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COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
COMMITTEE OFFICE HOUSE OF COMMONS LONDON SW1A 0AA
Telephone: 020 7219 5708/3274
A STATEMENT FROM EDWARD LEIGH MP
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
National Audit Office report: Foot and Mouth: Applying the Lessons
Our worst fears about the extent to which taxpayers’ money was wasted in 2001 were confirmed when the European Commission ruled that Defra overcompensated farmers by between two and three times the value of culled stock and that other costs were similarly inflated. Out of a total claim for £960 million towards the UK’s costs of controlling the 2001 outbreak, the European Commission has reimbursed only £350 million – adding another £610 million for taxpayers to pay. This is further proof, if any were needed, of my own Committee’s findings that financial controls were pitifully inadequate.
It is vital that we are better prepared now than we were in 2001 for an outbreak of Foot and Mouth. I am glad that my Committee’s recommendations have been taken seriously and that action has been taken to ensure that we are better protected and prepared from now on. However, I am alarmed that the Department has been dragging its heels in setting up a scheme to share future costs with industry. Defra has also been dreadfully slow in paying all its bills. Four years after the outbreak, Defra is yet to begin its planned review of some of its contractors’ costs, and £40 million of invoices remain unpaid. When we criticised Defra for paying too much, we didn’t mean it to stop paying any of its remaining contractors. And the introduction of an IT system to help control future outbreaks has been delayed. This is not an area where we can afford such a lackadaisical approach. Being better prepared will also help avoid the need for the mass funeral pyres which provided enduring and unsettling images of the 2001 outbreak.
Notes for Editors
Requests for further comment from Edward Leigh should be made via Luke Robinson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 8895 or 07834 312 705.