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Programme highlights Friday, 9 February, 2001, 16:04 GMT
Response to BSE inquiry published
Lord Phillips, Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Lord Phillips' report was published in October 2000
The Government has published its first formal response to the BSE inquiry by Lord Phillips.

There are no radical new ideas, since Ministers believe that many of the most important implications of the BSE crisis have already been dealt with - for instance, by establishing the independent Food Standards Agency.

The Government has also accepted that no individual civil servants or politicians should be singled out for censure.

And it claims that the non-communication between departments - sharply criticised by Lord Phillips - is being strengthened and 'made more effective.'

This interim response covers every one of the 167 Phillips recommendations, though it does not deal in detail with compensation for victims of the human version of the disease, variant CJD. These are subject to separate negotiations.

The first victim of nCJD Stephen Churchill
88 people have died

So far at least 88 people have died of the disease, which has no cure. A solicitor representing many of the families, David Body, told the World at One that the relatives of victims were waiting for proposals from the government on compensation. He stressed that the critical outcome of the BSE report was that it changed the attitude of civil servants towards keeping information secret.

The Government's task in responding to Lord Phillips has been made easier by the tone of the original report, which told the story, more in sorrow than anger, about what it called ' a peculiarly British disaster'.

Scientists still concerned

Many of those who have followed the saga over many years, like the microbiologist Dr Stephen Dealler, did not feel that Phillips was tough enough: today, though, he told the programme that progress was being made.


There's a sort of internal feeling inside the civil service that everything must be private

Dr Stephen Dealler

Dr Dealler did, however, suggest that the culture of secrecy - one of Lord Phillips' main concerns - was still alive and well in Whitehall. He had recently tried to draw attention to some awkward facts, and had been told that they could only be discussed in private.

Government insists on public access

When that criticism was put to the Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, he said that was not how he conducted his meetings. Any scientific evidence presented to him would be in the public domain.

A cow suffering from BSE
Information will be publically available

He insisted that if the Food Standards Agency had existed in the late 1980s, as the BSE crisis broke, it would have ensured that the public received all the necessary information. It was no longer enough to say that people could simply be offered reassurance while scientists carried out research.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
David Body
"The critical thing here is changing attitudes"
Dr Stephen Dealler
"So far I have not seen any particular change"
Nick Brown
"There isn't just one person who's to blame for this"
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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