EURO INQUIRY TEAM MEETS F&M VICTIMS

A HIGH-POWERED delegation of MEPs visiting Cumbria as part of a foot and mouth inquiry said last night that it was too early to draw any conclusions from their four-day fact-finding mission.
The 40-strong squad from the European Parliament's agriculture committee toured Longtown auction mart and held a public meeting in Gretna with farmers and business people as part of their trip to the region.

Last night, tourism and business people met the team in the Shepherd's Inn, Rosehill, Carlisle, before they completed their trip with a visit to Kendal this morning.

Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler said their main objective was to come up with recommendations for future handling of the disease but that it was too early to draw any firm conclusions from their visit.

He revealed that the panel had earlier put questions to the British Government about why non-veterinary epidemiologists were used to predict the spread of the disease.

"We have asked for a written answer to that question," he said. "But we are not here to judge governments at all. We have to plan and debate and clarify issues among ourselves."

The panel will visit Devon and Cornwall and Wales later this year before preparing a report for the European Parliament, expected to be published in September.

The EU team will take evidence from Cumbria's own foot and mouth inquiry, which begins early next month.

County council leader Rex Toft said: "I spoke to the head of the delegation and asked that the committee accept the report of the Cumbrian inquiry as part of the evidence it considers before drawing its own conclusions."

Chair Encarnacion Redondo-Jimenez said last night that the team felt solidarity with everyone had suffered during the crisis.

"Our concern is find out what happened, what went wrong and what can be learned," she said.