28 October 2002

 

Dear Mr Howard

 

RE: CUMBRIAN FMD INQUIRY REPORT

 

Thank you for your letter dated 24 October 2002 and received by me 26 October 2002.

After some 4 weeks waiting for your letter, I naively believed that I would receive a full reply to my questions. Your letter is breathtakingly simplistic and is in parts as inaccurate as the CCC FMD Inquiry.  This is clearly unacceptable.

I would remind you that it was this County’s taxpayers who funded the Inquiry and as such have the right to receive detailed and accurate data on how and why their money has been misspent.  Phrases such as “in the order of” “historic receipts from the sale of assets” and “my understanding” fall well short of what I have requested and am now demanding. We do not wish to have another Hartington report now do we? I note Mr Howard that you headed this process and after endless meetings (all at Council Tax payers cost) the report withered away to nothing.

 

The only part of your letter that was remotely accurate was the 2nd to last paragraph in which you state, “ Whilst I am sure this letter will not satisfy the many concerns you have raised about FMD and the Cumbria Inquiry..”

 

Well you are absolutely correct in that instance.

 

Obviously my letter was too complicated so I will now break down my question into a more easily digestible format.

 

1. CCC Chairman stated earlier in the year in reference to the Inquiry, that Cumbrians needed to have accountability: -

“We need to draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis.”

“it will morally compel those who made decisions to account for them.”?

However as you rightly point out, Prof. Thomas did say at the Cumbria Task Force meeting in March that his clear intentions were to ensure that it was balanced but firmly critical where it needed to be. I was at this meeting and what you fail to state is that Prof. Thomas told me that he would not be looking to apportion blame or accountability. Earlier in the meeting I asked Mr Toft how Prof. Thomas would “give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis.” and  “morally compel those who made decisions to account for them.”

Mr Toft politely offered no advice. So on day one we had conflict in what CCC had told Cumbrians to expect from the Inquiry and what Prof. Thomas would in fact provide.

Q:- I would like a response from Mr Toft as to why there was this conflict, why did he assure Cumbrians we could have accountability when clearly Prof. Thomas would not provide this and does he feel therefore that this Inquiry has not in fact satisfied his remit? how, given the shallow, blunt and cowardly content of the report, can Cumbrians “draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis.”

 

2. Mr Rex Toft, Cumbria County Council Chairman, announced after Prof. Thomas had delivered his FMD Inquiry report that “The £95,000 cost of the inquiry represented good value.” He went on to say he was unsure if the Council would still press for a full Government Inquiry.

Q:- Will the Council still press the Government for a full independent inquiry? For this report to represent good value it would need to be accurate, well balanced and complete. But there were many examples of  how appallingly inaccurate the report was. I detailed some of these in my earlier letter, but a quick comparison will show just one area of inept reporting:-

 

EU DRAFT DOCUMENT ON FMD:
 

"It remains controversial and doubtful whether the 24/48 hour contiguous cull strategy was really responsible for curbing the epidemic."

 

CUMBRIA FMD INQUIRY REPORT :

 

The development of the contiguous culling policy was more scientific than the 3km cull, although it has proved equally contentious. The policy was based on a computer model providing a simulation of the epidemic…the evidence seems to suggest that the duration of the epidemic was reduced as the ratio of “exposed” premises culled to infected premises culled increased.

 

Q:- The Cumbrian FMD Inquiry is infested with inaccuracies and the report fails to replicate the evidence given on many major points Does Mr Toft still feel that the inquiry represents good value?

 

Q:- Why did Prof. Thomas state that there were 2026 Infected Premises. This deserves closer scrutiny. Only 1324 premises were Laboratory positive, with 401 negative and 171 untested. (JCC DATA analysis). Clearly there were far less than 2026. A further glaring example of the inaccuracies contained within the report.For interest, 10,509 farms were slaughtered out, but on less than 13% of these farms was laboratory evidence of FMD found. This testing is accepted to be at least 90% accurate. (Pirbright statement).

 

Q:-Prof.. Thomas states “The development of the contiguous culling policy was more scientific than the 3km cull.” It could barely be less scientific than the 3km cull. There was no scientific reason to impose the 3km cull at all and this policy was lambasted by, amongst others, the IAH at Pirbright. So where on earth did Prof. Thomas dream this one up?

 

Q:-The killing of healthy animals under UK law was also illegal. The Upton Vs DEFRA case resulted in DEFRA having to pay some £40,000 costs and the presiding Judge stated that DEFRA had no legal right to conduct blanket culling. DEFRA knew this of course and interestingly retired with a bloody nose and never attempted court action on this subject again. Why did Prof. Thomas fail to comment on the legality of the cull?

 

Q:- Why did Prof. Thomas also add (part of his brief?) his own unscientific and inaccurate comments. He states that the higher ratios of culling healthy farms resulted in the quicker eradication of the disease. He again believes exactly what MAFF statistics tell him.Take Dumfries & Galloway. According to the Thomas report D&G slaughtered out around 7.5 farms per I/P. WRONG.  There were 176 so called I/P`s. Of these, 157 were sampled and 56 were negative. Not one DC contiguous or non-contiguous or SOS farm (all were tested) was found to have FMD. Now, by reassessing these figures and noting that there were in fact only 101 I/P`s and 1319 Contig./SOS/DC farms, we arrive at the staggering value of 13.05 farms culled out per I/P

 

Q:-Why did Prof. Thomas naively state, “Consistent with the introduction of the 3km cull (after 15th March), Cumbrian outbreaks began to decline after the additional introduction of the contiguous cull (after 26th March 2001). There is a suggestion that, from the peak of the epidemic, the rate of the decline may have been slightly slower in Cumbria, but both there and elsewhere the epidemic had reduced to the “tail” levels by the week commencing 8 May 2001.”

 

I again quote information contradicting this statement and which has never been contested by DEFRA.

 

 

EXTRACT:-

 

The decline in the epidemic can be shown to be independent of the new culling measures as follows:-

 

The peak of the epidemic had already passed, and the steady decline in daily case numbers well established, BEFORE any possible impact of the new culling policies could have taken place. Even if the 48 hour target for CP culling had been met (which it was not), the incubation and early infectious stages of the disease allow an average of nine days to pass between exposure to the virus and the appearance of clinical signs for farm diagnosis. To re-cap the key dates are:-

 

23rd March 2001 Contiguous culling introduced with local veterinary assessment.

26th March 2001 Epidemic peaks with 54 cases a day.

29th March 2001 24/48 hour culling policy introduced.

9th April 2001 First possible impact of 24/48 hour culling, cases down to 32 per day.

 

The impact of the 24/48 hour culling could not have begun to take effect on reported new cases of infection until 11 days following 29th march 2001 (48hrs. plus 9 days incubation). On that date, 9th April 2001, the daily case numbers had already declined to an average of 32 per day and Prof. King was expressing “cautious optimism” that the new measures were starting to “turn things around” (Vet. Record, 14th April 2001). Yet clearly this was not, and could not be the case.

 

If the new culling policies were to make an impact on the course of the epidemic, this would show as a marked decline in daily case numbers commencing on or around 9th April 2001. That did not happen, in fact there is no significant change in the pattern of decline at any point that can be attributed to the new culling policies.”

 

 Mr Alan Beat has challenged many of the principal players with the above argument since it was first published in The Western Morning News in November 2001 – King, Anderson, Woolhouse, Keeling, Pirbright, EFRA Select Committee and others. NONE has made any attempt to refute it. They simply have no counter argument to offer.

 

Q:-  Why are there so many inaccuracies contained within the report?

 

Q:- Lord Whitty has stated that DEFRA will not take into account the Cumbrian Inquiry report. Will CCC therefore now demand an independent FMD Inquiry?

 

Q:- In your reply you state that the cost of the inquiry was in the order of £95,000. Not good enough. That is akin to stating that around 4.5 million animals were slaughtered when in fact nearly 11 million animals were slaughtered. (Another Thomas error). EXACTLY how much did the inquiry cost? When will Council Tax payers in Cumbria be able to see an audited account relating to the inquiry?

 

Q:- What assets (assets belonging to Cumbrians) were sold historically to fund this Inquiry. What were these receipts originally meant to fund?

 

Q:_ Given that CCC funded Disinfection procedures on road mats at a cost of £50,000 per week (a process subsequentially proven to be a nonsense), where did this funding come from?

 

Q:_ How much has the basic rate of Council Tax risen to cover costs relating to FMD?

 

 

3. You state in your letter that the inquiry was “substantially well received.”

 

Q:_ Who EXACTLY, a list please, has this report been “well received” by? I have yet to speak to anyone who feels the report is of a high standard.

 

Q:- Who recommended Prof. Thomas? Who finally appointed him?

 

 

4. With reference to Inquiry panel conflict you state that “This was not the case – my understanding is that there was not a cross word from anyone throughout the inquiry.”

 

Q:- Why then did at least one member of the panel feel that Prof. Thomas had been “got at” and feel great dissatisfaction with the initial inquiry report and state that the report had been severely watered down? This is fact. Your understanding Mr. Howard is wrong.

 

5. Finally, for now, why did you state in your letter that this letter will be posted on the Warmwell site? What right have you to say that this will be done? I have no objection at all. Your letter has already made amusing reading for many. Warmwell is an independent site run by one person. They have had NO correspondence from you concerning the matter.

 

I would remind you that it is my right as a taxpayer to ensure that money spent by CCC has been spent prudently. Please reply in full (every question this time) to this letter including, where applicable, replies from Mr. Toft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Yours sincerely.

 

 

 

            Mr N. L GREEN