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Programme highlights Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Foot-and-mouth could hit economic growth.
Digby Jones, director general of the CBI.
The director general of the CBI has warned of likely economic slowdown due foot-and mouth

Foot and mouth - according to the Confederation of British Industry - is principally an economic problem. The CBI says that the combined effect of the outbreak on agriculture, tourism and other rural businesses - combined with the slowdown in the United States - will be a reduction in the country's economic growth from 2.5% to 2%, with a consequent rise in unemployment of 50,000.

The CBI's solution - not surprisingly - involves a number of measures helpful to industry: like protecting companies from the full impact of a higher minimum wage and the climate-change levy.

Digby Jones is the organisations Director-General, and he told me that foot and mouth would have a "major impact" on the economy in the up and coming year.


Foot-and-mouth will have a major impact on the economic production and performance of the country in the next year or so

Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI

And he went on to add that while the government needs to start thinking about the future assistance for all business's affected - whether they're in the country or the city.

He said "We applaud what they're doing in the short term -especially for farmers who are seeing such a dramatic crisis in their lives, but it's actually going to hurt, not only tourism but other business' - that's where we have to help in the medium term - and the Government should be encouraged to do so."

One of the areas most seriously affected is likely to be Scotland: a report by the economic analysts Business Strategies says the country's growth could fall by as much as 0.6%, because its tourist industry is so strongly connected to the countryside.

Peter Guttman is Business Strategies' Associate Director, and he told me why he thought Scotland was being so badly affected - "The economy there is most exposed to the impact of tourism and the effect is that other parts of the UK - although they will suffer, will not suffer to the same degree as Scotland - in national terms represents a loss to GDP - if it were to come about - of 0.3%"

Alasdair Morgan, minister responsible for tourism in Scotland
Scottish tourism minister Alasdair Morgan is coming under fire for holidaying abroad this Easter.
Scotland's tourist problems, then, could be particularly serious. And that explains why the country's tourism minister, the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Alasdair Morrison, has provoked a political storm by choosing to take a family holiday on the Italian Riviera.

The Morrisons left on Saturday, though the Minister is returning early because a relative is ill. The Liberal Democrat MSP George Lyon, who is himself a farmer on the Isle of Bute, told me he found this very, very surprising, and added that at this time he should be "showing a lead to the Scottish tourist industry", and supporting it by actually staying in Scotland

The deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will not be going abroad this Easter. This morning he was in the Hertfordshire countryside to mark the reopening of some canal towpaths to walkers. The vast majority of the network had been closed since the start of the outbreak.

Foot-and-mouth sign on country footpath.
Is the countryside open or shut to visistors?
The Government's problem is that it cannot compel anyone to open anything. Several local councils in England have been reluctant to respond to John Prescott's appeals, as Jacquetta Fusta, footpaths officer for the Ramblers Association, explained.

She told the World at One that with an estimated 70% of paths closed across Britain this Easter, but that the councils aren't acting fast enough to open them.

The situation changes day by day, but it seems unlikely to change in Lincolnshire. Despite the fact that the county is foot-and-mouth free, all its footpaths remain closed.

As their council leader Jim Speechly, told me, his council had decided that in order to continute ensuring that the county remained free of foot and mouth, their footpaths had to remain closed.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott says that the majority of waterways and country paths should open up.
But as the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told me, councils such as Lincolnshire should "remain open to persuasion", and that much of the talk of closed paths was nothing more than "silly nonsense". To hear more of that interview click on the audio button at the top of the page.

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Director general of the CBI, Digby Jones.
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Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
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