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Meat hygiene chief resigns

Donald Macintyre looks back on Philip Corrigan's short career in the UK
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Philip Corrigan, head of the Meat Hygiene Service, has resigned "for personal reasons" nine days after the Independent revealed that he was appointed to his job while he was under investigation by the Australian government.

The Meat Hygiene Service announced last night that Mr Corrigan will step down from his £50,000 a year post from 31 July.

A statement said Mr Corrigan had stated that he would continue longer in his post "if required" until a replacement had been found. It did not mention claims made in the Australian Senate that Mr Corrigan, a former senior official in the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), had faced six disciplinary charges under Section 61 of the Public Services Act.

The alleged offences - which were not criminal and carry the maximum penalty of dismissal - were believed to concern funding for overseas travel.

Mr Corrigan's appointment was the subject of a parliamentary question by Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrats' agriculture spokesman, who raised the issue of what references had been sought by the British government before he was appointed.

Angela Browning, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the normal inquiries had been made with AQIS.

Last night's statement said that Mr Corrigan had "used his international experience to shape the operational strategy of the Meat Hygiene Service to ensure it operates in the most professional and effective manner possible". The service is responsible for the enforcement of standards in abattoirs throughout the country.

It went on: "Philip Corrigan is a veterinary surgeon with a recognised international reputation in meat hygiene and in his time with the Meat Hygiene Service, he has developed excellent working relations with his peers, colleagues and staff. His work in assisting in the establishment of the Meat Hygiene Services has involved considerable personal sacrifice for Mr Corrigan - being apart from his family [still in Australia] and working long hours and seven days a week for many months."

Senator Bill O'Chee complained in the Australian senate on 21 March that the powerful senate estimates committee had not been told last November that Mr Corrigan had been given "official permission to have extended leave of absence so that he could take up a high-flying job in the United Kingdom".

The ministry said at the time that it was aware of allegations against Mr Corrigan, but that inquiries had not produced any evidence that he had acted "improperly or dishonestly".

Mr Corrigan, 48, was appointed to his job here last August. A document tabled in the Australian Senate in 1993 and purporting to be a letter from him to the Cold Storage Association of Australia sought a $500 grant towards a trip to an international conference on food-borne infections in Berlin.