The government has been urged to compensate farmers for last year’s foot and mouth outbreak which centred on two laboratories in Surrey.

Fourteen farmers are suing DEFRA and the laboratories at the centre of the outbreak for £1.5 in damages.

The laboratories are the publicly funded Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Limited, a privately run vaccine production company.

Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron said: “It is outrageous that hard-working farmers should have to go all the way to the High Court to get full compensation.”

The government had clearly been negligent, Mr Farron added.

“It is incredible that the Government is happy to bail out bankers, but won’t accept responsibility for its own lack of biosecurity.”

It was clear that poor biosecurity controls were directly responsible for destroying many farmers’ livelihoods, said Mr Farron.

“The government should recognise its own failures at the Pirbright laboratory in Surrey, and fully compensate all the farmers who suffered such terrible losses.”

Merial said it strongly denied any responsibility for last summer’s outbreak and would vigorously defend any claims.