"EU INQUIRY INTO FOOT AND MOUTH WILL BE OPEN AND PUBLIC, SAYS MEP"

A Committee of Inquiry to investigate the foot and mouth epidemic in Europe was given the go-ahead this week by party leaders in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Efforts by Labour MEPs to block the inquiry were voted down by a large majority.

Local MEP Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins hailed the decision as a triumph. Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he said:

"The epidemic brought rural industries in the UK to a standstill for almost a year. It caused major concern throughout the EU, and this concern was magnified when Tony Blair decided to avoid a Public Inquiry back home. Our European partners want to know the facts, and want the facts to be made public."

"This Committee will look at the mistakes made in the handling of the crisis, and be able to call Government Ministers to give evidence. It will look at the financial impact of FMD, the reason why borders and imports were left un-policed, the arguments behind a vaccination policy and the true causes of the outbreak."

The Committee, which will need to be formally ratified by the European Parliament in January, will spend up to a year gathering information and drawing conclusions. A report will be published at the end of 2002. ENDS

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