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Agriculture: Subsidies

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate his Department has made of the potential taxpayer liability for (a) fines disallowance and (b) other penalties as a result of late payment under the single farm payment scheme and other precursor common agricultural schemes since 1997; (241252)

(2) what (a) fines, (b) disallowance and (c) other penalties the Government has incurred as a result of late payments under the single payment scheme and other precursor common agricultural schemes since 1997; and from which budget each penalty was paid.

DEFRA financial corrections incurred as a result of late payments on the single payment and other common agricultural policy schemes have been £144.8 million since 1999. This is based on EU Commission Ad Hoc Decisions from February 1999 to November 2008.

To analyse the data prior to February 1999 would involve a disproportionate cost.

These corrections have been met from a separate ring fenced disallowance budget.

It is not possible at this stage to say what further decisions may be published this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent steps the Government has taken to assist arable farmers; (256933)

(2) what recent steps the Government has taken to assist livestock farmers.

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: The Government’s wider economic policies are aimed at assisting arable and livestock farmers emerge stronger from the global recession just as they are for other businesses.

The Government also works closely with the arable and livestock sectors on sector specific issues to further our objective of a thriving farming and food sector with an improving net environmental impact. We are pressing the case here and in Europe for policies that are evidence based and take account of the principles of better regulation, such as in the case of the Commission’s proposals on pesticides and electronic identification of sheep. We also strongly support the continued process of greater market orientation of the CAP and the recent health check agreement will contribute to improved competitiveness by further reducing trade distorting coupled payments and the regulatory burden on farmers.

Over the last 12 months, the regional development agencies have begun delivering a £300 million programme of investment in improving the competitiveness of farming and forestry under the Rural Development Programme for England, of which at least £107 million will be targeted at the livestock sector to help it meet the particular challenges that it faces. The continued progress of the Rural Payments Agency in making more timely payments under the Single Payments Scheme has helped farmers’ cash flow, with just under £1.37 billion in payments made by 16 February, equivalent to around 84 per cent. of the estimated total fund.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the ceiling is in each region for direct payments in (a) pounds sterling and (b) euros. (257296)

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: Under EU legislation (Article 8 of Council Regulation (EC) no. 73/2009) giving effect to the CAP Health Check agreement, ceilings are set for the amount of direct payments, net of modulation, that may be granted each year by member states. The ceiling for the UK for 2009 scheme payments is €3.3731 billion. The sterling equivalent will be determined by the last exchange rate set at the end of September 2009, but using the 2008 exchange rate (€1=£0.79030) it would be £2.6658 billion. No decisions have been taken to date on regional breakdowns.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many single farm payments which erroneously omitted (a) protein crop premium, (b) aid for energy crops and (c) nut aid were made in (i) 2007 and (ii) 2008. (257585)

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: 974 Single Payment scheme (SPS) claimants received an SPS payment that initially omitted a protein crop premium, aid for energy crops or a nut aid payment in 2008. These cases were all fully validated at the point of payment but required additional action to enable the omitted payments to be made.

The number of claims attributed to each omitted payment type are as follows:

Payment type

Number of claims

Protein crop premium

825

Aid for energy crops

128

Nut aid

44

Total

997

The figures include claims for which a combination of the three premium payment types were initially omitted.

All of these cases have now been reviewed and top-up payments made in all cases where underpayments have been identified.

The Rural Payments Agency is not aware of any similar issues resulting in the erroneous omission of protein crop premium, aid for energy crops or a nut aid payments for the 2007 scheme year.