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I write as one of the claimants in the forthcoming JR seeking a Public Inquiry into FMD commencing February 18th.
Most people would agree that F&M has been a disaster for this country but especially for British Agriculture.The Government described F&M as the worst crisis since World War 2. Over 130,000 people have signed petitions requesting a Public Inquiry, but the Government does not want one.
If we have a Public Inquiry there will be a High Court Judge who sits in public and can force people to give evidence under oath and that is the only way in which we can find out what happened and hopefully learn lessons, so that we don't go through this again.
There are a whole host of questions that need answering such as-:
Where did the disease come from?
Why was the army not called in at the beginning?
Why were there no contingency plans?
Why was the contiguous operating without logic?
Why were local vets not allowed to make decisions when there was an obvious disease outbreak?
Why did Government force appalling welfare conditions to take place on many farms?
The list of questions that need to be asked and answered is more than many.
We know that Government does not want a proper Inquiry, it just wants a `Quickie Job' with a bit of whitewash and then bury the whole issue.
The Prime Minister has appointed his Special Adviser, Dr. Iain Anderson to look into FMD and to report back to him. Although Dr. Anderson is a very nice man, he has not been given the tools to do the job and the Inquiry is certainly not independent.
The Inquiry officials are drawn from the Cabinet Office, which describes itself as being at the Heart of Government. Dr. Anderson has been told to report in six months which he readily admits is not enough time to do justice to the issue. Where ever he travels around the country to take evidence, he is accompanied by senior DEFRA officials who are constantly giving advice. Some of those same people are accused of incompetence and Dr. Anderson is supposed to be investigating them.
If there is a Public Inquiry, the Prime Minister, who took personal control of F&M, would be obliged to give evidence in public under oath together with his Ministers and senior officials. In the Anderson Inquiry the Prime Minister has agreed to answer questions, but only in private.
Thank goodness we still have a free press in this country who are prepared to stand up against Government. It obviously means a great deal to us that the likes of the BBC and most of the National newspapers are going to be in the High Court beside us requesting a Public Inquiry and are being prepared to risk the wrath of the Government.
We know that the Government is determined to make sure that there is not a Public Inquiry and they have placed the Attorney General in court to defend DEFRA in this action. I only hope that the Lord Chancellor has no influence on the two Judges who are hearing the case.