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Programme highlights Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 18:34 GMT
Animal slaughter scheme intensified.
Burning cows.
MAFF step up animal slaughter.
A programme of intensified slaughter of thousands of sheep now seems inevitable. The Minister for Agriculture, Nick Brown, will make a statement to MPs tomorrow.

It's understood that two dealers were responsible for about a thousand transports of animals AFTER the outbreak began but BEFORE it was detected.

By lunch time the number of confirmed cases was 215 - that's 24 more than the same time yesterday. Far from peaking, the foot and mouth outbreak is still growing in intensity - and today's news means that the original outbreak could well have been more widespread than first believed.

Relieve the burden

The National Farmers Union and dealers alike welcomed the announcement. The deputy director general of the NFU, Ian Gardiner, told me that the move would serve to relieve the burden on both farmers and MAFF.

William Cleeve, the biggest livestock dealer in Devon, and owner of the first farm in the area to be affected by the epidemic, confirmed to me that he suspected that he was one of the two dealers involved in the unwitting transport of infected animals.

He backed the Governments action but urged them to go back further in their records, and begin slaughtering animals from an earlier date than they currently intend.

Slaughter

Tony Blair and David Blunkett at photo opp.
Blair and Blunkett at Government jobs launch.

MAFF told us they willl not name the dealers involved at this stage. It says it is looking at slaughtering all risk sheep which came through "infected markets" and "dealers who's premises are infected". They say they may not have informed the dealers yet.

The Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told me that they had been forced to take this measure, in order to prempt the incubation of the disease in healthy animals.

For the first time in 25 years, Britain has been able to boast a six-figure unemployment rate.

Admittedly, the claimant count - which last registered a total of below one million in December 1975 - has been largely discredited in the intervening years.

Instead, the Labour Government - like most other countries - uses a system devised by the International Labour Organisation, the ILO. This counts all those available for work, and the latest figure is still more than 1.5 million.

But both statistics have been falling steadily for a considerable time.

Government Celebrates

And today the Government chose to celebrate the fall below a million as a major political event.

At the headquarters of the Industrial Society in St James's, in London, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown arrived with two other cabinet ministers, David Blunkett and Alastair Darling.

They came to introduce the latest stage of the New Deal. It's being called a Green Paper - a consultation document - though in effect it is another contribution to the election campaign.

It extends the system of interviews, retraining and the threat of benefit cuts for those who don't take the jobs they're offered - to unemployed people aged 25 and over.

Tough Regime

Gordon Brown accepted that it was a tough regime. There was much talk of rights and responsibilities and the need to re-introduce the work ethic.

If Labour win the election, ministers also intend to set up a combined Employment Service and Benefit Agency where the responsibilities and rights of the unemployed meet under one roof.

The message will be: nobody has a right to benefits unless they are actively involved in seeking or preparing themselves for work.

But there is a more complicated side to the glowing figures presented today.

Statistics queried

Dr Jonathan Wadsworth, an economist at London's Royal Holloway College, told the World at One that the number of jobs in the economy has not changed substantially in the last 25 years.

Many of the new jobs, he explained, have gone to women who work part-time. They tend to come from households where the man already works.

Consequently, the number of households where nobody works has risen sharply since 1975. The current figure is thought to be 3 million.

While Professor Peter Nolan, Director of the Future of Work Programme at the Economic and Social Research Council, pointed out that the vast majority of the new jobs are in low-skilled areas like hair-dressing.

Underlying today's event is the more fundamental oddity: that Tony Blair should be heralding a measure of unemployment which was derided by Labour in opposition.

Nick Clarke attended the launch for the World at One and you can hear his special report on this web site.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Farmers welcome announcement.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Nick Brown on stepping up slaughter
The World at One's Nick Clarke
Nick Clarke at Government job launch
Employment Secretary David Blunkett.
David Blunkett on job's fall.
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