My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In my Oral Statement to the House on 7 November 2006, I announced that, where full payments under the 2006 single payment scheme (SPS) were not possible in the early part of 2007, partial payments for not less than 50 per cent of claim value would start in mid-February for eligible claims above €1,000. The process was expected to take around three weeks.
I can confirm that, after successful testing, full payments began in January 2007, with a total of 40,697 such payments, at a value of £285.85 million, made to date. Last week, partial payments began, and 43,270 partial payments, with a value of £633.28 million, have been made.
The combination of these full and partial payments has resulted in a total of £919.13 million, representing 59 per cent of the estimated total fund of £1.54 billion, going to 83,967 claimants (77 per cent).
In combination with making partial payments to the small number of eligible claimants who have yet to receive one, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will now resume full payments and begin top-up payments where a partial payment has been made.
The claims that have yet to receive a full payment tend to be the more complex ones and require greater manual processing by RPA staff. Along with the fact that, in some cases, action on 2005 claims will need to be completed first, this presents continuing challenges for the RPA as it works towards meeting its target of making 96.14 per cent of valid 2006 claims (by value) by 30 June. This means that, while I would expect a steady flow of payments over the coming months, the pace will vary from week to week.
The current position is that some 87 SPS 2005 claims had not received any payment and 92 claimants were awaiting their balance payment, having already received a partial payment. That is roughly equivalent to the position that applied at a similar stage under the old common agricultural policy (CAP) schemes. The RPA continues to try to complete action on these claims and is reviewing the possible need to adjust SPS entitlement details notified to claimants. Adjustments have been made for some 8,000 claimants to date and approximately 25,000 cases are under review. Due to the difficulties experienced during the introduction of the scheme, further cases requiring review continue to come to light, and dedicated teams are taking this work forward. In order to protect the 2006 payment timetable as far as possible, only those adjustments estimated to be above €100 will be actioned before the 2006 payments are made.
Looking ahead, plans are well advanced for the 2007 scheme, with application forms, containing a greater degree of pre-population than in the past two years, expected to be dispatched during March.
I would like to place on record my thanks both for the continued patience of the farming industry as we strive to improve delivery of the SPS and rebuild confidence in the RPA and for the staff of the agency for their hard work and commitment to making sure that this happens. I will continue to keep the House informed of progress.