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MPS QUESTION VALUE OF FOOT AND MOUTH PROBE
 
The Government is to face fresh questions about the foot and mouth inquiry tomorrow when MPs begin their own investigation into the value of official reports on departmental failures.

Sir Brian Bender, the top civil servant at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will face tough questioning about the inquiry into the 2001 epidemic, when he appears before the Commons public administration committee.

The "lessons learned" inquiry, set up by the Government and chaired by Dr Iain Anderson, was widely criticised in rural communities for taking all its key evidence in secret and for failing to get to the bottom of who took vital decisions, such as ordering the contiguous cull.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, a member of the cross-party committee of MPs examining "the issues surrounding investigatory inquiries into public service failures", said that Sir Brian would be asked to explain the format of the inquiry.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, Tory MP for Bridgwater, said: "The inquiry was broken up into three parts, none of which dovetailed, leaving the possibility that many important questions would fall between the gaps. It appears to have been designed to get the Government off the hook. Most importantly it has not convincingly demonstrated that the Government has learned from its many mistakes. We are as open to another outbreak of foot and mouth as we were."

Suspicion about the Anderson inquiry intensified earlier this year when the WMN revealed that the Government had withheld a report by one of its own vets, Jim Dring, which said the crisis "would never have come about" if his inspection of a Northumberland pig farm in the weeks before the outbreak had been "more rigorous".

Last month the WMN revealed that a video showing "shocking" conditions on Waugh's farm just four weeks after Mr Dring renewed its licence to feed swill had also been withheld. But ministers refused to reopen the Anderson inquiry, arguing that the video contained "nothing new".

Last week the Shadow Animal Health Minister Owen Paterson said he had "absolutely no doubt that there was a cover-up".

Tomorrow's hearing is part of a wider investigation into the value of official inquiries.