asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what practice his Department follows in correcting underpayments of grants and subsidies.
When an underpayment is discovered, my Department will pay the exact amount due if requested by the claimant. It will also correct any underpayment of more than £10 that comes to light. It is, however, necessary to take account of the administrative cost of correcting underpayments, while having regard to their significance in relation to the total payment due and to the individual. Unless specifically requested, my Department will therefore not correct underpayments of £10 or less, except where a series of underpayments to a single payee and arising from a single cause amounts in total to more than £10. Moreover, all the above rules are subject to a time limit. After six years, no underpayments will be corrected.These de minimis rules will apply to grants, subsidies and other payments in support of the agricultural, horticultural and fishing industries, but not to fees, allowances or other remunerations. My right hon. Friends agree that the other agricultural departments will be following the same practice, except where the intervention board is applying Community regulations which already provide specific de minimis rules.