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Rural Payments Agency

Volume 520: debated on Thursday 9 December 2010

1. What progress her Department has made on increasing the efficiency and reliability of the Rural Payments Agency. (29438)

The agency is implementing the key recommendations from the independent review of the organisation, which was published on 20 July. That involves six priority projects designed to improve customers’ experience, establish an efficient operation and make essential preparations for the expected 2013 CAP reforms. Progress is being closely monitored by the RPA oversight board, which I chair.

I thank the Minister for that answer and for attending the sustainability event the other evening. He is well aware of the chaos in the past few years with the single payment scheme system, and the Rural Payments Agency’s inability to pay farmers promptly—three alone in the Arthington area of my constituency. Can he please give an assessment of the Rural Payments Agency’s ability to carry that out and sort out the mess?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As the House knows, there have been some dreadful performances by the RPA in years gone by, and they have not yet all been eliminated. There are still some long-standing cases, which we are trying to work through. We will do that as soon as possible. The board is making arrangements to speed up that process, but I am happy to tell my hon. Friend and the rest of the House that between 1 December, when the payment window started, and 3 December some 83,300 farmers were sent their single farm payment in those first three days—that is 79% of all claimants by volume. It is ahead of last year’s achievements, despite all the problems of mapping changes.