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Rural Payments Agency

Volume 408: debated on Tuesday 1 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the capacity of the Rural Payments Agency to meet the deadline for payments of 30 June; and what steps she is taking to ensure that the deadline is met. [122571]

Balance payments on all the bovine subsidy schemes have been delayed due to the need to implement changes in EU legislation introduced for the 2002 scheme year. These changes introduced new penalty procedures that apply when either the scheme rules or cattle identification requirements have been breached. Before making balance payments the Rural Payments Agency has had to build a new computer database and significantly enhance existing computer systems to cope with the changes. These are complex changes and have taken considerable time to implement. As a result, not all producers will be paid before the 30 June deadline.Staff at the RPA continue to work overtime at offices around the country to process as many payments as possible.

Although the regulations require payments to be made by 30 June, in order to complete the process, the UK and several other member states have made representations to the European Commission for an extension to the EC deadline, due to the introduction of Aggregated penalties.