Brian Wilson, chairman of the port authority at Shoreham, West Sussex, scene of bitter clashes between riot police and protesters over the past week, stepped down on the grounds of ill health. Mr Wilson had been chairman for two years and on the board ofthe authority for more than 20 years.
The port's agents' association, which pressed the authority to end the trade earlier in the day, said it was pleased with his resignation.
The authority, however, was at pains to point out that Mr Wilson's decision to step down, announced at the start of a special board meeting, was not related to the protests. "The decision was nothing to do with the present problems of the port over the transport of live stock," an authority spokesman said. "It was simply because his health no longer made it possible for him to carry out his duties as board member or chairman."
The move came as William Waldegrave, the Agriculture Minister, faced calls for his resignation after it was revealed that calves from his family farm in Somerset are sold abroad to be raised in veal crates, a practice banned in Britain. There were fears yesterday that Mr Waldegrave's farm could become a target for animal rights' protesters but police refused to comment on security arrangents.
Sir Andrew Bowden, vice president of the League Against Cruel Sports, said Mr Waldegrave should either step down or ensure his animals are not sold for continental veal. Sir Richard Body, a former member of the Commons select committee on agriculture, said yesterday that Mr Waldegrave could easily take steps to create a market for humanely-produced British veal.
Hours before Mr Wilson's departure, the port agents' association had demanded that all the authority's governors should resign. The agents' association agreed to draft a letter to the Department of Transport calling for the resignation of the entire board of governors at the port.
Jim Glover, chairman of the sssociation, said: "We want their resignations because of their failure to consult with the many and varied port interests over the acceptance of traffic of such a sensitive nature as the live stock trade. We're also concernedabout the general lack of consideration given to other port users given the consequences of accepting the trade.They never talked to us when it was mooted, they never talked to us during the start of it."
Mr Wilson's departure came against a backdrop of violence at Shoreham, where a policeman suffered knee and head injuries when he was hit by a car.There were also fears of the trouble spreading to Plymouth today, where there have been 15 livestock shipments.
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