The Agriculture Minister, Mr Nick Brown, was castigated this week for denying the foot-and-mouth outbreak was out of control.

He could hardly be expected to say anything else under the circumstances, but he could also be deemed correct in that the outbreak is still, for the most part, contained in a series of hot spots around the country, Cumbria and Devon bearing the brunt of the catastrophe. It appears that once two or three farms in an area are affected it is almost impossible to stop wind-blown infection spreading, which is what appears to have happened in the area west of Newcastle and South-West Durham. The key is to be stopping the outbreak moving beyond the first farm affected.

So large parts of the countryside remain largely free of the disease, among them North Yorkshire.

Yesterday fingers remained firmly crossed that the suspected outbreak at Borrowby, near Thirsk, will be a false alarm. The only confirmed case in the county remains the poor Lamberts at Bainbridge in Wensleydale. If the outbreak can be stopped coming down the dale and spreading into the Vale of York it will be a small if wonderful miracle.

The critical issues are now the rate of disposal of slaughtered animals and the movement of sheep from over-wintering areas to their home farms for lambing.

Bringing in the army is the obvious solution and with Europe's biggest army base at Catterick it is understandable for farmers in this part of the world to urge their immediate deployment. But clearly, ording large numbers of soldiers into the countryside is itself a risk and it is crucial that the army's deployment is carefully managed by MAFF. Indeed the issue of crisis management and MAFF's ability to handle extra resources is probably the most difficult issue.

By all means bring in the soldiers, but let's make sure they have wiped their feet first.