Ainsworth meets Anderson, to discuss foot and mouth inquiry

The Shadow DEFRA Secretary, Peter Ainsworth MP, met last night with Dr Iain Anderson, chairman of the 'Lessons Learned' inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis. After the discussion with Dr Anderson, Mr Ainsworth said:

"I have stressed to Dr Anderson that, in the absence of a full public inquiry, which the Government continues to duck, we need his inquiry to be thorough, robust and transparent. It appears from our meeting that Dr Anderson wants the same thing.

"The Inquiry should address the mistakes made by Ministers and officials, and try to evaluate what effect these had on the spread and cost of foot and mouth. There seems little doubt that dithering by Ministers, particularly over the question of livestock movements, slaughter and disposal, and the late decision to use the army contributed to the rapid dispersal of the disease.

"Recently, Margaret Beckett arrogantly dismissed the findings of the Devon Inquiry into foot and mouth*; the question is, will anyone in the Government accept the findings of Dr Anderson's inquiry if, as seems inevitable, it find fault with Ministerial handling of the crisis."

* Question: (10 April 2002)

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the conclusions of Professor Mercer's report on foot and mouth in Devon in respect of (a) the handling of the outbreak and (b) the lessons of the 1967 outbreak;

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 November 2001]: The report of a committee of Devon County Counsellors chaired by Professor Mercer clearly provides a local perspective and reflects local views and conclusions. I am afraid I do not accept those conclusions. The recommendations of the Northumberland Committee were taken into account as appropriate during the 2001 outbreak. Inevitably, conditions have changed here and in Europe since the Northumberland Committee's report, and the 2001 outbreak was clearly different in nature and extent to the 1967-68 outbreak.

More generally, the Government's position is set out in its written response to Dr. Iain Anderson's independent Lessons Learned inquiry, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.