Exporters air their beef about exclusion

Judgment is now pending in a case which could decide the fate of several major UK beef exporters.

Mr Justice Laws has been told that the future of exporters responsible for up to 40 per cent of UK beef exports hinges on his decision in a challenge to the Government's stance on those entitled to financial help after the EC ban on British beef.

The judge has reserved judgment in the action in which six leading British beef exporters accuse the Government of discriminating against them over financial help.

The six say they have been stripped of their whole market as a result of the EC worldwide ban on UK beef. They told the court that the Government had excluded them from the £130 million rescue package aimed at softening the blow to the industry. The exporters say the upshot is that they are now effectively "teetering on the brink of disaster".

During the hearing, counsel Nicholas Green asked the court to overturn the Government's decision to exclude exporters from the rescue deal. He argued that the decision to exclude them should be outlawed as contrary to community law.

"No one is more acutely affected than the exporters," he said. "They lost 100 per cent of their market."

But Kenneth Parker QC, for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, argued that exporters were victims of a "harsh economic reality", and nothing else. He said the decision to exclude them from the aid package was the "logical result" of Government policy to provide only the essential support needed to save the British beef industry from collapse and conserve domestic demand.

A judgment in the action is expected early in the new legal term.

In The Lawyer 17 September we referred to a forthcoming intellectual property case being handled by Keeble Hawson Rodgers & Howe. We have been asked to point out that the firm is based in Sheffield, not in Leeds as stated.