AGRICULTURE Minister Nick Brown yesterday pledged extra help to fight foot-and-mouth in the region, after claims the battle was being lost in the North-East through lack of resources.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair will today hit the tourist trail in Yorkshire to spread the word that it is "OK in the UK" despite the crisis.

The moves came amid rising frustration among farmers at the way the outbreak was being handled.

The Northern Echo reported on Wednesday how the Army feared its efforts to control the outbreak were being undermined by a shortage of vets and slaughter teams.

But Mr Brown told the House of Commons yesterday he had issued orders that sufficient resources be provided to combat the virus in the region, including an additional 12 vets.

The pledge came in response to questions from Bishop Auckland MP Derek Foster, who sent a copy of The Northern Echo to Mr Brown.

Mr Foster said it seemed to be only in the last few days that Maff had realised the importance of getting to grips with the disease in the North-East.

NFU leaders said Maff had not learned from mistakes made in Cumbria and Devon and that livestock next to infected farms were not being culled within 48 hours.

Figures from the ministry show that at the weekend a team of just 60 administration and specialist staff and vets were working from the Newcastle nerve centre, compared to more than 360 in Carlisle.

But last night, the Newcastle figurehad risen to 220.

The concerns came as a third case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed last night at Danby Wiske, near Northallerton in North Yorkshire. Another new case was confirmed at Howden-le-Wear, County Durham.

Nationwide, there were 22 new cases in the 24 hours to 7pm last night, bringing the total to 1,046.

l Slaughterman Steven Smart, 28, who was shot by a bolt gun at Great Orton, Cumbria, died at Newcastle General Hospital, last night.

A 37-year-old man was earlier arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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