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Agriculture: Subsidies

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Commission on the disallowance arising from Common Agricultural Policy schemes, notably the single farm payment; what assessment he has made of the European Commission’s audit of England’s 2005 single farm payment; what progress the European Commission has made with its audit of England's 2005 single farm payment; whether the European Commission has (a) made an assessment of the financial correction and (b) requested any money; and if he will make a statement. (123940)

During their regular meetings, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development have discussed the administration of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) in England on a number of occasions. However, the European Commission’s audit of the 2005 SPS is ongoing and it is too early to draw any firm conclusions. No proposals have been made to date for financial corrections and, should the Commission make any in due course, the Government will continue to defend the UK’s interests.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when the estimate for disallowance arising from Common Agricultural Policy schemes, notably the single farm payment, totalled £305 million; what the reasons were for this increase from earlier estimates; and if he will make a statement; (123941)

(2) pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 20 February 2007, Official Report, column 25WS, on the Spring Supplementary Estimates, if he will give a breakdown of the £305 million claim on the reserve to cover for provision for disallowance arising from Common Agricultural Policy schemes, notably the single farm payment, and the possible financial correction the European Commission may apply; what the reasons were for the disallowances; and if he will make a statement.

The European Commission audits Common Agricultural Policy schemes payments every year. We make provision for potential disallowances at the end of the financial year based on a prudent assessment at that time of issues raised in relation to progress in making payments and regulatory compliance; if necessary, cover is also obtained in the Spring Supplementary Estimate. These provisions do not, however, imply acceptance of this level of disallowance, should it be proposed by the Commission. Detailed discussions will take place with the Commission over a number of years before a final figure is reached. The Government will, of course, continue to defend the UK’s interests in these discussions.