(2) what assessment he has made of the impact on the economy in rural areas of the delay in implementing the England Rural Development Programme 2007 to 2013 announced on 1 November.
It is impossible to reach any definitive conclusions until we have a clearer idea of how long the delay will be, and that will depend upon events in the European Parliament and Council thereafter.
Agreements signed under the current England Rural Development Programme (which runs until 31 December 2006) will be honoured for the full term of the agreement and so will not be affected by the delay.
We are working on the contingency arrangements for new rural development agreements, that will apply in the absence of EU approval, for the next programme and will publish full details as soon as possible. The delay to the programme will not affect the total amount of money available for rural development support available during 2007-13, but it may affect the timing of when new agreements can commence.