TRANSCRIPT OF THE JONATHAN PROCTOR INTERVIEW WITH SIR RUPERT MAINWARING BROADCAST AT 10PM SATURDAY 9TH MARCH 2002 ON ITV6.
Preface by Jonathan Proctor:-
My career as an investigative journalist and interviewer has spanned four decades. Almost without exception, I have felt honoured to be in the presence of world statesmen, members of the Royal Family and other noteworthy achievers who have allowed themselves to be put under my very public scrutiny. There have been conflicts, albeit very few, but generally, my proceedings try to be non-confrontational.
My interviews go out "live": there are no rehearsals and agreed scripts. If he/she declines to answer a question and I judge that to be insistent could cause psychological distress, then the matter is not pursued.
However, my discussion with the retiring Director-General of The Civil Service, Sir Rupert Mainwaring was so outrageously candid, on account of his revelations, that I feared arrest upon leaving the studio building.
Thankfully for the programme being live, not pre-recorded, a wicked act of state-sponsored environmental terrorism was exposed to millions of viewers. Earlier today, the death of Sir Rupert Mainwaring was announced. Next Thursday, Britain will be choosing an alternative to the disgraced New Labour administration. "Honi soit qui mal y pense."
The interview transcript has not been edited. Allowances will have to be made due to Sir Rupert's evident intoxication, which, given the nature of his admissions, was hardly surprising!
Jonathan Proctor: 8th June 2002.
JONATHAN PROCTOR: Good evening and welcome to the programme. My guest tonight is the retiring Director-General of The Civil Service, Sir Rupert Mainwaring. Sir Rupert, your distinguished career began upon leaving school at the age of fifteen in 1952. You joined The Home Office as a junior trainee clerk and now, fifty years on, will be handing the flag to Damien Spaulding who is currently at the Foreign Office. During your time in the service, there has been Cuba, the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Northern Ireland troubles and, more recently, the Warsaw Pact dissolution, The Balkans and, much nearer to home, last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic. Your role has ...
SIR RUPERT MAINWARING: I'm glad you mentioned foot-and-mouth. Sorry ...Yes, hello, Jonathan. Do you know, this is the first time a senior civil servant has been invited onto your programme and I am going to make the most of it.
J.P: Sir Rupert, you are, indeed, the first. Am I right to assume that you wish to discuss foot-and-mouth?
Sir R.M: Yes. I understood that I would be free from a set interview agenda and I am taking you at your word.
J.P: I am happy to oblige. I can see that a matter of this magnitude should be explored with a government official out in the open. Well ... this puts me on the spot! Were you directly involved in managing the crisis?
Sir R.M: (seven seconds laughter) You have a way with words! Yes, I was "directly involved" as you put it. I was in at the early planning stages and ensured that government objectives were met.
J.P: But there is a general public consensus that the government did not do enough during the Spring of last year ...
Sir R.M: I'm not talking about last year! I'm referring to the year before.
J.P: But ... Sir Rupert, the disease broke out in February 2001. We know the unfounded tales of so-called logistics exercises being carried out during the previous autumn and, of course, a missing phial of the virus. So, what are you trying to say?
Sir R.M: Jonathan ... the foot-and-mouth epidemic was planned. It's as simple as that.
J.P: Are ... are you ... are you seriously telling me that the conspiracy theorists were right?
Sir R.M: Yes.
J.P: (pause of eight seconds) Sir Rupert, I will ask you a direct question. You have publicly stated on this programme that the disease was - and, correct me if I am wrong, - deliberately introduced. Is this correct?
Sir R.M: Yes, indeed.
J.P: Do you intend to ...
Sir R.M: Yes, yes, yes! I am no longer prepared to remain silent whilst decent farmers decide that suicide is the only way out. Jonathan - you know as well as I do that these are not media exaggerations. The cost of foot-and-mouth in human terms is frightful.
J.P: (pause of six seconds) Didn't you consider this?
Sir R.M: Not at the time.
J.P: Why not?
Sir R.M: We believed that ...
J.P: "We!" Sir Rupert, I hardly need remind you that millions of people are watching this programme. You know, I've interviewed many a politician with skeletons in their cupboards but this ...
Sir R.M: ... is too much for Jonathan Proctor to handle? Two weeks ago, a lady who worked as a Senior Scientific Advisor for DEFRA - which, as you know, was MAFF prior to June 2001 - fell victim to a "hit and run" incident near her home in Twickenham. She was present at a meeting held at No. 10 in June 2000. I have no doubt that her death was - let's say - opportunistic. Three days ago, my doctor informed me that I have two months to live at the most. You invited me onto your programme seven months ago. Then - well, yes, I knew I was ill but had no idea of how severe.
J.P: So, am I right in thinking that, until recently - that is, the death of a government aide and then your doctor's terrible news - foot-and- mouth disease, which, if I have understood you correctly, was deliberately introduced AND you were party to that process, did not weigh very heavily on your conscience?
Sir R.M: Ever since that No 10 meeting ...
J.P: That's the one you mentioned - June 2000 ...
Sir R.M: Thursday 22nd June, to be precise. I'll tell you what happened at that damned meeting. It has given me many sleepless nights, since. And, quite frankly, to hell with the so-called "Official Secrets Act!"
J.P: Who attended the meeting?
Sir R.M: Neil Black, with two of his advisors from MAFF. I've mentioned one of them already. Her name was Jane Gower, a senior scientific aide ...
J.P: The victim of that "hit and run" you mentioned?
Sir R.M: Yes, that's right. Thomas Gunn, a junior minister from the MOD was there with Hugh Renshaw, an expert in virology from Porton Down. The chairman of the international bio-tech corporation, Amutator, Sir Despard McMurdo and his secretary, Selina Scarbolt, were present. Of course, "Clever Trevor" put in a brief appearance at the outset but was only there for - ah, maybe four minutes at the most. Neil Black and Tom Gunn left together shortly afterwards but their aides remained.
J.P: Did the Prime Minister give "The Green Light?"
Sir R.M: Of course not!
J.P: And Neil Black, Thomas Gunn?
Sir R.M: No ... no,no,no. The meeting was arranged by No.10's Special Administration Bureau ...
J.P: Who, or what, are they?
Sir R.M: Oh ... they handle things well away from parliamentary scrutiny. Not even Trevor Bland's personal secretary knows what they get up to. Neil Black and Tom Gunn attended what was, purportedly, an informal chat. When they left, the details were worked out.
J.P: In other words, plausible deniability.
Sir R.M: If you like. In fact, the Prime Minister was in a foul
mood, having discussed the conclusions of yet another report on the effects
of upland livestock over-grazing. Poor old Neil took the brunt of Clever
When the meeting opened, the Prime Minister said, and I can quote: "How much more public money is going to be squandered on these useless reports? Farming has become a sick joke, the countryside is run by a hard-core of aristocratic nutters pretending to be environmental custodians and all they want is more and more money to sustain the unsustainable. And, Neil, what is the best your department can do? Commission yet another crap report into sheep overgrazing!
Oh, I forgot to mention BSE! Your officials have disregarded my pledge to reform and modernise. As far as I am concerned, that applies to MAFF. I don't give a shit," and he DID say that, "about the Common Agricultural Policy. Neil, you are on notice: clean up the countryside! And, if more than a few farmers go to the walls, then so be it. Tom, I'm sure you can help Neil keep his job."
J.P: (pause of eight seconds) Well, Sir Rupert, what happened next?
Sir R.M: Clever Trevor then left the meeting. Neil was in tears. Tom Gunn broke the silence by introducing us to Hugh Renshaw, a top scientist at Porton Down. Renshaw had been asked by the Special Administration Bureau some weeks beforehand to assist in a plan which would finally resolve the problems with farming. I remember Neil saying: "I can only guess your methods. I don't wish to know. Tom, I'm frightened." It was Renshaw who replied: "It's okay, There may be suspicions, but nobody will be able to prove a thing. Not even Bland knows, or will ever know, the details." I then suggested that Neil Black and Tom Gunn leave the meeting, which they did. It wasn't until mid-January 2001 that Senior Cabinet Ministers were contacted about "Operation Walker," albeit in edited form.
J.P: And what was this "Operation Walker?"
Sir R.M: Well, the broad outlines of "Walker" were discussed at the meeting once the ministers had left. You may be interested to know that its author was present. George Walker worked at the Bush Foot-and-Mouth Research Institute situated near Pirbright, Surrey. He was Neil Black's second aide in attendance. (Pause of four seconds) Walker died from injuries received in a car accident a month ago.
J.P: Another opportunistic death, maybe. (Pause of six seconds) Sir Rupert, I'm willing to continue this interview but you do realise the implications of what you're saying. I'll be blunt. Basically, you are admitting not just to me but to millions of viewers that Her Majesty's Government gave the go-ahead for servants of The Crown to introduce a plague - and that is the right word - which would, inevitably, decimate livestock numbers to what would, presumably, be a more acceptable level of sustainability. Is this not state-sponsored environmental terrorism?
Sir R.M: It's not as simple as that ...
J.P: Sir Rupert, I will point out that the British public are not fools although Whitehall may disagree. Many people who have suffered from the consequences of foot-and-mouth are watching this programme and will, no doubt, be paying very close attention to what you're saying. Look: you knew, I knew, everybody knew that livestock overstocking and overgrazing - legacies from the Common Agricultural Policy - couldn't continue for ever. But resorting to a form of biological warfare ...
Sir R.M: Jonathan, that's being rather emotive! We've had crisis upon crisis in the countryside: Salmonella in eggs, Listeria, the BSE scandal and Classic Swine Fever. Quite frankly, the situation was a "dog's breakfast" and something had to be done ...
J.P: The agricultural sector had been "knocked for six" well before foot-and-mouth disease. The fall-out in farm closures and resultant job losses had already been catastrophic. Why make matters worse?
Sir R.M: We're looking at the countryside's future viability. There's the paradox, Jonathan: vast amounts of land in the hands of less than nought-point-five percent of the population. Yes, they're the custodians of what we see in pretty postcards of, for example, the Lake District. But much of this land was not being used to its full potential. Yet part of your money and my money, paid in taxes, ended up in supporting what was an industry in terminal decline ...
J.P: So, it was decided to hasten the process with "Operation Walker?"
Sir R.M: (Pours himself a generous measure of malt whisky, consumes
it, replenishes his glass) I'll answer that, if I may, by returning to the
meeting on 22nd June 2000. After the two ministers had left, I asked Sir
Despard McMurdo, chairman of Amutator, to give details of his proposals for a
recovery package to revitalise rural communities following a major livestock
plague - for example, foot-and-mouth disease.
Once the affected areas had been decontaminated, GM crop trials on a massive scale would go ahead and land not ear-marked for that would be used for wind turbine complexes and forestry. You see - before the foot-and-mouth crisis, there was a severe shortage of land for these scams ... er, schemes. Of course, there is no shortage now!
It was anticipated that The Treasury would be faced with massive compensation claims which, without assistance from private-sector funding ...
J.P: Hence the role of Amutator?
Sir R.M: Oh, yes indeed! Without Amutator's help, not even Chancellor Grey's so-called "war chest" would have covered the costs.
J.P: Wasn't this considered, at the time, to have been an extremely risky strategy?
Sir R.M: Not at all, given Amutator's vast wealth, resources and prestige. Sir Despard realised, as we all did, that many farmers, having lost their livestock, would be facing a bleak future. The plan was to present them with very generous deals involving both state and Amutator funding which would place them under obligation of acceptance ...
J.P: In "Hollywood-Speak," offers they couldn't refuse!
Sir R.M: What Amutator was offering would provide job opportunities and long-term security in the rural sector for tens of thousands of people. However, at the meeting, Sir Despard made it clear that he was not prepared to wait whilst our politicians dithered. An answer had to be given there and then.
J.P: Are you saying that The Cabinet was ignorant of Amutator's plan?
Sir R.M: Oh, no! They simply didn't want to get their hands dirty. If it all went "pear-shaped," Bland, Grey and company would publicly blame their officials on the grounds of incompetence. No 10's Special Administration Bureau would then deal with tying-up any loose ends.
J.P: Sir Rupert, you must have realised that New Labour's policy towards the countryside was anything but sympathetic and, if translated into action, could prove disastrous. As Director General of The Civil Service, was there nothing you could do?
Sir R.M: You've seen the TV series "No Minister." You - and others - may assume that the "Sir Horace Appleyard" character still prowls Whitehall's corridors alongside his clones and cronies. Well, forget it! Yes, we were riding high under the Tories and, by God, mistakes were made. But I'll say this! Muriel Fielder - yes, the "Corn Dolly" - and her successor, John Marshall, were straight! Of course, there were cover-ups, yet there WAS a basic integrity. Don't forget what happened to that corrupt oaf, Norman Motherwell. I saw John Marshall in tears when confronted with the evidence of Motherwell's involvement in facilitating arms sales to that Yugoslav slob, General Malevenski. By then - late April 1997 - the matter was already being dealt with thanks to the intervention of Mervyn Bull ...
J.P: The Independent Candidate who defeated Norman Motherwell to become MP for Tadstone. Did you have a hand in that?
Sir R.M: Yes. And, to pre-empt your next question, I had no hesitation in breaching the Civil Service Code!
J.P: That's clear enough. In May that year ...
Sir R.M: New Labour announced some months before their victory that they were a "government-in-waiting." I - we - found out within the first fortnight of May 1997 just what lay behind that remark. When they swept into No.10, hordes of "Special Advisors" accompanied them. Bright young things with absolutely no traditions of public service ethos combined with a total contempt for my generation and the values we tried to uphold. I soon found out that most of them were on the payroll of Amutator ...
J.P: Are you suggesting that Amutator is the real power behind New Labour?
Sir R.M: (Five seconds laughter) Absolutely! New Labour is only a government by proxy, really. Clever Trevor hero-worships Sir Despard McMurder - sorry, McMurdo: thinks the sun shines out of his back-side.
J.P: And this "Special Administration Bureau" within No.10?
Sir R.M: Officially, it doesn't exist. But, I can assure you, it's there. Run by Selina Scarbolt, Sir Despard's so-called secretary but, in reality, the most dangerous woman I've ever met. In effect, the bureau acts as an enforcer for McMurdo and his puppet, Trevor Bland.
J.P: Were these - I suppose one would call them thugs - (brief pause) Were they given civil servant status?
Sir R.M: No. Other than parity of wages, they were not. I had no authority over them at all. To all intents and purposes, our advice and influence was eroded to the point where we were no longer facilitators but mere pen-pushers. (Brief pause) When Selina Scarbolt said "cough," we all coughed!
J.P: Let's return to the meeting on 22nd June 2000. Presumably, the go-ahead was given for "Operation Walker?"
SIR.R.M: We agreed to go for it, with George Walker in charge ...
J.P: Was he one of Amutator's Special Advisors to the Government?
Sir R.M: Yes. Everybody in the room, apart from myself, had links with that organisation.
J.P: What was your role?
Sir R.M: As Director General of The Civil Service, to ensure that my subordinates did exactly as they were told and to ask no questions. None of them had any inkling of "Operation Walker" although by the end of November 2000, MAFF officials had to be briefed before large-scale preparations to combat a potential outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could begin. Security was extreme. Any breaches had to be reported directly to Selina Scarbolt by only three people: George Walker, Hugh Renshaw and myself.
J.P: Were there any security problems?
Sir R.M: Only three. Mind you, they nearly proved disastrous.
J.P: What happened?
Sir R.M: (Pours himself another glass of whisky) I'll explain the
plan, how it worked and what went wrong. At the time, there was a
particularly nasty strain of foot-and-mouth disease which had reached parts
of Eastern Europe from Asia. It was likely that it would eventually come to
Britain, given the repeated breaches in foodstuff imports regulations. By
launching a pre-emptive epidemic, the Government and Amutator could then
start to realise their objectives. The key lay in identifying the virus
strain affecting Eastern Europe and introducing a laboratory-prepared version
so that if the "original," so to speak, did subsequently come into
the UK, its impact would have a negligible effect on the plan.
The strain was identified as Type O. Under the strictest security ever imposed since World War Two, a sample was flown in from Greece and taken to the Bush Research Institute, Pirbright. From that, sufficient cultures were prepared for experimental use at Porton Down. However,it soon became clear that the Type O Virus was highly unstable.
J.P: Is that not the case with all micro-organisms?
Sir R.M: I am not a scientist. However, as I understood it, this particular variant, once introduced into a host - pigs were used in the first trial at Porton Down - transmuted into a "super-virus" and multiplied at a most alarming rate. Basically, it meant that vaccination was not an option, not least, in terms of cost. Tests carried out using sheep on a farm in Southern Scotland during July 2000 were even more - interesting - to say the least!
J.P: Where was this farm?
Sir R.M: To the east of Kirkcudbright, on MOD land. Borrowlaw Farm.
Amutator bought it from a Mr. Mulltaggart. A very run-down holding which was
barely viable. He was glad to sell it and get out of farming. By the end of
the first week in July, the premises was up and running as a so-called
Amutator Agricultural Research Farm.
There were roughly 300 head of sheep. A huge covered pen housed half the flock: the remainder continued to graze out in the open but within immediate vicinity of the building. Of course, Borrowlaw Farm was off-limits to the general public. Stringent security and full NBC procedures were implemented. In essence, it was a quarantine area.
J.P: So, what went wrong?
Sir R.M: Only the confined sheep were injected with the virus. It was known that the incubation period could extend for as long as two to three months before any symptoms appeared - unlike cattle and pigs. Yet, the first blood tests, taken only five days after impregnation, revealed significant amounts of antigens. Then, blood samples were obtained from the free-grazing remainder and the results showed positive, with almost equal concentration levels. This, despite rigorous clinical cross-infection safeguards.
J.P: I presume the farm had full decontamination facilities on site?
Sir R.M: Yes, indeed. As I've said, a strict regime was in operation. However, even worse was to follow. Soil samples from the land within a half-mile radius of the complex were tested and our worst fears proved to be correct. The ground was highly contaminated. The decision to destroy the farm and its livestock was taken immediately. That was when the first security breach took place ...
J.P: There have been rumours about two farm workers from New Zealand being asked to sign the Official Secrets Act whilst helping on a farm in Southern Scotland. Is there a connection with what you've just told me?
Sir R.M: Yes. Unbeknown to Amutator, Mulltaggart ...
J.P: The previous owner?
Sir R.M: Mm-mm. He didn't tell anyone that every July, two lads from New Zealand help with the sheep-shearing. They've been coming for the last six or seven years and Borrowlaw was just one of many farms where they worked. Imagine the surprise all-round when they turned up at the very moment when the whole area of Borrowlaw was due to be vapourised!
J.P: Vapourised? Surely, you're not talking about a small tactical nuclear device?
Sir R.M: No. An "Isotopic Liquid Chlorine H.E." bomb was used. Just as deadly but without the radiation.
J.P: So, I gather the two young men witnessed the fireball. How was it explained to them?
Sir R.M: Fortunately, they were by the main entrance a mile-and-a-half from the complex. The conflagration stopped within 150 yards of where they and two security guards were standing. One of the staff telephoned the site manager, who arrived from a hotel in Kircudbright nearly an hour later. He was horrified upon hearing about the explosion's ferocity and apologised profusely to not only the New Zealanders but also the two guards. The "incident" was, according to the manager, "an extraordinary event which will be investigated with utmost vigour!" Mr.Mulltaggart no longer owned the farm, which now was a government facility. Because of the matter's exceptional sensitivity, the manager asked the Antipodeans to sign the Official Secrets Act in return for a sum of three thousand five hundred pounds each plus free return flights. They readily accepted the deal.
J.P: And if they had refused to sign?
Sir R.M: Well, of course, they couldn't be forced to. However.
No.10's "Special Administration Bureau" would have been informed of
their refusal. I think you know what the outcome would have been!
A week after the explosion, I was flown over the site where Borrowlaw Farm used to stand: it was as though the place never existed. There were no worries about land contamination. No organism known to man could withstand temperatures in excess of 50,000 degrees celsius!
J.P: Sir Rupert, would it be right to conclude that the Type O Virus sample brought over from Greece was so dangerous that even the very strict NBC Warfare regulations in operation at the farm - in a remote corner of Southern Scotland AND on MOD land - could not contain it?
Sir R.M: The only way to have prevented an ecological catastrophe,
for which nobody had been prepared, was to use a weapon still classified as
"top secret" and incredibly powerful.
What did emerge from this almighty cock-up was the need to ensure that disease-containment measures were organised thoroughly on a nation-wide basis yet avoiding any mention of "Operation Walker." Hugh Renshaw, the virology supremo at Porton Down, was instructed to liase with George Walker and Jane Gower at the Bush Institute, Pirbright, in order to discover if a modified - in other words, less vicious - variant of Type O could be developed. And that's when the second security flap happened!
J.P: Ah! (Four seconds pause) Reports of a missing foot-and-mouth culture phial from Porton Down! These were not denied by the MOD when the news broke - early April last year, if I'm correct.
Sir R.M: Yes, indeed! (Pours himself another glass of whisky) Remember I told you about the pig experiments at Porton Down? Well, Type O Cultures from infected porcine tissue were developed and stored. Routine inventory checks on all specimen containers are carried out every week. Hugh Renshaw - who should have known better - withdrew not one but two culture phials of Type O WITHOUT signing for them! Needless to say, the duty security officer doing the weekly inspection informed his superior of the losses. That caused a flap ...
J.P: How was it covered-up?
Sir R.M: By falsifying the stock inventory to make it appear that, prior to their withdrawal, a mis-count had taken place. In other words, there were two more phials than there should have been. This happened at the end of August 2000 and was, as you know, featured over seven months later on the front page of the Sunday Messager, 8th April 2001.
J.P: How did the Messager's journalist learn about the missing phials?
Sir R.M: Through one of my intermediaries ...
J.P: Sir Rupert, it is becoming clear to me that you were not fully behind "Operation Walker" and maybe, as Director General of The Civil Service, had been placed in a very difficult position ...
Sir R.M: Who could I trust? I had no way of telling - other than my long-standing colleagues and by then, most of them had been retired - who was or wasn't singing Amutator's anthem. Fortunately, what was left of my "old-boy" network was untainted and from February last year, I used it to undermine this reckless environmental vandalism. The Sunday Messenger's article was one result of my - bloodymindedness, if you like. I made damned sure that the MOD could not issue a denial!
J.P: But at the TIME these phials disappeared, you did nothing.Then, in your wildest dreams, did you not foresee the - the terrible tragedy of last year?
Sir R.M: Well, despite misgivings, I genuinely believed that Amutator and New Labour - yes, an unholy alliance - had a plan which would work. It wasn't as though Bubonic Plague was going to be unleashed. The agricultural sector would re-emerge in a more sustainable form, with enormous prospects for future prosperity.
J.P: Despite the methodology?
Sir R.M: A desperate remedy, perhaps! But, when you're on the crest of a wave, it's too easy to become intoxicated with the grand concept. That's when structural flaws are ignored. And these emerged during the last quarter of 2000.
J.P: So, by the end of August two years ago, two phials of the Type O Virus were removed from Porton Down by Hugh Renshaw. What happened next?
Sir R.M: Renshaw, together with George Walker and Jane Gower,
commandeered one of the laboratories at the Bush Research Institute,
Pirbright. Between early September and the end of October 2000, attempts were
made to synthesise a less rampant version of Type O. They achieved partial
success, but it was still a nasty organism. A vaccine could be produced but
there were two problems. Firstly, the process was so costly that to prepare
even a small fraction of the estimated amount needed would be prohibitive.
Secondly, if vaccination did become policy, then the UK would lose its
disease-free status, probably for good.
It was clear that, by the beginning of November, the three were on the verge of advising that "Operation Walker" be postponed for at least six months so that more research could be undertaken. Somehow, No.10's Special Administration Bureau got wind of this. On Tuesday 7th November 2000, Selina Scarbolt summoned everyone involved in the plan to a meeting at Downing Street. There, the die was cast. Absolutely no turning back!
J.P: From your tone of voice, this meeting must have been very unpleasant!
Sir R.M: My God, yes! (Pours himself another whisky, consumes it
quickly, replenishes his glass) Some woman! It's rumoured that before she
worked for McMurder, Scarbolt held a senior position in the Stasi and has
blood on her hands. I believe she changed her name from Scharboldt. Isn't it
good to know that such a creature can become an advisor to Her Majesty's
At this meeting, Scarbolt accused us all of cowardice and being unwilling to act decisively. Had we forgotten the despicable behaviour of these so-called "Farmers for Action" two months ago? Were we being subverted by The Countryside Alliance's nostalgic drivel? Were we prepared to see rural Britain degenerate into mere playgrounds for the elite whilst towns and cities became overcrowded hell-holes? Time was running out and Amutator's patience, already stretched, could no longer be extended.
If New Labour persisted in dithering, Sir Despard would pull out of the UK. If, in that eventuality, the Government tried to institute proceedings against Amutator for compensation arising from breaches of contracts and unfulfilled obligations, the corporation - armed with copious documentary evidence relating to "Operation Walker" - would call their bluff. Bland was intending to seek re-election in April 2001. Amutator's revelations would re-define the meaning of "scandal." Several ministers and civil servants may well have found themselves in Wormwood Scrubs instead of Whitehall. Think about it!
J.P: (Brief pause) Sir Rupert, I presume that New Labour would not have been stupid enough to retain ...
Sir R.M: Another case of "plausible deniability," isn't it! But Amutator, by retaining ITS documents as a kind of insurance policy, held the trump card.
J.P: Well, we've reached the end of the first week in November 2000. The plan went ahead. What happened next?
Sir R.M: Amutator employees went around the country, visiting
timber merchants and heavy-plant contractors. This was a fact-finding mission
to establish whether there were sufficient resources to deal with a major
animal disease outbreak. Don't forget: the aim was to down-size the livestock
population to a more sustainable level, not eliminate it completely.
On Friday 24th November, a planning meeting chaired by Sir Despard was held at No.10. Satisfied that these firms - to be contracted to MAFF, subject to negotiations - would be able to cope with the anticipated crisis, he then dropped the bomb-shell!
It had recently come to the attention of Amutator's European Headquarters in Heidelberg that a leading German virologist was warning of an imminent outbreak of Type O in either mainland Western Europe or Great Britain.This scientist had no links of any kind with Amutator and was basing his prediction on the worsening situation in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe. In other words, unless the pre-emptive "strike" was launched as soon as possible, revitalising the countryside would be placed on indefinite hold due to uncertainty arising from whether the warning was accurate.
J.P: You mentioned earlier in the interview that MAFF officials were briefed about preparations to combat a livestock epidemic towards the end of November 2000. Am I right in thinking that, given the German virologist's dire prediction, there was a feeling of control slipping away - panic,even?
Sir R.M: We were very worried indeed. On Monday 27th November, one of the country's leading broad-sheets published an article based on this scientist's warning ...
J.P: The Daily Messenger, wasn't it?
Sir R.M: That's correct. The next day, I had a meeting with the
MAFF Secretary of State, Neil Black, one of his junior ministers, Jean
Squire, and their chief officials. The go-ahead was given to make full
logistics into disposal of deadstock should the Type O Virus strike Britain.
Given the known severity of this organism, it was calculated that the spread
of foot-and-mouth disease would be rapid and erratic.
Of course, Neil Black must have guessed what was going on ever since his brief exchange with Hugh Renshaw, following the almighty dressing-down he received from Clever Trevor, on 22nd June.
Throughout December 2000 and January 2001, MAFF officials, based on Amutator's investigations, entered into contracts with timber merchants, heavy-plant operators, road hauliers and disinfectant manufacturers. It was on Saturday 16th December when the third security breach occurred. You know, it only takes a couple of drunken buffoons to jeopardise months of careful preparation.
J.P: With all these separate enquiries going on at the moment, rumours of strange happenings prior to February last year are legion. What took place on that particular Saturday?
Sir R.M: Two Amutator employees working alongside MAFF officials
who were negotiating contract terms with a road-haulage and ground-excavation
firm based near Penrith, Cumbria, became involved in a brawl at one of the
town centre's pubs. This was the "local" for farm-workers and they
took umbrage with the arrogant posturings of these "city
arse-holes." It is a requirement that all Amutator employees operating
"in the field" must be practitioners in aikido to at least
black-belt level. Unfortunately in this instance, the contest was uneven:
eight or maybe nine fit, tough country lads gave these two a sound thrashing!
The landlord didn't call the police or ambulance service and made it clear that his "regulars" were in the right. As these two morons hobbled out of the pub, one of them turned around and said: "You f***ing turnip-heads don't know what's coming to you! You'll soon be burying your bum-chums. F***ing sheep-shaggers!"
The matter was hushed up. Amutator paid for the pub's repairs and apologised handsomely to the owner. However, this incident made us all aware that once foot-and-mouth was rampant, people would remember episodes like this and start asking awkward questions. Thank goodness there were no MAFF witnesses in the pub!
J.P: What became of these two hooligans?
Sir R.M: They disappeared. (Pours himself another glass of whisky) On Tuesday 16th January 2001, I presented a modified version of "Operation Walker" to Clever Trevor and senior Cabinet ministers at a meeting in No.10. I informed them that an outbreak of Type O Foot-and-Mouth Disease was imminent and that plans to fight the pestilence were at an advanced stage. In my judgement, based on scientific and military advice, it would be better to delay troop deployment until a clear geographical pattern of disease-spread was established. Then, Army units, at full battalion strength per infected area, would be rapidly mobilised. Under an agreed protocol between MAFF, its contractors and the MOD, the Commanding Officer of troops designated to each particular zone would be in charge of disease-containment measures.
J.P: In essence, martial law.
Sir R.M: Yes, and if it had not been for Tom Gunn's gross
incompetence, the Army would have been sent in en-masse by no later than
Monday 5th March. Then, it was clear not only where the disease
"hot-spots" were but also the "at risk" zones. The
contiguous cull policy would have been - and I make no apologies for saying
this - ruthlessly implemented and the epidemic stamped out by the end of May.
Amutator certainly didn't want any delays and was appalled at the ineptitude of this so-called Parliamentary Army Spokesman. On Monday 12th March, a very worried Sir Despard told me that if the MOD did not "get its act together" within the week, his organisation would have no option but to abandon the UK.
J.P: Surely, the Army's role and jurisdiction - as you've described it - had been approved by The Cabinet?
Sir R.M: Absolutely! They agreed to all my recommendations at the
meeting on 16th January. The task of facilitating Army assistance was
delegated to Tom Gunn. He was instructed to mobilise the Territorial Army and
Reserve Units AFTER official confirmation of foot-and-mouth. Instead, Gunn
decided to issue call-up authorisations to the various Army District HQs two
days following the meeting - Thursday 18th. Of course, the GOCs were put into
a dilemma. They realised that part-time soldiers, unlike their regular
counterparts, were not subject to round-the-clock, ongoing military
discipline. "Chinese Whispers" concerning what was, then, an
anticipated worst-case scenario would develop into a grave breach of
security. The matter was referred back to the MOD and became bogged down in
the mire of bureaucracy and red tape - something Whitehall excels in!
One of the very few times when Trevor Bland acted decisively was on Wednesday 14th March ...
J.P: That's when he assumed control over handling the crisis, wasn't it. No doubt, as a response to Sir Despard McMurdo's threat.
Sir R.M: Yes! I was there when Clever Trevor said to Tom Gunn:
"You are the most useless minister to have ever set foot in the Commons!
Thanks to you, the chance to stamp out this plague within the month has gone.
We've cocked it all up because of your inability to follow instructions.
Thanks to you, the countryside is in an even bigger mess than before
foot-and-mouth! Tom, you DO realise that I'm dismissing you from The
I think that you - we - are all too familiar with events after March last year. The worst aspect, in my view, was the scapegoating of those farmers whose lives had been ruined. As I said near the start of this interview, some of them felt they could no longer face the continuing gloom.
J.P: How was the epidemic started?
Sir R.M: A pig farm in Northumbria came to the attention of Amutator. Surrounded by large concentrations of sheep, it seemed an ideal site to introduce the virus. During investigations, we discovered that the farm's animal welfare record was dubious. RSPCA and Local Authority officials had been called in to examine the premises several times between October 2000 and mid-January 2001. MAFF veterinary staff were due to inspect it on Tuesday 23rd January. When they duly arrived, an Amutator employee accompanied them In her brief-case was an aerosol. I don't need to tell you what it contained!
J.P: So, whilst the farmer and his workers were with the "Men
from the Ministry," this woman sneaked away to infect the premises.
Hutton-on-Tyne, Northumbria. (Pause of seven seconds) It was a month later
when MAFF officials revisited the farm and confirmed foot-and-mouth disease.
The rest is, as they say, history.
Was it the epidemic's return in early October, affecting much of mid-Wales and South Yorkshire, which caused Amutator to pull out of Britain altogether?
Sir R.M: It certainly helped! However, it was obvious to all involved that "Operation Walker" had been a flop. The Cabinet's refusal to hold a full Public Enquiry fuelled suspicions that the epidemic had been orchestrated. New Labour could no longer afford to alienate the rural community just because they were only a small percentage of the population and, thus, treated as though they didn't matter. I think the MAIN factor was tourism.
J.P: Of course, the tourist industry is heavily reliant on countryside management practices. A case of much being owed by so many to so few, isn't it?
Sir R.M: Yes. I was present when representatives met Bland at No.10
on Thursday 4th October. Beforehand, I spoke to Peter Brentor, Director of
the English Tourist Board and one of my closest friends. By the time he was
ready to meet the PM, Peter knew the broad outlines of "Operation
Walker." Major-General Sir Peter Brentor, a former Grenadier and GOC
South-West District, is not only the most courageous individual I have known
but also - when the need arises - the most bloodyminded!
In front of everyone at the meeting, Peter reduced Clever Trevor to tears, such was his anger. He then rounded on Sir Despard and - would you believe it - grabbed him by the throat and said: "If you and your thugs have not left Downing Street by tomorrow morning, I will personally see to it that the rest of your days will be spent in prison. It's a pity the glasshouse doesn't cater for civilians and that money has to be spent on giving scum like you a "fair trial."
Peter made it clear that any attempt to, in his words, "act dishonourably" towards any of his tourist board colleagues would prove disastrous for New Labour.
J.P: Did Amutator ...
Sir R.M: They left the very next day. Their UK Headquarters at
Basingstoke was placed under twenty-four hour surveillance but, other than
that, a "hands-off" policy had to be maintained for reasons I need
not go into. Amutator still had other business interests within the country.
Peter and the PM reached a "gentlemen's agreement." Treasury funding, formerly allocated to Amutator as part of its rural regeneration plan, would be given to Britain's Regional Tourist Boards. If Sir Despard attempted to publish any documentary evidence relating to The Operation, D Notices under Schedule Seven of the Official Secrets Act would be issued. I think that he saw "the writing on the wall" and, to avoid his own exposure and downfall, destroyed any records held by Amutator.
J.P: Amutator eventually pulled out of Britain in mid-November
2001, with job losses exceeding two-and-a-half thousand. The rural economy
and infrastructure was a shambles. And all due to this so-called
I'll be very blunt: New Labour and Amutator were equally guilty. A lethal mix of reckless opportunism and corporate greed, wasn't it! Each feeds off the other until the bubble bursts and "Mother Nature" takes over. Was nothing learnt from the BSE crisis when herbivores were turned into carnivores? It seems, at least to me, that successive governments have suffered from institutionalised deceit and now this whole rotten culture of "nods and winks," "plausible deniability" and selective amnesia has tripped itself up! Well, Sir Rupert?
Sir R.M: Jonathan! You know as well as I do that the art of politics is very finely balanced ...
J.P: You, as head of the Civil Service could have intervened FIVE
YEARS AGO to at least try and prevent an international gang - and that's
Amutator: be in no doubt about that - from subverting a democratically
elected government, There can be NO excuses!
On this programme, you've merely given details of what, in broad terms, most people have been suspecting all along. It's not just New Labour and a rather nasty global consortium being exposed, is it? The Civil Service - unelected and unaccountable - has shown itself to be equally at fault. I realise that once Amutator's grip HAD been established, there was little you could do.
Sir R.M: (Pause of six seconds) I did, finally, intervene. Don't be too critical of "old boy networks." Sometimes, they have to be used as a last resort. The "Special Administration Bureau" was frightning, believe me! Although they've long since gone from No.10, their presence is still felt. Sir Despard's need to be disassociated from the Operation may - and I'm only guessing - may have been the reason for murdering Jane Gower and George Walker. No doubt, other ex-Amutator government advisors involved in the plan may share a similar fate.
J.P: Well, we're coming to the end of the programme. Sir Rupert, I have to admit this has been the most candid, remarkable interview I've ever done! (Brief pause) When do you hand over to Damien Spaulding?
Sir R.M: Next week. The Service will be in a very safe pair of hands. Damien is a brilliant administrator with a keen interest in countryside matters. If he can't sort out the mess, then I don't know who can. There are many officials in DEFRA who should be VERY afraid! Damien has zero tolerance of incompetence!
J.P: Sir Rupert, it remains for me to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on this programme and I wish you a fulfilling, peaceful retirement.
Sir R.M: My pleasure.
Although parody and satire abound in this purely fictitious interview, I have incorporated certain events - related to me by people whose integrity is absolute - which, by their very nature, will never feature in the plethora of forthcoming reports into the 2001 Foot-and-Mouth Epidemic.
If the content gives cause for concern or offence, then those who wish to take issue need to examine their own thoughts and actions very carefully before either putting pens to paper or considering other measures.
17B Park Crescent,
© Mark Brook 2001.