7 August 1998

Cunningham no to aid tribunal

IN one of his final acts as farm minister, Jack Cunningham revealed that MAFF had rejected the idea of establishing an independent appeals tribunal for farmers who believed their subsidy claims had been dealt with unfairly.

Replying to Lib-Dem farm spokesman, Charles Kennedy, who had proposed the idea, Dr Cunningham said: "I considered the matter of appeals tribunals shortly after taking up this office. I concluded that it would be difficult to justify diverting scarce resources towards the introduction of a formal appeals tribunal."

Dr Cunningham said that any farmers who were unhappy about MAFF decisions should take up the matter initially with the regional director in the ministry service centre handling their claim. "In certain circumstances there is provision for an independent review to be carried out by a non-government lawyer," he added.

If farmers remained dissatisfied, their cases could be raised with ministers by local MPs, and, ultimately, the courts could be used to seek judicial review.

"These arrangements seem to me to provide ample opportunities for farmers to make representation about decisions concerning subsidy payments," he concluded. &#42