Foot and Mouth Disease

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:29 pm on 21st March 2001.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire 9:29 pm, 21st March 2001

I have nothing but praise for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. He has treated the House with great courtesy and patience and he has tried to be as helpful as possible. The substance of all his remarks today and on previous occasions is that we want national unity to tackle this crisis. He said also that we want to have a Parliament that he can report to regularly. It would be an absolute scandal if a Government with 14 months of their mandate left, a massive majority and now a national crisis to add to their other unfinished business, plunged the country into an unnecessarily premature general election. That would be a great disservice. The Prime Minister's remarks this afternoon gave me the impression that he was not fully apprised of the great national calamity facing us. He talked with a glib assurance that was deeply disturbing and in marked contrast to the tone adopted by his right hon. Friend the Agriculture Minister.

The Government should not divide those parts of the country that are terribly beset by this dreadful disease by holding local elections. They should be postponed in certain areas of the country, but not necessarily everywhere. It would be contrary to the Minister's wish to maintain national unity if the Parliament to which he is answerable were dissolved prematurely and unnecessarily. We must face the crisis together and fight it together. We wish to give the Minister the support that his gentlemanly and sensible conduct manifestly deserves.