Former government ministers, farmers and consumer groups, and unions spoke out today over the BSE report.

Former government ministers, farmers and consumer groups, and unions spoke out today over the BSE report.

Former Agriculture Minister John MacGregor said: "The inquiry team has taken nearly three years to produce its report, which is very long and detailed.

"In a report of this size and complexity, the minister was right to say in the House this afternoon that it must be read in its entirety.

"It needs proper consideration, and like the Government, I will make my comments on its wide-ranging recommendations in the debate.

"Like everyone else, I am deeply saddened by the deaths and share all the concern and sympathies expressed in the House today for the families. I warmly welcome the decision on a care and compensation package."

An aide to another former Agriculture Minister, John Gummer, said he would not be commenting until he read the report in full and that would not be today.

Tory Douglas Hogg, who was Agriculture Minister in 1995-1997, said he was "deeply sorry" both for the victims of vCJD and their families and the farmers who had suffered "deep loss".

He welcomed findings in the report that he had made and implemented the "right" policies when he was minister, which still formed the basis of today's policy.

Current Agricultue minister Nick Brown pointed out that there were also criticisms of Mr Hogg in the report and repeated his call to MPs to read the whole report.

Michael Jack, Conservative MP for Fylde, urged the minister to encourage other European countries to hold a full debate of the lessons to be learned from the report.

Mr Brown told him a copy of the report has been sent to European Union partners and hoped "it would enable them to learn the lessons we have so painfully learned and avoid these tragedies happening elsewhere."

Liberal Democrat chairman Malcolm Bruce said the consequences of withholding information about BSE had been "devastating" and asked what action was being taken to prepare for a large rise in the number of cases in the future.

Judy Mallaber, one of several MPs who spoke about constituents who had been victims of vCJD, said a failure to learn fully all the lessons about removing the "culture of secrecy" would be a "betrayal" of victims' families.

She welcomed the compensation packages, saying she was glad the families would not have to "struggle through the courts" to get it.

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said the industry was determined to continue learning the lessons of the "traumatic" BSE episode. The report laid out the mistakes which "must never be made again".

He claimed farmers had co-operated with all measures to stamp out the disease "every step of the way".

"British agriculture has turned itself inside out to learn from this tragedy," he added.

"Farming today is wiser and more capable than ever before of producing the safest food possible.

"The report concludes that BSE developed into an epidemic as a result of the recycling of animal protein in feed. That is a traditional practice throughout the world and it has now been stopped in the UK.

"This report must mark a watershed in the way we deal with food safety issues in the future.

"Many lessons have already been learned and we are applying those lessons every day.

"But we will study the report carefully to identify any further necessary procedures."

Britain's biggest union Unison warned the Government to "think again" about its plans to privatise meat inspections in light of today's BSE report.

The union, which represents meat inspectors working for the Meat Hygiene Service, believes that BSE and the E.coli crisis are proof that "light touch" enforcement could endanger public health, pointing to the previous Government's failure to ensure strict safety enforcement.

Ben Priestley, Unison's national officer, said: "The Government's plans to reduce the thin red line between consumers and a high risk food such as meat will undermine already fragile consumer confidence.

"We believe that only strong independent meat inspection can ensure public health and restore confidence in the meat industry."

The Transport and General Workers' Union, which represents tens of thousands of agricultural and food processing workers, today called for the Food Standards Agency to make public health its priority and rebuild consumer confidence in the light of the report.

Barry Leathwood, the union's national secretary for agricultural workers, said: "We must never again find ourselves in a position where fears over contaminated food are swept under the carpet and consumers are treated with utter disregard.

"This report documents one of the worst failures of government this country has ever seen.

"The new Food Standards Agency must be completely independent of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods. Only then will the precautionary principle be established as the guiding rule when dealing with new food processes."

David Tyson, president of the British Veterinary Association, said it was in everyone's interests that the report was now put to "positive use".

"Mistakes were made but lessons have been learned and, as was said in the House of Commons this afternoon, must continue to be learned," he said.

"We welcome the Food Standards Agency's pledge of openness and public accountability and of its commitment to stringent precautionary measures, supported by scientific research, to protect public health.

"The veterinary profession, who have had to deal with and solve a problem not of its making, will play its part.

"The findings of the inquiry will enable the profession to modify its responses, not only to the still unfolding story of BSE, but also to any similar situations in the future." Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers' Association, said: "The Government's response to the Phillips report is a huge disappointment.

"This could be one of the worst public health disasters we've ever had to deal with.

"We warmly welcome the establishment of a system for supporting families and victims of CJD.

"But the minister's speech shows that few lessons have really been learnt from the inquiry. Complacency continues. Protecting the Government machine still has priority over public health.

"We may have a Food Standards Agency, but there is still no real freedom of information in this country.

"Scientific evidence considered by BSE committees is not available to the public and policy advice to Ministers still does not have to be disclosed.

"The communication of risk has been appalling and we still do not know about the risk of BSE in sheep or lamb. We do not know the risks of human to human transmission.

"The Government has a confused agenda on consumer protection and the precautionary principle. It is a long way from really putting it into practice."

Residents of a Leicestershire village where there has been a cluster of nvCJD cases welcomed moves by ministers to set up a care programme for the families of victims.

Chairman of Queniborough parish council, David Taylor, said now that the Government had acknowledged its role in the outbreak it would be a comfort to families.

He said: "Hopefully this report is a comfort to people living in my village who have been affected by the disease. It is a comfort to me knowing the truth has been told.

"I am not concerned so much with the compensation package, more with the fact the Government will put a care package into place.

"The difficulties the families had was finding the appropriate care when their relatives were ill."

Parish councillor Rosemary Smith said: "I think it's a very fair report. It had to be done.

The village became the focus for a major investigation after four cases with links to BSE were confirmed.

Pamela Beyless, 24, died in nearby Glenfield in September 1998, while Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough, died in October 1998.

Mother Stacey Robinson, 19, from nearby Thurmaston, died in August 1998 and Christopher Reeve, a former farmhand who worked in Queniborough and lived in nearby Rearsby, died earlier this year.

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