Search OCA
Get Local!

Firms to sue over foot and mouth

October 14, 2001 The Observer by Anthony Browne and Paul Harris
RURAL businesses are banding together to sue the Government for billions of pounds in compensation for losses caused by the foot and mouth outbreak, The Observer can reveal.

In a landmark case, more than 300 owners of businesses, including hotels, pubs, coffee shops and tour groups, have launched a massive group action.

They are also having talks with representatives of up to 20,000 other traders across Britain, who were also affected by the outbreak, to ask them to join the action.

None of the businesses received any compensation for losses caused by the outbreak, which began in February and decimated local economies. Livestock farmers, who were the cause of the outbreak, have been generously compensated by the govern ment, which has repeatedly ruled out compensating any other type of business.

Tens of thousands of rural businesses, particularly those in tourism, suffered severe losses because of the sudden closure of most of the British countryside.

The court action is being launched as the government becomes increasingly confident that the outbreak has finally been beaten.

There have been no new cases of the disease since 30 September, and experts are increasingly optimistic that Britain could be officially declared foot-and-mouth free by the end of the year.

The Powys Rural Business Campaign, representing more than 300 companies, has instructed Class Law Solicitors of London to start proceedings against the government and Powys Council.

The campaigners have also started talks with business groups in other affected parts of the country, including Cumbria, Devon and Northumberland, in order to launch a national class action with up to 20,000 companies suing the government. The potential compensation could run to billions of pounds.

The campaign co-ordinator, Graham Williams, runs a horse trekking firm on the top of a Welsh hill which was abruptly closed by the authorities when it shut off the countryside around it and the one road that led up to it.

The campaign, which is being advised by top barrister Hilary Heilbrom QC, is suing the government and Powys Council on three counts. They claim the government discriminated against rural businesses in favour of farmers. 'Under the Human Rights Act, it is illegal to discriminate against classes of people, and we are interpreting that as making it illegal to discriminate against classes of business,' said Stephen Alexander, senior partner at Class Law.

They claimed the government effectively appropriated property without compensation, in contravention of a House of Lords ruling in a Burmah Oil case that it is illegal for the government to do so.

'Businesses in those areas that were cut off could no longer use their property and effectively had it appropriated - without any compensation,' said Alexander. The businesses will also claim that they were denied the right to use their property in contravention of article one of the Human Rights Act.

The campaigners are also suing the government and Powys Council, claiming that they illegally shut down roads. The authorities shut down hundreds of roads and paths that were used by cars, despite only having the legal right to shut down roads that have no vehicular access. 'There was an excessive use of power that meant these people had their livelihoods interfered with through no faults of their own. It was all done to protect the commercial interests of the livestock business,' said Alexander.

The Government claims that it has only compensated farmers because it is in effect buying the infected animals in order to slaughter them. It has always ruled out paying compensation to any sort of business for so-called consequential losses, which have indirectly resulted from the outbreak and the restrictions.

There has been no fresh case of the disease for two weeks, when a farm in Cumbria was declared infected. This raises the prospect that for the first time Britain's farm animals could now be totally free of the virus.

'We are very close to the end and maybe we have actually finished. The outbreak may actually be over,' said Professor Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University.

Privately, Government officials admit they are 'cautiously optimistic' that the disease has been vanquished. In a sign of growing confidence last week a ban on the export of pork meat was lifted from certain areas.

However, the outbreak can only be declared at an end officially when three months have passed since the last case

Hundreds of laid off tourism workers protest in Keswick against the distress created by foot and mouth disease. Photograph by Murdo MacLeod


Home | News | Organics | GE Food | Health | Environment | Food Safety | Fair Trade | Peace | Farm Issues | Politics
Forum | Español | Campaigns | Buying Guide | Press | Search | Volunteer | Donate | About Us | Contact Us | Email This Page

Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.
Please Support Our Sponsors!

Organic Valley

Organic
Valley

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

Dr. Bronner's
Magic Soaps

Botani Organic

Botani
Organic

Aloha Bay

Aloha Bay

Eden Organics

Eden Foods

Frey Vineyards

Frey
Vineyards

Intelligent Nutrients

Intelligent
Nutrients