Beckett rules out answer to key inquiries on FMD

Oct 29 2002

By Robert Brookes, The Journal


Ministers were last night accused of ignoring two regional inquiries into the handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis. They said they would be relying on their own investigation, not local recommendations.

Cumbria and Northumberland held inquiries into last year's epidemic, after both communities were devastated by the disease and its aftermath. These included Great Orton near Carlisle and Widdrington, near Ashington, where huge burial and burning sites tackled a mountain of carcases.

But Agriculture Secretary Margaret Beckett said the findings of the subsequent inquiries held by Cumbria and Northumberland county councils, will not be given a response.

Her statement came after Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean forwarded a copy of the Cumbria Foot and Mouth Disease Report to Mrs Beckett, urging the Government to pay close attention to its contents and report on its findings.

In her reply, Mrs Beckett said: "The report of the Cumbria Inquiry provides a very useful perspective to the reports published by the two FMD Inquiries which the Government set up, one on the Lessons to be Learned and the other a scientific review into infectious diseases in livestock by the Royal Society.

"A full Government response to both these inquiries will be in the next month or so ... the Government is taking into account the views and recommendations of the county council reports, including the valuable report from Cumbria, but will not be replying to the individual recommendations."

Mr Maclean said last night: "I think it is a disgrace that the Government will not be replying to this report."

Peter Kull of Widdrington said: "The Government didn't want a public inquiry at all, so what else can you expect? If there is anybody they should be listening to it's the people of Northumberland and Cumbria, who were right there in the thick of it, dealing with this disaster."