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
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk