Ex-minister denies abattoir negligence

STEPHEN DORRELL clashed with the chairman of the BSE Inquiry yesterday, over the failure of Tory ministers' to stress to abattoir staff the importance of rules banning BSE-infective tissues from food.

Mr Dorrell, the former secretary of state for health, said that obeying regulations was the abattoirs' statutory job, and that "I am not sure what more ministers can do."

But the inquiry panel pointed out that ministers and abattoirs each seemed to assume that the claims of the other guaranteed their own actions and statements - particularly ministers' repeated claims that beef was "safe to eat".

Mr Dorrell told the inquiry in south London that ministers had assumed that abattoirs were obeying the 1989 "specified offals ban" to remove tissues such as spinal cord from cattle carcasses: "My understanding that beef was safe had two foundations," he noted in a statement before the hearing. "The first... was that BSE was most unlikely to be transmissible to humans. The second was that even if it was.... the Government had already introduced the specified offals ban".

But Judge Sir Nicholas Phillips pointed out to Mr Dorrell that "as time went by, those who knew about the subject attached increasing importance to these regulations, because evidence raised question marks over the thesis that [BSE] is not transmissible [to humans]".

But, he said, no evidence from the industry or ministers had suggested any point where slaughterhouses were told that the risk of transmissibility might be higher, and that it was crucial that infected parts were removed.

June Bridgeman, another of the three-strong inquiry panel, told Mr Dorrell that other witnesses had said they regarded the abattoir regulations as "a mere precaution" because ministers had been assuring people that beef was safe to eat. Mr Dorrell replied: "The only basis which I felt free to say beef is safe is on the basis that these safeguards were in place and being enforced. Clearly if the safeguards were not being enforced, we could not have felt that beef was in the normal meaning of the word safe."

He added: "These were people under a statutory obligation to perform a duty and under those circumstances I am not sure what more ministers can do."

He said that in November 1995, where 17 cases where spinal cord had been found attached to the carcass after dressing, was "potentially serious".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test