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Release time: embargoed 10pm Mon 18 February
Released by: Peter Ainsworth MP
Date:18 February 2002
Ainsworth visits farmers to mark foot & mouth anniversary
This week marks the anniversary of the foot and mouth outbreak that decimated livestock, cost billions of pounds and brought widespread despair to Britain's rural communities.
To underline the continuing cost to the UK of foot and mouth, the Conservatives are:
- Visiting farmers in one of the worst hit areas
- Visiting Heathrow airport to highlight the danger of illegal meat imports
- Launching a web campaign to ensure that rural families' concerns are being heard
The Shadow DEFRA Secretary, Peter Ainsworth MP, said:
"One year on from the outbreak, the country is still counting the cost of Foot and Mouth. The financial impact of the disease has yet to be finally quantified, but almost certainly it runs into tens of billions of pounds. The immediate cost to the taxpayer is now officially put at #2.7billion, and thousands of rural businesses are still suffering.
"The impact on the families and communities where the culling took place has been deep and lasting. It will take years to heal the emotional scars. Nowhere was the pain more keenly felt than in Devon, which is why I am going there today (Tuesday) to meet with farming families who are trying to rebuild their way of life.
"We continue to call on the Government to hold an independent public inquiry into what went wrong. Labour's cowardly refusal to submit to public scrutiny has deepened the rift between the Government and the countryside. It will not be possible to rebuild the fortunes of rural areas in the absence of trust.
"We will be launching a new internet campaign, "Rural Future", to ensure that people who live and work in the countryside have a direct line into Westminster, and can play an active part in shaping our policies.* In all the political tabletalk about the future of rural Britain, the voice of rural people has hardly been heard.
"The negligent state of our import controls means that Foot and Mouth could break out again tomorrow. We will be meeting with Customs and Excise officials at Heathrow Airport this morning (Tuesday) to discuss what needs to be done to close this dangerous loophole in our defences."
*Notes to editors the campaign will be launched today (Tuesday) on www.conservatives.com
For further information contact Mark Leech on 020 7984 8067 or 07941 285907