GM Foods: Cunningham faces Commons quiz on fiasco over new crops

Click to follow
ONE OF Parliament's most powerful committees is to scrutinise the Government's policies on genetically modified (GM) foods.

Its members plan to call the cabinet "enforcer" Jack Cunningham to account for this month's fiasco, when panic-stricken ministers were overwhelmed by the strength of public outrage, and were forced to go on the defensive, backing the products.

The urgent inquiry, by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, will alarm the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues, who had hoped to draw a line under the issue after the embarrassment of recent weeks.

Mr Blair, who is deeply committed to the development of GM crops and foods, has been privately telling MPs that the recent outcry is a "flash in the pan" and predicting that it would disappear. But the inquiry will ensure that it will remain a political issue until the committee completes its report in the spring. The committee, established by the Government last year to scrutinise environmental policies throughout Whitehall, starts its inquiry on Tuesday.

Members will finally decide who to call as witnesses on Tuesday, but they have already discussed calling Dr Cunningham, who chairs a cabinet committee on biotechnology. He acted as spokesman for the Government during the recent outcry, and noticeably failed in his attempts to reassure the public.

The committee, which is to hold a particularly rapid inquiry, will examine the fiasco, and the general failure to co-ordinate government policy on the new foods.

One member, Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on GM foods, said: "Jack Cunningham will be asked to explain the chaos of the last weeks and will be asked what confidence we can have in his role in co- ordinating biotechnology issues.

" We want to know who is in control of the policy - and, indeed, whether the Government is in control at all."