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EU's Kafkaesque "justice" revealed

We have just learned that for the second time a part of Christopher Booker's Sunday Telegraph column has hit the editorial floor. This is unfortunate because Booker described the deliberate, unfair, illegal, and malicious destruction of a British firm by European Union apparatchiks, a story first revealed to the shocked members of the House of Lords by Lord Willoughby de Broke. Booker's blow-by-blow account is revealed here. (Via Idris Francis)

John Wright had built up his Bowland Dairies in Nelson into an £8 million a year business making curd cheese, mostly exported to five EU countries, including France and Germany, for use in quiches and flans. On June 12 inspectors of the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office made a cursory 90-minute visit to the plant, looking through the paperwork, and, after misinterpreting one document, they issued a ‘rapid alert notice’ stating that its products were unsafe. The milk in the cheese, they claimed, did not meet EU rules on antibiotic residues.

On June 20, after subjecting the plant to very thorough inspection, Britain’s Food Standards Agency strongly disagreed. After recommending one or two minor changes in the plant’s procedures, the FSA allowed production to resume. On July 4 the Commission repeated its claim that the milk did not comply with EU rules. The FSA responded that its inspectors seemed to be confused over the type of milk the firm used. Telling the ‘European Standing Committee on the Food Chain’ that ‘no evidence was found that contaminated milk was used’, the FSA issued a notice to all EU member states that Bowland’s
cheese was entirely safe and fit for market.

The Commission appended its own negative comments to this notice, effectively maintaining the ban. Black propaganda began to appear, falsely alleging that the firm had been selling cheese contaminated with cleaning fluid and sweepings from the floor. Bowland took the Commission before the European Court of Justice and, on September 8, after reviewing all aspects of the case, legal and scientific, the president of the Court of First Instance, Judge Bo Vesterdorf, found unreservedly in the company’s favour, ordering the Commission to withdraw both its notice and its comments about the firm.

Twice the Commission refused to obey. On September 12 Vesterdorf ordered it to ‘stand aside’. The Commission tried to add a statement to the court order, claiming that it had lost on a mere technicality. The judge ordered this to be removed, observing ‘it is sad that a company is dying while giants fight it out’.

On September 27 the FVO returned to Bowland, this time carrying out an exhaustive two-day inspection, but could find little wrong (any findings, the Commission’s chief inspector told Mr Wright, would be ‘non-emergency’). Despite this, on October 4, the Commission asked its Standing Committee to approve a Commission Decision banning Bowland from further trading. The 25 members present were not shown the Court’s judgement or any technical evidence other than a defence of the new procedure for testing antibiotic residues from the firm which had devised it.

Twenty two countries voted for a total ban, with Britain abstaining, and the Commission announced that it would seek to have the UK food safety authorities fined for failing to protect consumers against contaminated milk (despite the court ruling and the lack of any evidence of contamination). Furthermore Britain was warned that the FVO was about to carry out a full audit of Britain’s £5 billion-a-year cheese industry.

Despite the FSA’s solid support of Bowland and continuing insistence that no rules had been broken, the Department of Health bowed to the Commission’s diktat. On October 16 it rushed through a statutory instrument, the Curd Cheese (Restriction on Placing on the Market) Regulations 2006, to take immediate effect. Section 3 read ‘No person shall place on the market any curd cheese manufactured by Bowland Dairy Products Limited’.

Never before, it is believed, has a statutory instrument been issued in Britain directed at closing down a single named company (breaching the ancient principle of British law that ‘the law must be blind’, i.e. it must be general in application, not directed at any specific individual or body).

When Lord Willoughby de Broke recounted this chilling story last week, eloquently supported by others including Lord Greaves, a Lib Dem who lives near Mr Wright’s plant, peers were visibly horrified. The only defence junior health minister Lord Warner could muster for the Government’s action (apart from seriously misrepresenting the terms of Vesterdorf’s judgement) was to plead that failure to implement the Commission’s decision ‘would constitute a serious breach of the UK’s obligations under the EC Treaty’. For truth, justice, the rule of law and Britain it was a black day.