26 November 1999
Farmers prepare to sue Nick Brown

By Alistair Driver

THE pig industry is close to agreeing a method of raising an estimated £100,000 needed to finance legal action against farm minister Nick Brown.

Producers are being asked by the British Pig Industry Support Group and the National Pig Association to pay a voluntary 2p/pig levy.

The levy will be deducted by processors, who are being asked to match producer contributions with similar sums of their own.

Organisers want the scheme to start on the week ending 13 December and to last for an initial period of 20 weeks.

The British Meat Federation has indicated it is keen to support the legal fund, which is to be administered by the NPA, and is sending details to its members.

Early feedback suggests large-scale support for legal action against Mr Brown, said Meryl Ward, the pig producer and BPISG treasurer who is organising the action.

The legal process will be in two stages which the BPISG estimates that both stages could cost up to £50,000.

Initially an application seeking leave to move for judicial review against Mr Brown will be lodged, which, if granted, would be followed by the second stage.

The aim is to win compensation for producers who claim to have been “discriminated” against by the government.

Producers say that ministerial regulations have unfairly landed them with a bill of £80m a year to comply with BSE safety measures.

The NPA also plans to ask the EU Commission for permission for the pig industry to be compensated by the UK government for the “BSE tax”.

A recent application by MAFF was rejected after it was judged to be a plea for short-term aid banned under EU law, said Stewart Houston, NPA producer group chairman.

But in informal meetings with commission officials, he and British Pig Executive chairman Richard Campbell were well received when they put their case.