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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Vaccination policy 'on hold'
Agriculture minister Nick Brown
Mr Brown said vaccination has little support
The government has indicated that plans to vaccinate animals against foot-and-mouth disease are unlikely to go ahead.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown told MPs on Monday a vaccination programme was opposed by many farmers, vets and consumers.

But Mr Brown - appearing before the Commons agriculture committee - said the case for vaccination was receding as the disease was being brought under control.

The necessary support for vaccination is not there

Nick Brown
His comments came as the Conservatives stepped up their attacks on the government's handling of the crisis and MPs called for more help for rural businesses.

Mr Brown said proposals to vaccinate animals against foot-and-mouth disease had split the farming community.

"The issue is divisive in the farming community. Without there being a near consensus I think it will be very difficult indeed to force such a strategy," he said.

But he said: "The case recedes as the number of daily cases recedes."

Consumer concern

Mr Brown said consumer concerns were to blame for the lack of support for vaccination.

He said there were fears that consumers would not want to buy products derived from vaccinated animals.

"The strategy can only succeed with the support of the farming community and if it is acceptable to consumers."

Earlier, environment minister Michael Meacher defended the government's efforts to help rural businesses affected by the crisis.

He said 200m had been provided by the government to help businesses and he suggested the key to recovery was to "get back to normality as quickly as possible".

Tory criticism

But the Conservatives criticised the government's efforts.

Shadow environment secretary Archie Norman described the government's aid package as "parsimonious and penny-pinching".

Shadow environment secretary Archie Norman
Mr Norman accused the government of "penny-pinching"
He said: "There is a great deal more to do especially to consider longer term measures to help to get the rural economy moving when the disease is dealt with."

Mr Norman said it was now clear that the impact of foot-and-mouth on rural businesses and tourism was "at least as severe" as first feared, with bookings in the Yorkshire Dales 70% down over Easter.

"Although the number of reported cases of infection has now been reduced, for business the crisis is far from over.

"If ever there was an emergency in a business sector it is now and if ever there was a need for a generous and speedy government response it is also now."

He attacked Mr Meacher for bringing forward no new proposals or new money in his emergency statement and condemned the Government's plans on rate relief as "woefully inadequate".

Mr Norman also pressed Mr Meacher to confirm that there would be a public inquiry into the outbreak, a statement which was previously played down by Downing Street.

On the burning of carcasses, he said there was "widespread concern" across the country and suggested sites for burial should have been identified earlier.

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