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Single Farm Payment Scheme

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

I reported to the House on 2 July that, as at 30 June, the Rural Payments Agency had paid out 98 per cent. of the estimated total funds, thus meeting its target for this year. The agency continues to work on the remaining single payment scheme claims, including cases where entitlements may need to be adjusted.

The Secretary of State has acknowledged the mind-boggling incompetence of the RPA in the past, and we look forward to dramatic improvements. Is he aware of increased problems for those who farm on both sides of the Welsh border, owing to a failure to think through the implications of devolved agriculture for cross-border farms? Why are English farmers further disadvantaged by the fact that modulation is much higher in England, and in Scotland too, amounting to almost 10 per cent. of entitlement?

On top of compulsory modulation under the common agricultural policy, we have decided to have a greater degree of voluntary modulation. I think that that is the right policy. I shall go away and consider the specific issue the hon. Lady raises about farmers farming on both sides of the border.

Every Member recognises that this has not been a happy episode for the RPA, but I hope that the hon. Lady will acknowledge the steps that have been taken to try to improve the service. We should encourage agency staff to continue that work, and my noble Friend Lord Rooker has been holding surgeries at which Members can talk to him about individual cases. Those are continuing. I say to all hon. Members whose farmer constituents are experiencing difficulties, that they can talk to us about individual cases, and we shall do our best to sort them out.