Labour admits huge errors over foot and mouth

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The Independent Online

Closing Britain's countryside over foot and mouth was wrong, and should not happen again, the Government now admits.

Closing Britain's countryside over foot and mouth was wrong, and should not happen again, the Government now admits.

Its official evidence to the inquest into the epidemic acknowledges that its approach – which closed footpaths and caused events to be abandoned across the country – was "unduly precautionary". It estimates that the tourist and leisure industries lost £4.5bn-£5.3bn as a result of fewer visitors this year.

The evidence – to the official "Lessons Learned" inquiry, chaired by Sir Iain Anderson – vindicates The Independent on Sunday's campaigning coverage of the epidemic over a wide range of issues, from access to the countryside to the unsuitability of pyres to burn carcasses, from the value of vaccination to the way farmers helped spread the disease by failing to take proper safety precautions.

On Tuesday the Government's performance will come under unprecedented scrutiny when the Prime Minister holds a seminar in Downing Street on the future of the countryside, and former Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, gives evidence to an inquiry by the European Parliament.

The evidence, "supported by all department and agencies of the Government", accepts that there is little danger of walkers spreading the disease and makes it clear that, in future, footpaths will not be closed outside the most infected areas.

Lord Whitty, the food and farming minister, admits: "Many of the measures the Government and the industry took were criticised both at the time and since. Undoubtedly there are some things that with hindsight we would do differently or better."

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