- Farming Secretary Margaret Beckett yesterday denied she
tried to bury a major BSE blunder.
- But she admitted her decision to release the news on
a website at 10.30pm was "perhaps in error".
- Scientists at the Institute of Animal Health in Edinburgh
were supposed to be studying sheep's brains, to find out if BSE had spread
- But they studied cows brains by mistake - for five years,
at a cost of pounds 217,000.
- The blunder was finally revealed on the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' website - posted at 10.30pm on Wednesday
- Yesterday, the Tories called on Beckett to apologise
and said it proved "Jo Moore Syndrome" was endemic in Whitehall.
Moore was the spin doctor who suggested September 11 was a good day to
"bury bad news". Beckett said: "I gave instructions, perhaps
in error, that the statement should be put into the public domain as soon
- "Yes, we didn't have time to brief specialist correspondents,
we hadn't known for long enough, yes we didn't wait and have a press conference
in the morning.
- "I feel strongly confident that if we had, we would
have been accused of trying to bury the information altogether."
- She added: "We immediately put in hand a scientific
audit to try and find out what happened, what went wrong, whether there's
still anything to learn from the experiment."
- Shadow rural affairs secretary Peter Ainsworth said last
night: "Margaret Beckett should apologise for the underhand way in
which this information was released, explain why it was decided to publish
the findings at 10.30 at night and sack whoever took this decision."
- Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said:
"She must make an emergency statement to the Commons to outline what
she now intends to do to allay fears about potential BSE in sheep.
- "The Secretary of State now has some awkward questions
to answer over scientific policy."