Cumberland & Westmorland Herald 27 April 2002:
COUNTY INQUIRY REPORT TO GO TO EUROPEAN COMMITTEE
The European Parliament's temporary committee on FMD will take in evidence
the report and conclusions of Cumbria's own FMD Inquiry, which begins early
next month. The news came following a meeting between Cumbria County Council
and the EU temporary committee at which representatives from the council and
other agencies explained the devastating impact the crisis had on the
county. Council leader Rex Toft said: "We had an excellent meeting with the
EU temporary committee and were able to explain in detail the devastating
effects of the outbreak on agriculture and tourism, as well as the ongoing
economic and social costs. I spoke personally to the head of the delegation,
Redondo Jimenez, about the Cumbrian inquiry and asked that the committee
accepts its report as part of the evidence it considers before drawing its
own conclusions. I'm delighted that the committee is willing to do that."
According to Mr Toft, there are a number of questions which must be answered
by any inquiry into the crisis, including:
a.. What caused the outbreak?
b.. Why and how did it spread so rapidly?
c.. Were the measures taken to deal with it effective?
d.. Was the widespread culling of livestock the right response?
e.. Should livestock have been vaccinated?
f.. What measures must now be put in place to prevent a further outbreak?
Mr Toft said: "The answers to these and many more questions are more likely
to be found here in Cumbria than anywhere else, as we bore the brunt of the
outbreak. We need to understand what happened here - the people of Cumbria
demand no less." He added: " our own inquiry is independent and
non-political. An independent panel of experts will consider every piece of
evidence submitted and produce a detailed report, which we expect to publish
in July. I fully expect its conclusions to be of not jus regional but of
national and European significance. That's why it is so important the
lessons learned here in Cumbria are considered fully in Europe and
The announcement that the EU temporary committee will take evidence from the
Cumbrian inquiry was welcomed by NFU officials. County policy advisor
Veronica Waller said: "Cumbria County Council has offered to send the
committee a report of its own forthcoming inquiry which we hope will provide
the detail needed for the necessary lessons to be learned. With almost half
the cases of the worst FMD outbreak in history, Cumbria needs to be assured
that these inquiries will ensure we will not be faced with this trauma in
future." She added: " We welcome the fact that the inquiry committee has
come to Cumbria and we were able to give them the first hand personal
experiences from both culled out farmers and those that kept their stock.
However, we feel the visit has been far too short to get over in sufficient
detail the lessons to be learned from Cumbria's FMD experience."
During their time in England, the EU committee members visited the farm of
Peter Holliday at Dalston. A dairy farmer culled out in late March last
year, Mr Holliday recounted his experience of the crisis, as did his twin
brother, Roger, who kept his livestock during the crisis despite potentially
qualifying as a dangerous contact 14 times.
Three other farmers also attended - Stephen Brough, a culled out dairy
farmer from the Dalston area, and William Rawlings and Joyce Spedding, from
West Cumbria, who suffered from the many months of restrictions. Vets David
Black and John Cook also gave valuable veterinary background to the outbreak
and stressed the need for local decision making and empowerment.
On Saturday morning, a further meeting of the inquiry committee at Kendal as
attended by eight farmers, including Cumbria NFU deputy chairman Steve
Dunning from Orton, and Peter Allen, from Bampton. Mr Dunning said: "I was
expecting a bit of a fracas, because there had been a lot of abuse flying
around at the Gretna public meeting from Scottish people who thought the
Cumbrians shouldn't be there, but it went quite well. There was passion but
not too much anger. They had obviously picked up a lot of what went on in
Cumbria and the people from tourism and farming came together well to get
their messages over. It was a bit difficult for people like me because there
were two or three interpreters talking at the same time, but you got used to
it. We only go four or five minutes each, but that's all you really need to
make your point."
"We stressed that there needs to be tighter controls on imports to prevent
disease coming into the country. We also old them about the importance of
protecting the heafed flocks - they actually understood what those are,
which was good to hear." He added: " They gave us the feeling vaccination
will be at the top of the list the next time there is a FMD outbreak."
Like the NFU, North West MEP Richard Inglewood welcomed the visit while
expressing regret that it had been so short. He said: "Although the visit to
Cumbria by the European Parliament's temporary committee was far from ideal,
being organised at too short notice which meant the program was not the one
I would have chosen, and the lack of publicity meant some of those who would
have liked to have talked to it will not have been able to, I do believe it
was still worthwhile. From talking to colleagues on the committee -
obviously having lost much of my stock in the outbreak I could not be a
member myself - it is clear they now have some realisation of the kind of
intensely emotional experience the county went through, how the outbreak had
some of the characteristics of war, the sheer scale of the slaughter, and
how the outbreak hit deeply into all sectors of the economy, not merely
agriculture. I think this is important to them in reaching their