Farmers over the last 20 years who had a favourable ruling by an Independent Panel at Stage 2 of DAERA’s Review of Decisions process that was ultimately rejected by the Department need to decide whether they want their case looked at again.
With DAERA working on a new review process after Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said he would not be going against the view of the panel at Stage 2, a public consultation is expected this spring.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon and his voluntary adviser Brian Little have been following the issue closely and are hopeful that the consultation will include a mechanism that allows historic appeals to come forward.
They point to a letter sent by Minister Poots to south Down MLA Jim Wells in January 2021 where the Minister states that “officials will consider this option as part of their work to make the panel the final decision maker in Review of Decision cases”.
The proposal put to DAERA is that the cases could be considered by a newly constituted Supreme Agricultural Appeal Panel (SAAP). This panel would only consider cases where the outstanding claim is over £5,000. Each applicant would pay a fee of £1,500 (which may be refundable if they win).
Once the DAERA consultation is complete, it will be up to Minister Poots and DAERA Permanent Secretary Denis McMahon to assess the potential overall cost, and decide whether these historic cases can be reconsidered by a SAAP.
Shannon believes that the newly formed Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS), set up to help small business owners resolve disputes with banks, sets a precedent. BBRS will consider historic cases dating back to 1 December 2001.
“A voluntary scheme to deal with historic cases is quite possible with the political will and appropriate eligibility back to 2001, underpinned by suitable appeal /arbitration processes like the proposed SAAP,” said Shannon.