Until now, private prosecutions for pollution offences have been taken only against companies. But FoE intends to use provisions in section 217 of the Water Resources Act 1991 which make a director or other senior officer of a company criminally liable for a pollution offence committed with his "consent or connivance" or "attributable to any neglect" on his part.
FoE has now written to the directors of the 14 Yorkshire firms informing them that their operations have breached their discharge consents, in the hope that a court would conclude that this was sufficient warning that by their "neglect" they were countenancing a contravention of the criminal law.
Seven of the 14 firms are chemical manufacturers. They are BP Chemicals' site near Hull, Coalite Chemicals, Croda Universal, Hickson International, Lambson Speciality Chemicals, Laporte and Rhone-Poulenc's Staveley works. The others are food companies Hazlewood, Middlebrook Mushrooms, Moorland Foods and WCF Foods, British Aerospace, British Coal and National Power.
The directors of these businesses have been told that FoEwill ask the National Rivers Authority to prosecute both their companies and themselves as individuals if further breaches of discharge consents are detected - and if the NRA fails to act then FoE will take the case itself. Similar initiatives are planned by the group in other regions over the next few months.
FoE has also drawn attention to the "links between polluting companies and the Government's deregulation drive." An employee of BP Chemicals, David Parry, has been seconded to the Department of Trade and Industry where he is co-ordinator of the business task forces advising the Government on what to include in its forthcoming deregulation Bill. And David Fyfe, a member of the chemicals and pharmaceuticals task force, was until recently a senior executive of Hickson Fine Chemicals. Its parent company's Castleford site has an "awesome" pollution record, according to FoE, breaching its discharge consents on 25 occasions since early 1992.