Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cleanup Row Flares amid 'Catastrophic'threat to Pigs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cleanup Row Flares amid 'Catastrophic'threat to Pigs

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH MUIR;KEITH POOLE

THE Government was today at the centre of a row over its own claims that disinfecting farms hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis is costing an average of [pound]100,000.

Tony Blair ordered the suspension of the farm cleanup amid concern that the cost of the operation in England is far outstripping the cost in Scotland and the rest of Europe.

However, officials are today downplaying the [pound]100,000 figure, information which had been supplied by the Cabinet's own co-ordinating committee.

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said the figure did not represent the national average because it came from a sample of large farms.

A spokesman said the truer average was nearer to [pound]50,000 per farm, but admitted that this was still higher than Scotland's [pound]30,000 average.

He added: "It could be that we are asking farmers to do more than they do in Scotland. It could be that our farms are larger. It could be that we are counting things differently.

Tory Agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo said today: "This shows a staggering scale of mismanagement by the Government. Its failure to control costs is extremely worrying. It is absurd that they should stop disinfecting on grounds of cost. Either it is necessary or it isn't."

In addition to Mr Yeo's criticisms, Professor Alan Bakewell, of the Country Land and Business Association, said the Government must clarify the position.

He said: "It is sensible that the worst excesses of any over-the-top charging be challenged...

What message is the Government trying to project about its commitment to tackle and eradicate foot-and-mouth? There is a great risk that if economising measures are brought in, the disease will flare up again."

Meanwhile, in a bid to head off the risk of a new and widespread outbreak of the virus any vehicle visiting the 2,700 farms around Thirsk, North Yorkshire one of the new danger spots for the disease - will have to be specially licensed and all other farm vehicles comprehensively disinfected as they go on and off farm premises. …

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