing to farmers who had potentially bought sheep at Longtown". Do you think the use of the telephone or even visiting might have been somewhat more expected if we were looking for speed rather than merely writing? We are talking about 18 days into the whole thing and yet they were still writing to farmers to see if they had bought sheep at Longtown?
(Dr Anderson) Yes, it seems very strange.
102. It seems more than strange.
(Dr Anderson) On balance, the issue of tracing was a very, very complex issue, I have no doubt about that but it did seem to take a very long time. What is it that can justify that? Many of the professionals who needed to be involved in that work were fighting fires, they were doing something else. There was an acute shortage of the resource needed to do this work. In that environment many things proceeded with difficulty and this is one of them.
103. There is a good section of the Report on import controls and although I guess we will never know the cause of the outbreak, or indeed of classical swine fever in the previous year, you speculate that it was the import of illegal meat for catering purposes which maybe was the prime source. Do you think import controls have improved since February of last year?
(Dr Anderson) I know that work has started, and whether they have improved or not I am not sure, I doubt probably. I have no doubt that this is now being taken seriously. I have been asked several questions about "Have certain things been taken seriously? Have changes started?" and I have given qualified answers in some cases. I have absolutely no doubt that this is being taken very seriously and it needs to be improved. The reason we have made a focused recommendation is not because we are dissatisfied with the earlier steps but simply to reinforce these steps. DEFRA should be asked to take the lead. This is a task not only of focus and budget, it is a task of co-ordination. DEFRA should be very specifically given the task of co-ordinating all the agencies involved in this. This is a first line of defence. We say very clearly that one of the three major supporting structures for the future strategy is keep infectious agents of exotic disease out. That is where it starts, it has got to be done better. I know it is being done seriously and it needs to be successful. Having said that, just for completeness, it is never possible to guarantee that you will do that. I am sure that all the other things are very important things but without a doubt the first line of defence needs to be secure and I know that it is receiving right now a lot of high priority attention.
104. It is receiving attention, it is being taken seriously but has it made a difference?
(Dr Anderson) I cannot say that because the truth is I do not know. I do not see a lot of difference. I think one of the things which is important is the countryside community needs to see the difference because when they see it they will believe it. I have not seen a lot of difference yet. I have seen a notice I did not see before but I had to ask where I would find it. I think it needs to be given a higher public profile and people can see that now.
105. It is confidence building?
(Dr Anderson) That raises confidence and all the things which follow from that.
106. What about the action plan which DEFRA produced in March? Have you had a look at it?
(Dr Anderson) The interim report, we have looked at it very carefully.
107. Is it sufficient?
(Dr Anderson) No, but it is work in progress.
(Dr Anderson) I accept it is work in progress. I have some criticisms of it, I have made some already. I accept it is work in progress, it has got started but it has a very long way to go. The one area which I believe needs to be emphasised again and again is that in order to get this right for the future over a long period of time—we hope a very long period of time—it needs to be captured in processes which engages people from different agencies outside of the centre. These processes need to become part of routine and that gives us a chance of remembering when hopefully a very long time has passed.
109. You stress the absolute importance of DEFRA being given the remit on this and in a sense having the power to crack the whip with other agencies because it is not all in their gift to deliver the kind of changes.
(Dr Anderson) They need a directive.
110. From what you have told us before you have anxieties about the power of DEFRA and the ability of DEFRA to deliver these practical task orientated management issues on the ground. So what you would say is we need to work on that?
(Dr Anderson) Yes.
111. Dr Anderson, it is not given to many inquiries to redraw the shape of the world in a map. In passing I draw your attention to page 43 where there is a map. It looks to me as if South Africa has been grafted on to Thailand and Vietnam there. If you look north of Australia there is a new land mass which has emerged there.
(Dr Anderson) Yes. Thank you for pointing that out.
112. I just wanted to demonstrate we have read it carefully.
(Dr Anderson) You certainly have. We had some trouble with getting South Africa properly placed, this explains it.
113. In the map over the page the integrity of the continent has been restored and continental drift has taken place.
(Mr Evans) It appears twice on page 43 one with and one without foot and mouth.
114. Dr Anderson, a final point, we have had over a couple of hours, are there any points you feel really you need to get across to us which have not come out in the questions? Is there a really parting message which you think is so imperative you want to make sure we have understood you? Would you like to do your peroration?
(Dr Anderson) I was not expecting to be given this chance but I will take it. Of course it is in everyone's interest and in everyone's intent now to prevent something like this ever happening again but it might, at least it might get started. There are three compelling things which I have learned and I synthesise all of these things into three things which are more easily remembered, just to keep it in the front of the mind. As a result of that they all start with "S" because three "Ss" I can remember. The central importance is that adequate systems are in place ahead of time. Systems robust enough to cope with major challenge. Systems of management, systems of information, systems of communication and all systems robust enough to cope with aggressive and severe challenge. We were let down this time by some systems which could not stand the challenge. The next one is speed in every way. Speed of response, speed of decision making, speed of action when especially in the early hours and days of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease hours, just simply hours, can make a precious difference. That can only be done in my view, there is no other possibility, other than through rehearsal and planning and discussion and rehearsal as a routine. It is not possible to have a proper speedy response from something that has not been addressed recently and rehearsed, not possible. While I know that it can appear to be naive to suggest the use of the model of the emergency services, I understand the difference but I am using it as a distant metaphor. For example, take the fire services, they are rehearsing speed of response continuously. I have been with fire services around the country. They are alerted constantly. Most of the alerts turn out to be little or nothing. Every alert is addressed with the same speed and with the same seriousness. It is applying that thinking, changing it in the way that obviously it would need to be changed to what we are now talking about which is why we suggest that when there is an alarm on foot and mouth, which by the way occurs about ten times every year, and has done over all the years—
115. We had a pig recently.
(Dr Anderson)—These alarms are used deliberately, as the fire service would, if you will, to test these systems, then to analyse the response, to see what we could do better, measure it and then do it next time and try to do it better. The third "S" is science. The outbreak of 2001 raised issues which were new to everyone and deep scientific reflection became necessary. I believe it is regrettable that a formalised system of engaging well balanced and well trusted previously communicated scientific advice was not deployed from the very early days. It emerged informally, first of all, and latterly in the way that it emerged 35 days into the crisis and played an important contribution, but a massively controversial one. Part of the controversy lay in my view on its method of creation, it had not been created following good process. We will always need the best scientific advice. We should bring it to bear very early on but the preparation for bringing it to bear should start long before an emergency. As routine procedures are in place we call it a standing body which can be advising behind the scenes in an ongoing way anyway and can be called in to action whenever the need is there. So systems, speed and the best science. Thank you.
Chairman: Dr Anderson, thank you very much. You have answered our questions I think very much in the style of the report itself, very economically and to the point. We are very grateful to you. We notice that Sir Don Curry has been appointed to carry through his own recommendations as far as DEFRA is concerned, and without knowing what your other commitments will be, it will be very interesting to know whether a call will go out to carry through your recommendations but that may be a postscript, to which we will no doubt wish to return at an appropriate time. Thank you.