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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 David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 12:14 pm, 21st June 2001

In Somerset, we thought that we had escaped the worst ravages of the disease, only to find our area reinfected when the spotlight of media and politics was elsewhere. Does the right hon. Lady understand how many businesses in Somerset and across the west country face desperate circumstances? Some are in difficulty as a direct result of disease precautions and some have nothing to do with agriculture or tourism. Certainly, few are directly connected with the shibboleth of footpath closure.

Does the right hon. Lady understand that the one thing that those businesses want at this stage is, to put it crudely, cash? They want cash beyond the scope of rates relief to enable them to survive until the end of the year. Does she further understand that, for many of my constituents, the task force seems to have no concept of either the urgency or the scale of the problem in the rural economy?