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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Outbreak inquiries under attack
Sheep in Brecon
The government have announced three inquiries
The Conservatives have attacked the government's refusal to hold a full public inquiry into foot-and-mouth after it emerged that three smaller inquiries would be conducted into different aspects of the outbreak.

Tim Yeo, shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, said the government's plans fell short of what was needed to rebuild public confidence and uncover the full facts.

Only a full independent, public inquiry will hold former ministers to account and uncover the full facts

Tim Yeo
Shadow agriculture secretary
Announcing the government's plans, Mr Yeo's opposite number Margaret Beckett said separate inquiries would work better and be able to consider the issues more quickly.

The Liberal Democrats claimed it was outrageous for the government to investigate itself "in secret".

Scrutiny demand

Mr Yeo said: "The inquiry process announced today falls far short of our call for a public inquiry which would rebuild public confidence and assure people that the full facts of Labour's initial dithering have been uncovered and properly scrutinised."

He argued that more prompt and effective action at the start of the outbreak could have brought the disease under control much more quickly and could have saved many of the 3m slaughtered animals.

"Only a full, independent, public inquiry will hold former ministers to account and uncover the full facts about this terrible epidemic," added Mr Yeo.

Evidence on oath

Those sentiments were echoed by Paul Tyler, Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman, who contrasted the refusal to hold a public inquiry with the Tory government's refusal to hold one into BSE.

Paul Tyler, Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman
Tyler: Ministers afraid of the truth
He said: "It is outrageous that the government intends to investigate itself in secret.

"This is all too reminiscent of the Tory government's refusal to set up a public inquiry into BSE.

"An incestuous investigation will satisfy nobody and merely make farmers and taxpayers more suspicious that ministers have something to hide."

MPs on holiday

And he attacked the government for making the announcement when Parliament was in recess.

"It is all too typical of the control freaks in this government that they have made this announcement when Parliament is not sitting.

"MPs of all parties will rightly conclude that ministers are afraid of the truth."

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett said there had been a lot of questions about what form an inquiry would take into foot-and-mouth, insisting that it made sense to look at different aspects in separate inquiries.

Margaret Beckett
Mrs Beckett explained the government's decision
"People have tended to focus on 'an' inquiry and whether it would be a public inquiry.

"It's been hard for people to judge how you could look at the range of issues that need to be considered.

"We have actually approached it from a different point of view."

The investigation would take the form of an "inquiry process" separated into three different parts.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, welcomed the fact that the process would not only examine foot-and-mouth disease.

And he said a full public inquiry would have meant many irrelevant questions.

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