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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 11:53 GMT
Tories attack over foot-and-mouth
William Hague
Mr Hague called for more resources to help farmers
The Conservatives have attacked the government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis, describing it as "grossly inadequate".

It is the first time the cross-party consensus on the outbreak has broken down since the disease was identified three weeks ago.

Party leader William Hague called for "greater urgency and greater effectiveness" from ministers.

We are not making party political capital

William Hague

But Labour says there is "no magic wand" to be waved over foot-and-mouth and is urging politicians to work together to beat it.

Mr Hague said "practical suggestions" from the Tories to tackle the crisis had been rejected by the government.

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The Tory leader called for better coordination and more resources to stop the disease spreading.

He urged ministers to make greater use of the army.

"No use has been made of army resources," he said.

Mr Hague suggested that soldiers could help in the disposal of animal carcasses.

He also called on the government to request help from European Union and Commonwealth states.

"We need hundreds more vets urgently. The government should ask other countries to send other vets to this country."

The Conservatives have called for animals to be "slaughtered on suspicion" rather than waiting for laboratory tests.

To date, Mr Hague and his party have been broadly supportive of the government's efforts to control the spread of the disease.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith
Chris Smith rejected the criticism
He denied that the Tories' decision to break the consensus on the crisis was due to the impending general election.

"We are not making party political capital."

He added: "We are getting impatient about it. We have resisted many opportunities to criticise the government's approach."

Mr Hague reiterated his call for tourism businesses affected by the outbreak to be given six months relief from business rates, which the Tories estimate would cost around 25 million.

'Alarming reports'

Earlier, shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo began the assault on the government's approach by describing it as "grossly inadequate".

"The government is in a muddle with different departments giving out different messages," he said.

But Culture Secretary Chris Smith called for the cross-party approach to the crisis to be restored.

Speaking to BBC News, he said: "You can't simply wave a magic wand over it. What you can do is continue the steady work.

"Obviously you do need to do it as quickly as you can which is why the army is coming in.

"I would hope we would continue to approach this in a bipartisan spirit because this is what the crisis deserves."

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20 Mar 01 | UK
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