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Foot and Mouth

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:14 pm on 21st June 2001.

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Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Liberal Democrat, South East Cornwall 12:14 pm, 21st June 2001

I welcome the Secretary of State to her new post, and thank her for her statement. However, will she clarify the nature of the public inquiry that she announced? Will it be as full, comprehensive and independent as the BSE inquiry under Lord Phillips, or will it be delayed, incomplete and shoved under the carpet? We need a report that shows precisely how the Government handled the foot and mouth crisis.

The crisis has cost about £1 billion, so is it not clear that there needs to be more investment in the veterinary service, as it is vets who will advise the Government? Also, should not more advice be sought from independent scientific sources, so that the real nature of animal diseases can be identified more clearly? That would help us to cope better with any future outbreak.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the new Department should do more than merely respond to the rural task force? It should develop strategies and policies that can be debated early in this Parliament, thus ensuring that the Department gets on top of the integration of rural policy and the policies of the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In that way, it would be evident that a new direction and culture had been adopted.

Finally, will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be no delay in opening up Dartmoor? That is very important, given the start of the summer tourist season. We have heard that Dartmoor may not be fully reopened. I hope that that is not correct, but I should be grateful if she could investigate the matter urgently. As she will be aware, in the far south-west the summer season and the opening up of Dartmoor are extremely important.