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THERE may not seem to be much in common between the UK's Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001 and the Iraq War of 2003. Yet one similarity emerged yesterday when it became known that although a government veterinary officer, Mr Jim Dring, had admitted responsibility for the start of the epidemic his written evidence may not have been submitted to the Anderson inquiry into the origins of the epidemic. A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said on Friday that evidence from many people had been used to compile the Department's note to the inquiry but could not confirm that Mr Dring's statement had been included. The link to the Iraq War, of course, is that once again we see the unwillingness of ministers in the Government to be completely open about advice they received or information in their possession. Mr Dring had inspected the farm run by Bobby Waugh where the Foot and Mouth epidemic began and renewed his licence to process catering waste into pig swill. In his written report Mr Dring said: “Had this inspection been more rigorous, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed only subject to radical revision of the Waugh's patently deficient feeding techniques, then this awful 2001 FMD epidemic would never have come about.” The reason that Defra may not have wanted its statement to contain such a frank admission of responsibility is that the potential compensation claims from farmers and others are huge if the blame for the outbreak can be clearly identified. The political consequences of the Iraq War are also huge but that should not be a reason for witholding information, such as the Attorney General's legal advice, that is crucial to a judgement of whether the war was justified.