Plymouth daily presses case for F&M inquiry

The Western Morning News is keeping up its pressure on the Government to hold a public inquiry into the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.

It believes its case has been strengthened by a statement by farms minister Lord Whitty in Parliament in which he said a report leaked to the WMN should have been made available to the Anderson Inquiry into foot and mouth.

The report by government vet James Dring said the outbreak “would never have come about” if his inspection of Burnside Farm in Northumberland had been “more rigorous”.

He also highlighted staff shortages in the State Veterinary Services.

WMN editor Barrie Williams said: “I am glad we’ve got to the truth. It is just incredible the way it’s been handled from start to finish. I am impressed by Lord Whitty.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore has accused the WMN of “selective and tendentious reporting”.

In a letter to the paper Scudamore claimed: “To suggest that Mr Dring may have been responsible for the foot and mouth disease outbreak, instead of the illegal pig swill feeding that was taking place at Burnside Farm, is to turn logic and natural justice on its head. It has also caused great pain to a dedicated public servant.”

Williams in return accused Defra of trying to turn the WMN “into the villain of the piece”. He said: “The WMN has paid tribute to Mr Dring’s honesty and courage and stressed several times that it would be wholly wrong to make him a scapegoat.”

By Jon Slattery

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