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"Shameful cover up" on foot and mouth

The Government’s decision to avoid a full public inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis has been slammed as a “shameful cover-up” by the editor of the Western Morning News.

Barrie Williams was speaking following a High Court ruling that the Government action was legal – although the judges warned they would have to “answer at the ballot box” for their decision.

He said: “It’s a disgraceful dereliction of responsibility which should haunt this Government for the rest of its days, but it apparently knows no shame.

“We felt entitled to answers.

“We felt that ministers and officials should not be allowed to wriggle out of their responsibilities.

“We felt they should be called to account publicly over critical issues like why they were so slow to accept that the epidemic was a national crisis; why they kept telling the country it was under control when patently it was not; on what criteria they embarked on the hugely controversial “ring of fire” contiguous cull policy which wiped out hundreds of thousands of perfectly healthy animals.”

He said the people of the south west wanted officials to explain in public why they ignored all the recommendations into the 1967 inquiry, be quizzed over incident that suggested the slaughter policy was in chaos, face public examination on testing errors and the devastating spin-off effects of the disease.

But he said the court hearing was a David and Goliath battle which Goliath won.

He said: “When we got there the Government threw its might at us.”

The editors of four regional newspapers have been involved in a joint campaign to force a full public inquiry. The Western Morning News, Newcastle Journal, Western Mail and Gloucester Citizen also collected 146,500 signatures on a petition calling for Government action on the “disaster”.

The court bid to force an inquiry was launched by 13 businesses, and backed by the newspapers.

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