Farm virus official quits amid disquiet

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Indy Politics

The most senior civil servant involved in the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic has resigned amid growing disquiet among ministers at the soaring cost of the operation.

Jenny Bacon took over 10 months ago as head of the Ministry of Agriculture's animal health and environment division, which is responsible for the emergency measures necessitated by the disease. She was responsible for liaising with Downing Street over the foot-and-mouth figures and "putting the final touches" to ministers' statements on the crisis.

Her decision to leave the post coincides with the mounting concern felt by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Margaret Beckett over the rising cost of the clean-up operation and the way that farmers are being compensated.

This week cost concerns prompted the Prime Minister to suspend the clean-up exercise. Mrs Beckett has launched an inquiry into the compensation scheme for farmers after being alerted to the excessive valuations being put on culled livestock.

Mr Blair is said to have been unimpressed by Maff. His mood was described as "livid" by one aide after he faced William Hague at Prime Minister's Question Time, armed with out of date and incomplete statistics.

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