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September 18, 2007 3:00 PM

Local MP Tim Farron has called for a regionalised relaxation to the Foot and Mouth movement ban while chairing a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton. Tim was joined at the meeting by Peter Kendall (President, NFU), Dr Helen Phillips (CEO, Natural England) and Roger Williams MP (Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesman).

"While the threat from Foot and Mouth in Surrey is very serious, and the disease needs stamping out, we need to ensure that we don't destroy the farming industry in the process. This morning we heard of another confirmed case of the disease in sheep near Egham, but, thankfully, the disease doesn't appear to have spread outside Surrey," said Tim.

"This morning I spoke to Jeff Rooker, the Farming Minister. I conveyed to him the strong view of local farmer that every measure should be taken to prevent the spread of this disease. However I also asked him personally to look at a regionalised relaxation to the movement ban - initially for farm to farm movements with vets at either end, but after it's clear that the outbreak is confined to Surrey we should move to a full relaxation in regions like the North West.

"Only by making these moves can we be sure of the future of the farming industry in areas like the South Lakes - many farmers have contacted me in recent days worried about how they will make it through the winter financially if they can't sell their animals soon."

Tim has also asked Jeff Rooker to consider price support given the plummeting of sale prices. "Given the Government's commendable willingness to bail out Northern Rock and its savers, the Government should also now consider underwriting guaranteed livestock prices to help farmers facing ruin," said Tim.