My right hon. friend the Secretary of State and his predecessor have consistently reported the Rural Payments Agency's targets and forecasts in respect of the timing of payments under the 2005 single payment scheme. Those targets and forecasts have tended to focus on when payments would start and when certain proportions would be completed rather than the position at the end of the regulatory payment window of 30 June. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State's latest report on 22 June 2006, Official Report, column 1478 indicated 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. The outstanding payments will be made as soon as possible.
While claimants under the Single Payment Scheme are required to maintain their land in good agricultural and environmental condition, the scheme is not designed to fund environmental improvements.
However, there are other options available to farmers and landlords, such as Environmental Stewardship and the English Woodland Grant Scheme, which do support the environmental improvement of land, including the planting of trees.
The total number of single payment scheme customers is approximately 120,000. As at 30 June 2006, 92 per cent. (107,888) customers have 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.
As my right hon. friend, the Secretary of State, reported to the House on 22 June 2006, Official Report, columns 1478-79, the need for the necessary EU legislation to make partial payments has been discussed with the Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Mrs. Fisher-Boel, and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has been authorised to start work on the necessary systems. However, until the interim RPA chief executive has had an opportunity to make a realistic assessment of the prospects for full payments, we do not want to commit to a particular timetable or specify whether or when partial payments might be necessary.