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90,000 sign papers' petitions for public inquiry

More than 90,000 people have told the Government it must review its decision not to hold a full public inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis by signing a petition from four regional newspapers.

The petition, jointly launched by the Western Morning News, Newcastle Journal, Western Mail and Gloucester Citizen along with magazines Horse & Hound and Farmers’ Weekly, has received overwhelming support.

Overall 92,696 signatures have now been collected, with 34,368 coming from the Western Morning News, 20,591 from the Journal and 10,255 from the Western Mail.

The campaign was launched after Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said an “all singing, all dancing” inquiry would cost too much and take too long.

Her decision to stage a three-pronged investigation into the epidemic rather than a full inquiry infuriated farming and tourism leaders.

WMN editor Barrie Williams said: “The Westcounty response is huge, but no more than we expected, as we know the strength of feeling out there on this issue.

“All the editors will now plan their next moves in the campaign, knowing what a massive amount of support they have behind them.”

Tom Patterson, assistant editor of the Journal, which covers a large area of Northumberland, said: “We are very pleased to have so many signatures, and by the fact that they didn’t just come from rural areas but from urban parts too.

“It is encouraging that so many people, whether from country or city, think there is a problem and questions which need to be answered. It is also excellent that all our publications have teamed up on the issue and can present a united front.”

  • Devon County Council has launched its own public inquiry and will be conducting a series of hearings at County Hall, Exeter, between October 8 and 12. It will include evidence from the NFU and the Western Morning News.

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