Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, M.P.,
10, Downing Street,
20th February 2002.
Dear Prime Minister,
The "Lessons Learned" Inquiry into Foot and Mouth
I was pleased to see from reports in the press that you have agreed to
provide evidence to Iain Anderson's inquiry into the handling of the
Foot and Mouth epidemic; since it was announced on 23rd March last year that
you were assuming personal responsibility for the Government's actions
to combat the disease, this is entirely appropriate.
However, it appears that the evidence you provide to Professor Anderson
will not be published other than in the form of a civil service minute.
This is in sharp contrast to procedure being followed by the inquiry
elsewhere, where full transcripts of evidence are to be made available.
As you will be aware, I believe there to be an overwhelming case for an
independent public inquiry into the tragedy of Foot and Mouth, and the
outcome of the present High Court hearing will presumably have a bearing
on whether or not such an inquiry will take place. It is not at all
clear why your Government has set its face so firmly against a public inquiry,
but it is undoubtedly the case that this decision has served to widen
further the damaging rift which has opened up between Defra and those
who live and work in the countryside.
To millions of people, the Anderson inquiry is already regarded as a
poor substitute for proper independent scrutiny of what went wrong; and the
decision to withold a full account of your evidence, and that provided
by Ministers and officials, will further undermine its credibility. After
all, if lessons are truly to be learned then the conduct of Ministers
and officials must be at the heart of the inquiry. I feel sure that you
would agree that the present arrangements are neither in the public interest
nor compatible with the notion of open government, and I am therefore
writing to urge you to insist that all evidence submitted to Professor Anderson
is transcribed in full and published.
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.