13 March 2001
Abattoir wins over bad MAFF advice

By FWi staff

THE Parliamentary ombudsman has upheld a complaint by an abattoir owner who accused the Ministry of Agriculture of wrongly advising him to expand his business.

MAFF issued incorrect guidance regarding veterinary inspections in the run-up to joining the European single market in 1993, the ombudsman ruled.

The un-named abattoir owner expanded after MAFF told him a European Commission directive would force him to have full-time veterinary supervision.

The owner felt that unless he upgraded his premises, he would be unable to afford to pay for full-time supervision.

But after work had been started, MAFF revised its guidance to say that supervision would be left to each local authorities judgement.

Although the change meant the UK would not be in full compliance of the EU directive, the decision was made because of a shortage of vets.

Following this development, the abattoir owner abandoned the expansion and submitted a claim for compensation to MAFF.

He claimed the expenditure incurred on upgrading his plant had been wasted.

MAFF told the abattoir owners solicitors that he had made a commercial judgement and the ministry could not be held responsible for many loss.

But the ombudsman said the advice had lead to financial losses.

Although the abattoir in question is now closed, MAFF permanent secretary Brian Bender has agreed to reimburse the operator for the unspecified losses.

The Food Standards Agency has also promised it will be taking steps to identify and compensate any other operators who were similarly affected.