David Lidington: Change to 20-Day Rule: at last DEFRA joins the real world

Commenting on the changes to livestock movement restrictions announced today
by Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty, David Lidington MP, Shadow
Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
said:

"At last, DEFRA has joined the real world. This announcement is long
overdue. Conservatives have long been pressing ministers to reduce the
standstill period but were accused by Ministers of being 'irresponsible' and
even 'outrageous'.

"It is shameful that the industry had to wait sixteen months after the last
case of Foot and Mouth for the Government to act. Livestock markets have
been forced to the brink of ruin. Some farmers have had to choose between
obeying the rules and making a living. Lord Whitty himself admitted that the
20-day rule could lead to parts of the farming industry being 'wiped-out'.

"Although in July 2002 an analysis of the costs and risks involved with the
20-day rule was recommended by the Government's inquiry into Foot and Mouth,
this analysis has still not been completed and will not be until May 2003.
This kind of inordinate delay places the farming industry under even more
pressure at a time when it is battling to cope with the worst agricultural
recession in living memory. 

"The Government must now work with the industry to put the biosecurity
measures in place and take urgent action to prevent illegal meat imports
bringing disease into the U.K. in the first place."

ENDS

Notes to editors
* 'The Opposition's position on the 20-day rule in last
night's debate was irresponsible.' (Elliot Morley, HC Debs, Col. 460, 17
October 2002).
* Larry Whitty has himself admitted that parts of the farming
industry could be 'wiped out' if the rule remains in place. (Farmers
Guardian, September 13 2002).
* Morley admitted that some veterinary advisers 'feel strongly
that we have gone too far' with the 20-day rule. (Farmers Guardian, November
15 2002).
* On 8 August 2002 David Lidington MP wrote to Margaret
Beckett asking her to consider a five or six day restriction.
* 'Is not it outrageous of the Opposition, who demand better
methods to ensure that foot and mouth does not return and spread and that
other infections do not come to this country, to oppose the Government on a
sensible moderate scheme for the 20-day rule?' (Paul Flynn, HC Debs, col 460
17 October 2002).

For further information please contact David Lidington MP on 0207 219 4573
or pager 07626 802627 or Laura Chisholm on 0207 984 8084.

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