The Times listed the main recommendations of the Inquiries - see below
Outbreak of panic turned crisis to disaster
Panic, confusion, messy decision-making and a lack of public confidence were key features of the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, an official inquiry concluded yesterday.
Iain Anderson, chairman of the "lessons learnt" report, said: "The foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001 was an emergency which became a crisis. And in some parts of the country, it was a crisis which became a disaster." He lists a catalogue of inefficiency and weak management that led to the Government's failure to deal speedily with the outbreak.
The report makes uncomfortable reading for Nick Brown, who was Agriculture Minister at the time and is now Minister for Work, and Jim Scudamore, the Chief Veterinary Officer. Lack of information from ministers and officials prevented the inquiry from learning who was responsible for controversial decisions that led to the slaughter of millions of healthy animals and the closure of most of the country's footpaths.
Dr Anderson said that he could not find out the truth even after studying mounds of documents and questioning Tony Blair, other ministers and officials. When asked about decisions, such as the delay in calling in the Army, they had told him that they "did not know" or had not attended the relevant meetings. Dr Anderson concludes, however, that there had been no "foul play" or deliberate withholding of information. His report also clears the Prime Minister of delaying or speeding up the response to the outbreak because of the pending general election. When asked if the election date had influenced the management of the disease, Mr Blair had replied "categorically not" and "nonsense" and said that he had focused on tackling the disease. He did concede that calling in the Army earlier "might have made a difference early on in the crisis".
One of the main criticisms was the lack of contingency planning, despite a report by one of the Government's vets, Richard Drummond, who said that the veterinary service could not cope with a serious disease outbreak. A government memorandum to the inquiry said that a plan was in place. However, Dr Anderson said: "We did not find this to be so." A failure to have an agreed strategy also led to arguments when the disease was spreading. After a state vet had spotted the first likely case at the Cheale Meats abattoir, it was decided to use an e-mail to alert the Pirbright laboratory, the world reference centre for the disease, that samples had been sent. This e-mail was not read and 12 hours were wasted. "Urgent phone calls" should have been made.
The report also discloses that government vets had been more preoccupied with BSE than with drawing up plans to fight foot-and-mouth. Mr Scudamore was even approached about the lack of progress by a senior Welsh vet who was concerned enough to want to train staff and draw up plans for the slaughter and disposal of dead animals. Mr Scudamore was told of the impending threat of a foot-and-mouth outbreak from the Middle and Far East during a visit to the Pirbright laboratory in July 2000, 8 months before the first case. After this visit Mr Scudamore raised his concerns with colleagues, but the issue was never discussed with ministers or senior officials. The report says: "No action outside the state veterinary service was taken to tackle the significant shortcomings. We believe this contributed to a false sense of security within MAFF."
For future emergencies Dr Anderson suggests creating a national volunteer reserve like the Home Guard. The state veterinary service should form "flying squads" that can investigate new alerts and "veterinary paramedics" should help vets to identify diseased farms.
In summing up, Dr Anderson said that Mr Scudamore was a "man of considerable honour and professional integrity" and after this experience was "a better person" to have in his position. One of the key criticisms of Mr Brown was his assertion on television on 11 Mar 2001 that he was "absolutely certain" that the disease was under control. "His comments did not reflect the situation on the ground. The disease was, at this stage, out of control by any reasonable measure," Dr Anderson said. Mr Brown's comments led to a loss of trust in rural communities.
The report also highlights the lack of recognition of the impact of the disease on tourism and the rural economy. Dr Anderson concludes: "We recognise the desire to see someone blamed and understand the frustration and anger felt by so many. However, the nation will not be best served by seeking to blame individuals; rather we should seek to apply the lessons to be learnt."
Rural groups say inquiry "should have dug deeper"Farmers, campaigners and experts welcomed the Anderson Report into the foot and mouth outbreak yesterday, but criticised it for not going far enough. There was relief that the report detailed, and condemned, the Government's failure to effectively tackle the outbreak in the first few weeks.
Lady Emma Tennant, whose husband is a farmer in Cumbria, which was ravaged by the disease, said: "I'm delighted that's come out in the open at last. It hasn't been properly recognised until now. That's the first step towards putting it right for next time and towards somebody taking responsibility for what happened." But as a campaigner for animal vaccinations to protect against an outbreak spreading in the future, she was disappointed that Dr Iain Anderson's report only recommended the measure as an option. "It's the obvious thing to do," she said. "I would say it's a necessity not an option."
Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association [the leading UK association for organic agriculture] and another campaigner for a vaccination policy, said of the report: "It doesn't go far enough. It's a classic apportionment of blame exercise without recognising what the real omission by the Government was -- the ability to take on new ideas at crucial moments. They weren't open to new ideas."
Brigadier Alex Birtwistle, the Army officer appointed to co-ordinate the response to the disease a month into the crisis, agreed with much of what the report highlighted as Government failures. He said that when he took on the task of combating the spread of the disease, the situation was "a shambles" caused by a failure of suitable management. He said: "This was a simple management problem. "At national level there was a failure to co-ordinate early. You don't need hindsight to realise that. It was common sense. It was an abrogation of responsibility by certain individuals and groups."
Professor Roy Anderson, an epidemiologist from Imperial College, London who advised the Chief Scientist, Professor David King, on how the outbreak should be handled, welcomed the report as fair. He was convinced its recommendations would help to ensure that any repeat outbreak would be tackled more effectively. "It's a very comprehensive document with a lot of clear guidance about how things should be improved."
Beckett rues mistakes in foot and mouth crisisNick Brown, the former agriculture minister, was singled out yesterday for fierce criticism by the official inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis.
In an account of the government's "haphazard and messy" response to the crisis, Mr Brown was blamed for losing the confidence of farmers after he falsely claimed that the disease was under control. Margaret Beckett, who succeeded him in the rural affairs department, last night defended Mr Brown, who was demoted to work and pensions minister after the election. But in a statement to MPs, she admitted that mistakes had been made in "desperate circumstances". Mrs Beckett also accepted a key recommendation of the foot and mouth inquiry: that the government should formally adopt vaccination as a possible measure against future outbreaks of the disease.
The report dismissed Mr Brown's assertion on 11 Mar 2001 -- nearly 3 weeks into the crisis. It said: "His comments did not reflect the situation on the ground. The disease was, at this stage, out of control by any reasonable measure. "The minister's comments contributed to the loss of trust on the part of rural communities. Many people, including some of those directly involved in managing the outbreak, still find it difficult to reconcile their experiences during this period with the notion of the disease being under control."
The remarks about Mr Brown were the most pointed criticism of any individual in the foot and mouth inquiry, which was chaired by Iain Anderson, a former adviser to Tony Blair. No individual is blamed for the crisis, but Dr Anderson said that a series of blunders turned it into a disaster.
He criticised ministers for:
Failing to call in the army until late in the crisis; Failing to introduce national restrictions on the movements of livestock until 3 days after the outbreak, unlike the Netherlands, which introduced restrictions within 24 hours of the first outbreak in Britain. "Considering what is known about the infectious nature of this disease, we conclude that earlier movement restrictions would have been justified and should have been ready to be put in place more quickly than they were"; Failing to hand control of the disease to the Cobra crisis centre in the Cabinet Office until the 31st day of the crisis.
The report warned that lessons of the inquiry into the 1967 foot and mouth outbreak appeared not to have been learned. "In the Northumberland report [into the 1967 outbreak] and back through the decades similar conclusions to ours were drawn about the need for preparation, the rapid deployment of resources and the central importance of speed, above all speed-to-slaughter of infected animals. Better preparation to support speedier deployment of critical skills and faster action on the ground to slaughter infected animals and their close contacts would have limited the scale of the damage".
Tony Blair, who was praised for his decisive role in bringing the disease under control once Downing Street and the Cabinet Office took charge, did not escape criticism. He was among a series of ministers and officials criticised for their failure to recall key events from the crisis. "There was not a coherent memory of how [key decisions] were made," Dr Anderson said.
Mrs Beckett told MPs that the government was "determined to learn the lessons" of what happened in one of the world's worst epidemics. Flanked by Mr Blair, she said she had no difficulty in accepting Dr Anderson's recommendation that the government should admit it made mistakes. "I can and I do," Mrs Beckett said. "The house will know that I have always acknowledged that in the desperate circumstances faced not only by the farming community but by my department and its officials... mistakes were bound to have been made."
Recommendations of reports into foot-and-mouthThe Government set up 3 inquiries following the most recent foot and mouth outbreak. The main points of all 3, and of the inquiry report after the 1967 outbreak, are listed below.
1. The Lessons learned inquiry by Dr Iain Anderson, a former advisor to the Prime Minister,... is the final report. Its main recommendations are:
2. A scientific inquiry by the Royal Society, chaired by Sir Brian Follett reported last week. Its main recommendations were:
- Revise powers under the Animal Health Act 1981 to ensure laws for slaughter are clarified.
- Vaccination must form part of future control of a disease outbreak.
- The Military to be called in immediately for assessment of help they can provide.
- The 20-day standstill between the movement of animals to remain until new risk assessments are finalised.
- Electronic tagging systems for cattle, sheep and pigs.
- Create a new national volunteer reserve to help in a disease outbreak.
- State veterinary service to form "flying squads" to respond to a disease alert.
- Devise new role for veterinary "paramedics" to assist vets in outbreaks.
- New training for farmers and vets in spotting rare diseases and bio-security.
- No more funeral pyres for dead animals.
- New guidance and instructions on slaughter of animals.
- More consultation with local communities about locations of burial pits.
- A "senatorial" group to be set up to provide independent advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet during a crisis.
- Accountants and procurement experts to be recruited to work in emergency control centres during a crisis.
3. The Policy Commission on Food and Farming, chaired by Sir Don Curry, reported in January 2002. Its main recommendations were:
- Emergency vaccination to be used as "a major tool of first resort" to prevent a foot and mouth outbreak becoming an epidemic.
- The aim is to "vaccinate to live" and for animals to enter the food chain in the normal way.
- A new campaign to win over consumers to safe eating of foot and mouth vaccinated meat and milk.
- More research for a foot and mouth vaccine which could possibly be used routinely (ie not just for emergency vaccination) within 15 years - this would require international agreement.
- A new early warning system to alert the country to potential threat from new exotic diseases. One option is for a New National Centre for Animal Disease Research and Surveillance.
- An EU-wide database on disease, threat and risks.
- A new national database of every owner of farm animals including pets, zoos, rare breed collections and animal sanctuaries.
- The need to draw up contingency plans for every possible disease threat and for the strategies to be debated in Parliament.
- Tighter import controls at ports on passenger baggage and freight containers to keep out diseases.
- More training for farmers and vets to spot rare diseases and even a special video to be compiled for the purpose.
- Tighter controls on animal movements for sheep and cattle to ensure traceability and limit potential for spread of disease.
- An extra 250 million BP funding requited for research and development, particularly to find a new diagnostic test to quickly identify diseased farms.
- Tests to distinguish between an infected and vaccinated animals also a priority.
- Encourage new vets to join the state veterinary service.
- A shift from wasteful food subsidies to greener farming.
- The vision was for 20 percent of all farm subsidy payments to be paid for environmental schemes and rural projects by 2007.
- The creation of a Food Chain Centre to ensure to ensure maximum efficiency from farm gate to plate and to help farmers to drive up their prices.
- Boost for organic farming - farmers to receive payments after conversion from traditional to organic farming, as happens in other continental countries.
- New controls on illegal meat imports - the Government is already working on a scheme to introduce sniffer dogs to check luggage at airports and ports.
- New champion for local food to encourage people to buy British.
- An extension of the red tractor logo on farm foods.
- A new Priorities Board to decide and fund new research on animal diseases.
- A network of demonstration farms to show best practice.
- Farms should follow strict farm standards or face Government licensing.
- -An increase from 10 000 to 50 000 seasonal part-time workers a year allowed to be hired by farmers. Fruit growers are unable to find pickers in summer and this allows them to employ more foreign students.
- Farmers to be paid handouts from Brussels in euros to save bank conversion costs.
- Electronic tagging of all cattle, sheep and pigs.
- Boost for green energy with reduction of duty on biofuels and more support for combined heat and power plants.
- Streamline red tape by setting up new system of farm audits.
- All school children to visit a working farm.
An Independent Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease in Scotland initiated by the Royal Society of EdinburghIt was chaired by Professor Ian Cunningham.
This embraced not only the scientific aspects of the outbreak, but also economic, social and psychological effects of the event.
In all, some twenty seven recommendations were made to the Scottish Executive.
- The costs to Scottish agriculture of the FMD outbreak were estimated to be £231m and the loss of gross revenue to tourism to be between £200–250m for Scotland as a whole.
- There should be a regional laboratory in Scotland, and priority be given to the development of testing procedures,
- The delay in imposing a ban of all movements until the third day after confirmation, the use of less than transparent modelling techniques and the failure to call on more than a fraction of the considerable relevant scientific expertise available in Scotland were criticised.
- The case for emergency protective vaccination, without subsequent slaughter, was supported by the evidence and it was recommended that contingency plans should include emergency barrier, or ring. vaccination as an adjunct to slaughter in clinical cases.
- Reservations about the consumption of meat and milk from vaccinated animals were unjustified.
- The importance of biosecurity at all times and throughout the agricultural industry was emphasised and SEERAD (The Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department) should take the lead in establishing standards to be applied in normal times and at the start of an outbreak.
- A Chief Veterinary Officer (Scotland) should be appointed and a "Territorial Veterinary Army" formed from professionals to be called upon should need arise.
- Burial of carcasses, where conditions permit, is the preferred option for disposal of slaughtered animals.
- The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) should have a clear role in contingency planning and management of any future emergency.
- There was a need for operational guidelines for slaughtermen. In formulating movement restriction, the dispersed nature of many holdings should be taken into account.
- There should be a clear and consistent strategy for compensation for slaughtered animals.
- The closing down of the country initially for no more than three weeks and then reopening in non-affected areas was recommended.
- Great importance was placed on contingency planning, on the need for regular exercises and on the setting up of an independent standing committee to monitor the maintenance of effective planning.
4. The Duke of Northumberland chaired an inquiry into the 1967 foot and mouth outbreak.Its main recommendations were:
- Ring vaccination to prevent spread of the disease - animals would later be slaughtered and removed from food chain as occurred in The Netherlands last year.
- The mobilisation of the Army from day one.
- A ban on meat imports from countries with a history of foot and mouth disease.
- The rapid slaughter of infected animals and burying them on farm in pits lined with quicklime. The inquiry favoured burying, not burning, dead animals.
- nfected farms disinfected and cleaned within 24 hours.
- Stringent checks on pig swill operators to ensure food was being boiled for an hour to kill off disease.
- The appointment of a team of valuers nationwide to keep check on the compensation payments to farmers.