§ Mr. Meacher
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has made a series of amendments to The Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 since 27 February this year, which conferred on certain local authorities, including Kent county council, the power to close public rights of way in the interests of preventing the spread of foot and mouth disease. Those amendments did not require local authorities to undertake risk assessments before exercising the power. MAFF published a veterinary risk assessment on the risk of causing new outbreaks of foot and mouth disease if footpaths were open to the public on 22 March, which provided the basis of guidance to local authorities on reopening paths issued by MAFF on 28 March. This was supplemented with a framework, which my Department issued on 25 April, for assessing the risks associated with reopening rights of way, which is intended to help local authorities speed up the reopening process.