Feed merchants are, to varying effects, likely to be affected by the cash-flow issues faced by farming business waiting for receipt of payments under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Over £1.3 billion, representing 89 per cent. of the total value of such payments, has been disbursed and the Rural Payments Agency remains focused on paying the outstanding sums as soon as possible for the benefit of all concerned.
The Rural Payments Agency contributed to the advice supplied to Ministers before the decision was taken to adopt the flat rate model of the Single Payment Scheme. That advice pointed to a greater degree of challenge in implementing a flat rate, as opposed to a historical, model of the SPS, but at no point was any suggestion made that the chosen model was undeliverable. Given that EU regulations required member states implementing the SPS in 2005 to notify the Commission of their chosen models by 1 August 2004, subsequent assessment of different models would not serve any practical purpose.
The total number of single payment scheme customers is approximately 120,000. As at 6 June 2006, 24,000 customers had not received either a full or partial payment.
Details of payments made in England up to 30 June 2006, including by constituency and county, will be published in due course.
The payment window for the 2006 Single Payment Scheme opens on 1 December 2006 and runs until 30 June 2007.
The Rural Payments Agency is working hard to ensure that payments are made as soon as possible within this time frame. Staff have already started basic validation checks on a proportion of the 2006 application forms.
The question of interest arises only in respect of payments made after the legal deadline of 30 June. We have not reached that point yet and I do not want to deflect the Rural Payments Agency in the interim period from concentrating on its main priority, which is to ensure that outstanding payments are made as soon as possible.
Experience among member states implementing the Single Payment Scheme in 2005 has indicated that there is a greater degree of challenge in implementing flat rate models. However, the precise timing of payments in each member state will have been dependent on a range of factors.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South explained her reasons for adopting the flat rate model of the Single Payment Scheme when she announced that decision on 12 February 2004, Official Report, column 1585. This followed analysis of advice and supporting data from officials, responses to a public consultation document and discussions with stakeholders.