Subject: Lidington   - Point of Order re- DEFRA & FMD -
22 October


Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last
Thursday, during questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs, I asked the Minister, at column 459, when the Government were
planning to publish their new contingency plans on foot and mouth disease
and respond to the various inquiry reports.
The Under-Secretary of State for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr.
Morley) replied that the Government were
"under way with the definitive strategy and contingency plan".
He continued:
"That involves a great deal of consultation and discussion. That is
right and proper because we want to be open and transparent about this. We
intend to bring forward the completed conclusions as quickly as possible and
to encourage as much involvement and debate as possible."-[Official Report,
17 October 2002; Vol. 390, c. 459.]
Having heard the Minister's reassurances about openness and transparency, I
was somewhat startled to see in The Times newspaper this morning a detailed
account of what that newspaper described as the
"draft report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs, seen by The Times, that is its"-
the Department's-
"response to the two official inquiry reports into the disease".
The newspaper went on to give details of policy proposals such as the use of
vaccination and the imposition of duties on farmers to insure against
disease, as well as other initiatives such as increased media training for
veterinary surgeons and the creation of a dial-in message service called
DEFRA Direct.
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether in the few hours since I gave your
office notice of my point of order you have been able to ascertain how
information withheld from Parliament appears to have got into the possession
of The Times?  May I also ask whether you have had any approach from the
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wishing to come
to the House and make a statement, either simply to express her shock and
outrage at the fact that a newspaper should have been informed ahead of
elected representatives of the British public or, even better, to give
Parliament a full account of whatever the Government intend to propose?

Mr. Speaker: I have had no such approach from the Secretary of State. The
hon. Gentleman has raised matters that are for a Minister to handle. What I
will say is that if there was a leak I deplore that, and I certainly hope
that the matter will be investigated.