Pig farmers could face hefty court bill
by Alistair Driver
THE government has warned pig farmers fighting in court next week that they could be faced with a bill of tens of thousands of Pounds if the action fails.
Pig producers claim that agriculture minister Nick Brown has failed in his duty to apply for European state aid as compensation for BSE-related regulations.
A long-awaited judicial review into the matter is due to be heard by lawyers at the Royal Courts of Justice in London next Wednesday and Thursday (7-8 June).
If the farmers wins their case, they say the Ministry of Agriculture will be obliged to pursue compensation worth up to 200m from the European Union.
But if MAFF wins, it has vowed to try and recover its court costs from the farmers who are represented by the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG).
A MAFF spokesman said it does not believe it would be a proper use of taxpayers money to pay for the case, given the premises it is based on.
In earlier correspondence between lawyers for the two parties, MAFF had sought to secure its costs against the people named on BPISG affidavit.
The names include BPISG treasurer Meryl Ward and chairman Matthew Atkin who have helped the organisation raise over 100,000 towards its costs.
But, according to Mr Atkin, the BPISG does not have any funds to cover MAFFs costs, which could amount to tens of thousands of Pounds.
“It would be very difficult politically for the ministry to go ahead and pursue full costs,” Mr Atkin told Farmers Weekly.
“Not only did a judge in the High Court rule that our case deserved of a full hearing, he granted a fast-track hearing.”
Pursuing costs in a case that has already been given such strong justification would be damaging for Labour MPs dependent on the rural vote, Mr Atkin added.
The outcome of the review may not be known for some weeks as layers discuss BPISG claims that the government has a duty to grant aid to the industry.
MAFF insists, however, that there is nothing to apply for because Brussels has told the ministry that it does not have grounds for an aid application.