Tories condemn compensation fiasco

The Conservatives have added their voice to condemnation of the government's decision not to give compensation to Scottish and Welsh farmers hit by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

A £12.5m compensation package was announced for English farmers this week by Hilary Benn.

Earlier this week the Scottish National Party (SNP), which had been campaiging for UK-wide compensation, leaked a first draft of Benn's announcement, which appeared to show the government had been planning to give money to Scotland and Wales and had then changed its mind. Defra said the devolved Scottish government and the Welsh assembly should fund compensation for its own countries.

The Conservatives are now claiming the decision was linked to Gordon Brown's decision not to hold a general election.

Shadow chief secretary to the treasury Philip Hammond has written to his counterpart, Andy Burnham, requesting a full explanation.

Hammond said: "It is outrageous that Gordon Brown will hand out cash when he thinks it will improve his electoral prospects - then go back on his pledge when he bottles out of the election.

"How can the public trust a prime minister who treats funding for a serious issue like FMD as just another opportunity for some crude electioneering?

"This may be just the tip of the iceberg. I have today written to Andy Burnham asking him to provide me with full details of any other funding approved before last weekend that has now been withdrawn because there is not going to be an election."

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