The Court of Appeal Holds that a Compensation Scheme Does Not Infringe The EC Principle of Non-Discrimination

30 Mar 2009

R (on the application of Partridge Farms LTD) v Secretary of State For Environment Food & Rural Affairs [2009] EWCA Civ 284

Christopher Vajda QC (who did not appear in the High Court) successfully represented the Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs in his appeal against a judgment of the Administrative Court. which had held that the payments provided for under the Cattle Compensation (England) Order 2006 breached the EC law principle of equality. The principal means of ascertaining the amount of compensation payable under the Order was by means of a tabular valuation, which defined categories of bovine animals and required the average market price for each category to be calculated. For pedigree cattle, the compensation payable was the average market price during the period of six months preceding their slaughter. The judge found that Order discriminated as it did not provide for payment of anything like a reasonable approximation of the true healthy market value of pedigree cows and that the Secretary of State had failed to objectively justify the differential treatment satisfying the requirement of proportionality.

The Court of Appeal held that, although the principle of non-discrimination, applied to prohibit indirect discrimination, it did not preclude legislation of general application from affecting different persons in different ways provided it was determined on the basis of objective criteria formulated to meet the relevant objective. The fact that one particular group was affected to a greater extent than another by a legislative measure did not necessarily mean that the measure was disproportionate or discriminatory inasmuch as it sought a comprehensive solution to a problem of general public importance. In the instant case, there was no discrimination. The true value of any animal once it had tested positive for tuberculosis was the salvage value of its carcass, so the true value of so called “high value” cattle was not materially different from any other cattle which had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. The Order provided for compensation in excess of salvage value of the cattle, which applied to all owners of pedigree cattle. The whole purpose of the Order was to depart so far as possible from individual valuation. The fact that there was no discrimination was also reinforced by the difficulty in determining what were “high value” cattle.

For the Court of Appeal judgment, please click here.