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See also email to Warmwell and Warmwell's full page on DEFRA late payments and Debts, Disputes and Drownings

From FPB's website

NOTE: We understand that FPB have not taken anybody to court - just done their level best to raise awareness of the issue at a national level. Businesses may be under the mistaken impression that the FPB are in a position to legally represent them on the many issues involved with the F&M outbreak and unfortunately that isn't the case.

An emailer writes.. (Jan 2004)
The Forum of Private Businesses
The FPB are also interested in the other matters which have concerned us for so long namely; the animal cruelty, illegal contiguous culls, bullying of farmers and families, the lies and deceit over blood tests plus any additional material of this ilk. Photographic evidence would be useful as would eye-witness accounts

NOTE: It should be made clear that FPB have not taken anybody to court - just done their level best to raise awareness of the issue at a national level. Businesses may be under the mistaken impression that the FPB are in a position to legally represent them on the many issues involved with the F&M outbreak and unfortunately that isn't the case.

October 5 2005 ~ Defra still has to settle bills worth £20 million in Devon.

Sept 19 2005 ~ 40 Million is still owed by DEFRA

April 25 2005 ~ the failure to pay many contractors is totally unacceptable.

FPB chief executive Nick Goulding, quoted in :

April 8 -15 2005 ~ The cost of the unpaid invoices

3 March 2005 ~ DEFRA, facing a High Court action, has finally settled out of court with Cumbria Waste Management

February 21- 28 2005 ~"We are saying that four years is a totally unacceptable delay in paying hard working contractors who have submitted accurate invoices.

2 - 7 February 2005 ~ FPB says the NAO report is flawed ".. as it accepts Defra's findings uncritically."

2 February 2005 ~ "not an area where we can afford such a lackadaisical approach"

November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Contractors are still owed "around £50 million"

July 20 2004 ~ DEFRA is still disputing charges from contractors who worked during the 2001 epidemic.

March 2 - 6 ~ renewed demands for compensation from the Government and for a full public inquiry into the outbreak...."

March 2 - 6 ~ the admission would strengthen the case for legal action

March 2 - 6 ~ "when it was pointed out that he was only bankrupt because Defra had forced him out of business, Mr Podmore was given leave for his action to proceed."

March 2 ~ Hope for £100m in FMD bills

Feb 24 2004 ~ Dead Cow Day

Feb 24 ~ The Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Owen Paterson MP

Feb 14 ~ Why is the 50 million still owed by DEFRA not being paid?

Feb 4 ~"None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse. .."

Feb 3 ~ "The Forum of Private Business

Jan 20 2004 ~"The judgment follows several cases which have seen Defra accused of strong-arm tactics in a bid to avoid paying contractors..."

"one of the biggest scandals remaining from the 2001 foot and mouth debacle...." Christopher Booker

From FPB website "Following yet another defeat in the courts for Defra connected with contractor's claims for payments still outstanding from the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis, FPB have received some excellent coverage in both the Sunday Telegraph and Private Eye.

Relevant links on warmwell

( Each opens in new window)
... Valerie Elliott in the Times ... A number of fraud investigations are now under way ... private contractors leapt on to a multimillion-pound gravy train during last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic .... spinalert.html

Small Business (Late Payment)
Andrew George (St. Ives): If she will make a statement on the late payment of debts to small businesses. [136684] 03nov12pq.html -

The Fifth Report of the Public Accounts Committee
"...The 46 fraud investigations initiated on the LW(D)S were in the main ... DEFRA's payment policy is to pay contractors the monies legitimately due to them for work ... defradefends2.html

Forum of Private Business
... probably know that a frequent response of Defra is to allege fraud (see Nigel ... who have gone into liquidation as a result of non-payment by Defra, but do you ... 03nov12paulg.html

Nov 8 ~ The government are accusing of "fraud" firms near bankruptcy because of DEFRA's non payment over FMD work. See WMN.

Foot and Mouth Contingency Plan. ... checking, write-off, over and under payment procedures in. ... the process of dealing with allegations of fraud. ... vaccination programme under a contract with Defra. ... conplan03.html
... is considering capping the UK's total final FMD payment "grave concerns ... an investigation by Olaf, its anti-fraud unit ... Read in full about how DEFRA asked farmers ... octnovarchive.html

inbox new ... These vets could, by their fraud, spread disease all round the world. ... She writes, "DEFRA have still not acknowledged the payment ( or taken it out of the ... inboxnewnov1003.html

(See also from the FPB website "Court case bodes well for Foot and Mouth contractors")

Private Eye

Muckspreader 14/01/04

A landslide defeat for Defra in the high court has blown wide open one of the biggest scandals remaining from the 2001 foot and mouth debacle:

A landslide defeat for Defra in the high court has blown wide open one of the biggest scandals remaining from the 2001 foot and mouth debacle: the ministry's astonishing refusal to pay hundreds of contractors £100 million still owing for work done to Defra/Maff's instructions when the crisis was at its height. The court ordered Defra to pay JDM Accord £5 million it had been owed for nearly three years, for building the notorious Ash Moor burial pit in Devon, designed to hold 500,000 dead animals and never used. But JDM 's victory has only highlighted the hundreds of other cases where Defra has refused to pay contractors still owed more than £100 million for work carried out to Maff's instructions. Typical has been the nightmare faced by Luke Furse Earthmoving Ltd., a Devon contracting firm run for 25 years by Mr Furse and his wife. Shortly after the crisis hit Devon, the firm responded so efficiently to a call to build one of the county's huge pyres of infected animals that it soon became one of Maff''s major allies. Eventually Furse Earthmoving was responsible for organising and constructing more than 40 pyres. To carry out this dirty, unpleasant, exhausting work, the firm had to expand its normal workforce of 25 to 400.

At every step the company acted under the instructions of Maff officials, keeping a detailed record of invoices, dockets, logged telephone calls and other paperwork amounting to 750,000 items. All payments were agreed, recorded and counter-signed until, when the crisis was finally over, the time came for accounts to be settled. Only then, as months went by, did it gradually emerge that something had gone hideously wrong.

During the six months of the crisis, Maff ordered spending as if there was no tomorrow, knowing that, under EU law, a large part of the bill would eventually be picked up by the European Commission. But as the dust settled, Commission officials began to hint that they were not happy with the way Maff had been throwing money around. Farmers had been paid too much in compensation (since much of the 'cull' had been illegal, this was thought necessary to buy off their protests). Too much had been spent in every direction.

In 2002 and 2003 it gradually became clear that Defra was finding any excuse not to pay the money it owed to hundreds of contractors, including Furse Earthmoving. Invoices for £500,000 and other documents which the firm supplied to Defra were mysteriously 'lost'. Quibbles were raised about the tiniest details of spending. Typical was the way, during the crisis, Maff had ordered that each of the firm's employees must be supplied with two sets of wellies, so that one could be disinfected while the other was in use. But Defra now said this was not necessary. What made the nightmare only more alarming was to discover through the Forum of Private Business that countless other firms were being treated in the same way. Defra's refusal to pay its debts was clearly based on a strategy concerted from the highest level. Only this month, when MPs tried to raise the scandal in the Commons, when one MP raised the Furse case. the minister Alun Michael continued to stonewall. But now, with JDM's court victory, Defra's tactics have been comprehensively ruled as illegal. The day of reckoning for this astonishing official policy of intimidation, bullying and dishonesty has at last arrived.

Sunday Telegraph/Notebook 16 January

Booker's Notebook

A flurry of court cases in recent days has highlighted the horrifying treatment by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of 350 contractors claiming more than £100 million owed for work carried out on ministry instructions during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. Terrified that it may lose £1 billion due to Britain from Brussels, Defra has tried to appease the European Commission by finding every excuse not to hand over the money, owed to firms on which it relied through the crisis to build pyres, move carcases and disinfect farms. But now it seems the courts have finally called Defra's bluff on a campaign of intimidation which has been actively supported by ministers - while the UK government may well lose the £1 billion it wishes to claim from Brussels anyway.

On Friday the new 'Technology and Construction Court' ruled that JDM Accord should be paid £5 million it has been owed since 2001 for constructing a vast £7 million burial pit at Ash Moor, Devon, which was never used (and which it cost taxpayers a further £3 million to fill in). Days earlier, a Devon farmer Michael Pedrick, 63, who lost his entire farm stock during the crisis, was cleared at Exeter of trying to cheat Defra out of £17,000, after the ministry spent more than £100,000 trying to convict him. He said afterwards that he and his family had been 'put through hell' by Defra's officials.

Another 62-year old Devon farmer, Ted Haste, was due to appear last Monday on criminal charges of deceiving the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by wrongly claiming compensation in an invoice he was instructed to submit by Maff officials. At the last minute, after what Mr Haste described as two years of 'living nightmare', Defra abandoned its case and told Mr Haste he was now free to continue his claim.

Hundreds of contractors still have claims outstanding, including Robert Pugh of Montgomeryshire, still owed £500,000 by Defra after its officials spent two years quibbling over sums as small as 35p. The small Devon contracting firm run by Luke Furse and his wife Suzanne gave such efficient assistance to Maff in building more than 40 funeral pyres that at one time they were employing 400 people. Despite being supplied with 750,000 documents, recording in detail every action the firm took under MAFF's instruction, many counter-signed by MAFF officials, Defra has conducted such a remorseless campaign of prevarication and intimidation that the firm is still owed £1.2 million.

During the crisis Maff seemed under no constraint in the reckless way in which it threw money at signing up contractors to help. Difficulties over payment only became serious after Brussels questioned the scale of Maff's expenditure, and indicated its reluctance to hand over £1.2 billion due to the UK government under EU law.

Only when many of the contractors' cases were taken on by the Forum of Private Business did it emerge that Defra was using a common strategy to justify non-payment, such as refusing to pay for meal breaks and travel time. Many of the same devices were used against JDM, in the 12-week case which came to judgement last Friday, when the court ruled they were illegal and in breach of contract.

Publicly ministers, led by Margaret Beckett and Alun Michael, admit they have spent £20 million investigating the hundreds of cases still outstanding, to save, they claim, £80 million. Of 1200 cases investigated, the National Audit Office last year found that only 18 involved fraud, non proven and most now abandoned. But the real disgrace of this affair is that, despite Defra's shameless efforts to convince Brussels that it has been looking after taxpayers' interests, the European Commission has not yet shown any sign of being impressed. It has capped the UK's right to claim repayment at a mere £250 million, leaving £1 billion outstanding - a sum it seems the UK government may now never be in a position to claim.