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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The new rules will come as a huge relief for farmers"
 real 56k

Margaret Beckett MP
"Seven hundred and ninty million punds paid out in foot and mouth compensation"
 real 56k

Friday, 22 June, 2001, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Further farm restrictions lifted
Cows
The government is relaxing livestock restrictions
The government has lifted some of the restrictions on the movement of livestock imposed during the foot-and-mouth crisis.

From Friday licensed movement of all livestock from within infected areas is being permitted for slaughter at abattoirs outside infected areas.

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State at the new Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, accepted that mistakes had been made and the battle to eradicate the virus had not yet been won.

She also told MPs about plans to lift local councils' blanket footpath closures in an effort to ensure the British countryside was largely open for business this summer.


Revoking blanket closures will mean that by the summer holidays the vast majority of the countryside will be well and truly open

Margaret Beckett
Environment Secretary
And she confirmed the government would hold an inquiry once the outbreak was over - something the Conservatives said should be held in public.

Over half of all paths were now open but some remained closed where it was difficult to see why, said Mrs Beckett.

She explained the government was looking to revoke remaining blanket closures, although it would examine local representations.

Selective

"It will mean that by the summer holidays the vast majority of the countryside will be well and truly open and seen to be open for visitors and business," she said.

Councils will still be able to close paths selectively.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,777 - four on 22 June
3,398,000 animals slaughtered
8,339 premises with animals slaughtered or earmarked for slaughter

Cattle and pigs, but not sheep, from outside infected areas will also be allowed to move under licence into provisionally free areas on welfare grounds.

Mrs Beckett said 37 infected areas had now had restrictions lifted, involving 43,000 farms - one third of all those affected.

"The objective remains to eradicate the disease as quickly as we can," she said.

Dartmoor worries

She said it was hugely important that no one relaxed their guard.

"Some errors are likely to have been made" in the handling of the outbreak, said Mrs Beckett, who said there would be a inquiry - but did not specify that it would be in public.

An inquiry was "essential", said shadow environment minister Tim Yeo, for the Conservatives.

He criticised Prime Minister Tony Blair for saying in May that the government was on the "home straight" in stamping out the disease.

Tim Yeo
Yeo: Former ministers "conveniently shuffled away"
Former ministers "all of whom have been conveniently shuffled away or retired" must answer in public for their actions, said Mr Yeo.

For the Liberal Democrats, Colin Breed raised fears that the Dartmoor National Park might not be fully reopened for the summer season.

Mrs Beckett said the inquiry would "nail comprehensively many of the nonsenses and the myths which have been spread".

She would look into the situation on Dartmoor, she added.

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21 Jun 01 | UK
Inquiry into 'cruel' cull
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