21 January 2000
More pressure on Brown over pigs
By Alistair Driver
SHADOW agriculture minister Tim Yeo has asked European farm commissioner Franz Fischler whether he supports pig farmers calls for state aid.
In a move designed to put further pressure on agriculture minister Nick Brown, Mr Yeo also asked whether the British government had sought aid from Brussels.
“If they have not done so hitherto, but do so now, do you believe that the Commission would be likely to approve such a scheme?” he said in a letter.
Pig farmers are furious with Mr Brown for his apparent lack of effort in trying to get commission approval for up to 80m in aid.
Farmers believe the money available under a Brussels scheme to compensate them for the cost of implementing BSE-related regulations in the pig sector.
News that Mr Yeo had written to Mr Fischler comes a day after the British Pig Industry Support Group said it was on the verge of suing Mr Brown.
The group is incensed Mr Brown has refused to apply for BSE-related aid even though Belgium secured aid for its farmers after its dioxin scandal.
Mr Yeo believes British proposals for aid because of BSE could be based on the same grounds as dioxin-related payments made to Belgian producers last year.
He was inspired to write to the commissioner having seen a recent letter from Mr Fischler to his colleague, former shadow agriculture minister Michael Jack.
Mr Yeo said that Mr Fischlers letter indicated that the commission could grant aid for pig farmers under pressure from BSE related regulations.
However, the letter also admits that no formal approach has been made from the British Government for any such aid.
A similar leaked message from Mr Fischler was sent to NFU president Ben Gill after he contacted the commissioner on the same issue.