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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
BSE spotlight of blame
John Gummer, Stephen Dorrell and Douglas Hogg
Under fire: John Gummer, Stephen Dorrell and Douglas Hogg
A series of Tory former ministers and government officials have come in for criticism over their handling of the BSE crisis.

Here is a summary of what the report said about them:

John Gummer The former agriculture minister was praised by the report for introducing more openness into his ministry during his 1989-93 tenure.

But Mr Gummer's decision to stage a publicity stunt in 1990 in which he was filmed feeding a beef burger to his four-year-old daughter did receive some censure.

The report said: "It may seem with hindsight that, caught in a no-win situation, he chose the wrong option, but it is not a matter for which he ought to be criticised."

Kenneth Clarke Former health secretary Mr Clarke was criticised by the committee over the issue of the safety of offal for adults.

The report said: " As Secretary of State for Health, Mr Clarke needed to be in a position to answer the question 'If offal is not safe for babies, why is it safe for adults?'

Douglas Hogg The agriculture minister between 1995 and 1997. Mr Hogg was criticised for not acting fast enough despite being confronted with evidence of a link between vCJD and contaminated meat.

Some of Mr Hogg's evidence to the inquiry was also disputed, particularly that he told the inquiry he had devised a ban on the sale of beef over 30 months old - the so-called 30-month scheme - months before it was finally announced in March 1996.

He was also criticised for his action in December 1995, when he tried to reassure the public about the safety of beef by attempting to get experts from the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (SEAC) to back his statements.

The report said: "With hindsight, we can see that it was not a desirable exercise."

Stephen Dorrell Health secretary between 1995 and 97, he insisted beef was safe a matter of months before he informed the Commons of a link between BSE and CJD.

The report said: It was "regrettable that he gave a public assurance in terms more extreme than he could justify".

John MacGregor Agricultural minister 1987-89, he was praised for his introduction of a ban on high-risk beef offal from the human food chain but criticised for the way he played down its importance in public.

He also covered up the fact that experts were seriously worried about BSE-infected meat entering the food chain.

The report said: "He should not have agreed to a presentation which played down the importance of the ban as a protection for human health."

Keith Meldrum The chief veterinary officer (1988-97) was accused of failing to give proper consideration to the theory that BSE could move between species infecting humans and animals other than cows.

He is also criticised in the report for telling Mr Gummer that there was no link between mad cow disease and a cat with a BSE-like illness.

Sir Donald Acheson The former chief medical officer made a statement that "was likely to give false reassurance about the possibility that BSE might be transmissible to humans and we think he should have appreciated this".

Colin Maclean The director general of the meat and livestock commission received some of the strongest criticism in the report for making a series of statements in support of the meat industry.

In particular he said: "A human would have to eat an impossible amount of pure cow brain at the height of infection to reach an equivalent dose to that needed to infect a cow."

A statement the inquiry described as an "absurd exaggeration".

Dr Alisa Wight The lead health ministry official on BSE in 1991 and an observer on SEAC, Dr Wight was criticised for her "inadequate" SEAC meeting reports to chief medical officer Sir Kenneth Calman.

In one report to Sir Kenneth, she said the increase of CJD cases among young people in the UK was "not without precedent worldwide" - a remark the inquiry panel said was "misleading and encouraged false assurance".

Sir Kenneth Calman The chief medical officer between 1991 and 1998 received similar criticism to his predecessor Sir Donald Acheson.

The report said: "He should not have made statements without ensuring they fairly reflected his appraisal of the risk posed by BSE."

Dr William Watson The director of the central veterinary laboratory (CVL).

The report said Dr Watson should have encouraged publication of information about BSE instead of withholding it - that could have led to vets around the country monitoring cases.

William Rees The chief veterinary officer between 1980 and 1988 was also involved in holding back on publishing information about BSE, the report said.

He should have co-ordinated his actions with the health ministry earlier in the BSE affair. For example, a 1999 MAFF submission about BSE which assessed the risk of the disease to human health was prepared without consulting anyone at the Department of Health.

The report said this was an astonishing omission.




See also:

26 Oct 00 | Scotland
25 Oct 00 | UK
20 Oct 00 | Health
20 Oct 00 | Health
11 Oct 00 | UK
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