The assessment my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) made on learning that the bulk of payments would not be made by the end of March was that there was an urgent need to strengthen the leadership of the Rural Payments Agency. The subsequent appointment of Mark Addison and then Tony Cooper as interim chief executive has lead to the position reported by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 22 June 2006, Official Report, column 1478, that, as of 20 June, some £1.38 billion, representing more than 90 per cent. of the total fund, has now been paid to more than 100,000 applicants.
Most representations have been along the lines of those made by Peter Kendall, President of the National Union of Farmers who, after visiting a Rural Payments Agency office in April, stated that
“From what I have seen, I am convinced that RPA staff are doing their level best to get through mapping tasks and to speed up the validation process.”
Concerns have also been raised about the conduct of a minority of employees at one RPA office, which is being addressed in accordance with the Agency's established procedures.