From "Talking Point" in the Farmers Weekly on Friday August 2nd 2002.
Dr Iain Anderson is a politically astute Scot and a wise choicefor the Prime Minister to select as his Chairman for the Lessons Learned Inquiry into the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, which has just reported after six months work.
FMD cost the lives of over 11 million animals, destroyed many families and cost taxpayers in excess of £8 billion. The Prime Minister was determined to avoid a Public Inquiry into what was described as the worst disaster to strike this Country since World War 2. Instead of a Public Inquiry, we had the Curry Report into the future of farming, the Scientific Inquiries and now the Lessons Learned Inquiry. Because the Government refused to hold an open Public Inquiry, many Counties held their own Inquiries and even now the EU is holding its own inquiry. We were told that the Country could not afford the cost of a Public Inquiry, but it now appears that the total cost of all the other Inquiries that have been spawned will exceed the cost of a Public Inquiry.
We have to ask, did the Anderson Inquiry and all the other Inquiries provide the equivalent of a Public Inquiry? I attended the Anderson Inquiry press conference and Dr Iain Anderson confirmed to me that he was satisfied that his Inquiry was to the standard of a Public Inquiry, but, as a famous female acquaintance of a senior politician once said, He would say that, wouldnt he? Many people have commented that Dr Anderson, whilst doing his regional visits, appeared visibly moved by the many witnesses who gave evidence of their appalling experiences, but was his Inquiry any more than a damage limitation exercise with a view to quietly putting the whole issue to bed? What was the true remit that he received from the Prime Minister?
A Public Inquiry would have been conducted by a Judge who would have had the power to call witnesses under oath. Did Dr Anderson in his quiet way get to the truth? Was the Anderson Inquiry influenced by the Cabinet Office who ran the Inquiry? Dr Andersons remit was to report within six months, so that the Country could prepare for the next outbreak and the need for speed was the other argument against a Public Inquiry. Has the requirement for a thorough inquiry come second to this goal of speed? Does the current phrase Broad and shallow apply to this Inquiry?
Did Dr. Anderson look for skeletons, did he have a desire to find skeletons and if he was hit by a skeleton would he have been allowed to tell us? Perhaps we could ask the same question of a Public Inquiry? Is it in the Public Interest that the truth is always told? Many issues have not been addressed by Dr. Anderson but is that part of the compromise to try and rebuild life in the Countryside?
Those of us who wanted a Public Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease have to accept what the High Court Judge said It was a political decision not to hold a Public Inquiry. Unfortunately the Countrside is a political minority and minorities do not control ballot boxes. I am sure the Prime Minister feels pleased with his decision not to hold a Public Inquiry, but he should remember that the truth has a habit of biting people when they least expect it. He still has some hurdles to jump including the EU Inquiry and also the Swill Users who are going to the High Court seeking to establish that MAFF was responsible for the spread of Foot and Mouth disease by failing in their regulatory duty by allowing Bobby Waugh to hold a Licence