Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth has set out a list of questions that the Government needs to answer following the findings that leaky pipes at the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright were probably responsible for the recent Foot and Mouth outbreak:
- "When did Ministers first know that the effluent pipes and manholes were deficient?
- Why was funding not made available to replace the pipes?
- Why was this work not prioritised under the investment programme which is now underway?
- Why has Defra refused to accept Professor Spratt's recommendation that "if identifying the source of the virus is considered a priority, an independent group" of experts should be convened? Is it because the answer might be inconvenient?
- When were Ministers first made aware that funding was inadequate "to ensure the highest standards of safety?
- In the light of the BBSRC 2002 report on the dilapidation of the site, why was the budget of the IAH reduced in subsequent years?
- When will the Government issue an unreserved apology for the stress and economic losses caused by their shocking failure to regulate the site effectively?"
All very good questions.
A leader in today's Daily Mail won't make comfortable reading for the Government. It describes a "sheer depth of official incompetence" that "raises the question of whether the public sector can ever run anything properly". The leader concludes: "Can we have any confidence for the future, with this bunch of politicians in charge?" The Mail may be giving Brown a fairer wind than he deserves but it appears more than ready to roast him when the occasion demands.