While the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak dangers are thankfully lessening, there are uncomfortable issues yet to be fully answered, which the City financial crisis and the search for Maddy having annoyingly knocked of the front page of most newspapers.
The issues are:
- Government maladministration is at the root of the problem 1: My earlier post HERE describes the under funding of Pirbright and its redundancies. This can all be traced back to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor. The Rural Payments Agency, a department of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra], failed to pay £1.5 billion of European subsidies on time to English farmers and landowners, pushing many farmers to the brink of bankruptcy. For this they were fined over £300 million by the EU. What did Gordon do, he told Defra – no more money, and no increase in future budgets to cover the fiasco. Result, massive cuts in Defra resources, including at Pirbright’s Institute of Animal Health[IAH]. How convenient then that the IAH only produce bi-annual reports, so no easy comparison of staffing is possible. UPDATE: See later post HERE on redundancies and under-investment at Pirbright.
- Government maladministration is at the root of the problem 2: The Defra reports, HERE and HERE, on the cause of the FMD outbreak indicated that a leak of the FMD virus could have come from flooding from the Pirbright facility. Well, here’s a ‘no-brainer’, the Environment Agency’s map of flooding clearly shows, in light blue, the area of exceptional flooding. Are not those responsible for managing risk – in high risk activities – also responsible for identifying and containing flood risk. No good blaming the rains, it’s the Government’s responsibility.
- Government spinning that they’re not to blame 1: The Institute of animal Health’s Pirbright facility is funded by the Government, and is a government agency, sure, they’ve leased part of the facility to a private company – Merial – but they are sited within the Pirbright control area.
- Government spinning that they’re not to blame 2: The leaking of information about Merial’s staff and their operation was aimed at deflecting criticism from Government, see report HERE.
- Government spinning that they’re not to blame 3: On Saturday August 11th, Dr Andrew King, Pirbright’s previous head of molecular biology told the Daily Telegraph that there was “no way” the virus could have leaked by accident. He retired three years ago, before all the redundancies in December 2006, and is cynically being used by the Government to suggest sabotage, through intentional, rather than accident leak of the virus [Though not according to Merial]. What rubbish, it’s the Government who’ve overall control of the staff, as they provide the funding and oversee the risks. More spin at deflecting criticism. I’ll be looking out for Dr King in future honours lists, oh, and he’s been retained to assist the internal investigation, so he’s a suitable mouthpiece.
Methinks, that’s enough for the time being. Still awaiting the final report – wonder whether that’ll be a whitewash job.
UPDATE: Naughty boy, forgot to include links to top class resources for this post. Warmwell, Jonathan Miller, and Matthew Weaver in the Guardian. It’s Matthew’s blog that provided the link to the map in my subsequent post
UPDATE 2: I’ve a later post HERE, on the scale of the redundancies and lack of investment in IAH’s facility at Pirbright.