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Instruments of attainder

An Act of Attainder is an act of parliament passed against a particular person or sometimes a group of people. Until their use died out in the late eighteenth century they were a means by which the King could convict anyone he liked without needing to persuade a jury of his case. The last recorded Act of Attainder was passed against the Irish rebel Lord Fitzgerald in 1798.

Until now.

Christopher Booker recounts the truly shocking story of Bowland Dairies, a small Lancashire cheesemaker which was on the receiving end of a short visit from EU inspectors. The inspectors claimed that the milk did not meet EU rules on antibiotic residues, and, despite a Food Standards Agency visit confirming that this was incorrect, they went on to confirm a ban on the company's products. Even when they were defeated in the European courts, the Commission went ahead an banned the company from trading. They went on to threaten the UK with a full audit of every dairy in the country and a fine for not protecting consumers.

If anything it then gets worse

Despite the FSA's solid support of Bowland and its 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).

This is therefore the first Act of Attainder passed in this country since Lord Fitzgerald in 1798. If anything it's worse than that - it's a statutory instrument rather than an act of Parliament, so it doesn't even carry the moral authority of having passed a vote in both houses. Essentially the executive have taken upon themselves the power to outlaw someone without resort to the courts, without even the backing of Parliament. Tony Blair has only to point his finger at you and you are outlawed.

That's tyranny isn't it? 


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Reader Comments (1)

This is truly dreadful. I can't believe the government can get away with this.
Dec 11, 2006 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Adams

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