From the Western Morning News

Jan 3

The fight for the facts about the foot and mouth disaster took a major step forward yesterday when a date was revealed for court action that could lead to the beginning of a full public inquiry.

The hearing, backed by the Western Morning News, the Western Mail in Cardiff and the Farmers Weekly magazine, could mean ministers being compelled to give evidence about their handling of the crisis.

It comes as Downing Street dismissed a letter - signed by the editors of all three publications plus The Journal in Newcastle - highlighting a petition calling for a public inquiry which was signed by more than 100,000 people 40,000 of them WMN readers.

The two paragraph reply from number 10 Downing street, simply referred the matter to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

WMN Editor Barrie Williams last night described the response as a 'cynical smack in the teeth for all those people who felt so strongly about foot and mouth that they signed the petition'.

He said: "if anything, it's just further proof why there must be a public inquiry. Number 10 just doesn't want to know about foot and mouth."

"This letter is typical. It's the usual Tony Blair evasiveness and dismissiveness of people in the countryside. He doesn't want scrutiny because he knows it could show up his own Government's cruel and chaotic handling of the crisis. But we're not going to let the matter rest, which is why we launched the petition and why we're backing the court action."

The hearing in the Divisional Court in London between February 19 and 22 has come about after a team of West Country lawyers decided to challenge the Government's refusal to hold a full public inquiry.