The government has been slammed by the the Commons public accounts committee for the way it dealt with the foot and mouth disaster in 2001which cost the UK some £8bn.

DEFRA’s predecessor MAFF has been accused of a "serious misjudgment" when it assumed that the risks of an outbreak were low and failed to plan for the scale of problems it faced.

The MPs said systems for paying compensation to farmers whose animals were destroyed allowed potential recipients to select and appoint valuers themselves. Farmers received nearly £1.4bn in compensation and other payments, with the assessed values of animals tripling during the crisis.

The report said MAFF’s weak negotiating position resulted in it paying excessively for goods and services.

Since the crisis, the government has set up the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate planning UK-wide and local and that national contingency plan exercises have been held.

DEFRA said reviews of animal disease insurance, valuations, valuers and compensation issues were already under way.