Ministers apologise to Lowermoor victims

Health Minister Anna Soubry and Environment Minister Richard Benyon have apologised on behalf of government to all those affected by the Lowermoor Water Poisoning in July 1988.

North Cornwall’s MP, Dan Rogerson, had called several meetings with both Ministers to secure the official apology. In a joint letter, the two Ministers acknowledge that:

  • the incident was serious and unprecedented in its nature and the water authority was slow to recognise what had gone wrong and communicate this to the local public health authorities in the first instance so they could take action
  • There had been “a manifest failure to give prompt appropriate advice and information to affected consumers, local journalists and government officials
  • communication problems resulted in a wider loss of public confidence because the incident very rapidly became national news since it occurred at a time when the future of the water industry was highly topical and also controversial in the context of plans to privatise the water authorities

They conclude: “In light of the findings of the various investigations into the Lowermoor Water Incident we, on behalf of Government, unreservedly apologise to your constituents.

Commenting, Dan Rogerson MP said:

“This apology should have come immediately from Ministers responsible in the Conservative government at the time. Instead, for 25 years we’ve seen hedging and buck-passing. It’s very welcome that at last Ministers in this Coalition Government are prepared to admit that their Departments share responsibility for this appalling incident. Those affected will want to digest the contents of the Ministers’ letter before responding.

“Now we have official clarity that mistakes were made, residents in and around Lowermoor have a right to know who made those mistakes and why.

“Devon and Cornwall Police should now heed the West Somerset Coroner’s call for them to re-open their investigation – and they should find no door closed in establishing whether and how a cover-up happened.

“We also wait to hear more about the Government conducing further scientific research, as the Department for Health Lowermoor subgroup report published in April recommended, in relation to long-term health impacts on those who were exposed to the contaminated water.”

Former North Cornwall MP, Lord Tyler added:

“Dan’s persistence in this matter, working with the campaigners, is paying off.

“We are at last getting some official candour and official answers where for a whole generation successive governments – Tory and Labour – ran a mile from admitting the negligence everyone in the area knew had clearly taken place.

“Many local people will quite rightly never forgive the Conservative Ministers who could have set up a full inquiry straight-away, allowing access to communications between them and officials and providing for proper research into the ill-effects of the poisoning on local residents.

“Instead they shuffled their papers and hoped the whole nasty episode would go away. Over the years, Liberal Democrats have been determined to make sure it didn’t.

“There was an appalling betrayal of the public interest, which cannot be dismissed or denied by those involved. Even government departments – thanks to Coalition Ministers – now admit that.”

ENDS

The full letter from Ministers Anna Soubry and Richard Benyon to Dan Rogerson MP, Sarah Newton MP and Lord Tyler is available here.

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