Written Parliamentary Statement by Margaret Beckett,
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
on the Single Payment Scheme - 16 March 2006.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
This House, and the farming industry in England, has I know, been
concerned about problems with the Rural Payments Agency’s
delivery of the Single Payment Scheme. The Government fully shares
this concern and I would like to make a statement about action
which I am taking today.
The Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, Lord Bach, told
the other House on 31st January that the RPA would establish entitlements
in mid February and that all farmers would then receive an entitlement
statement. This has now happened in all but around 1% of cases
and payments did indeed start to be made before the end of February.
Ministers have throughout been advised that, following the validation
of claims, the RPA expected to make the bulk of payments by the
end of the month. Late on Tuesday afternoon the Chief Executive
informed me that their latest reassessment of the position was
that this would no longer be possible. This is an unacceptable
I have concluded that urgent action is needed to strengthen the
leadership of the agency. With my approval, the Permanent Secretary
of my Department, Helen Ghosh, has today appointed Mark Addison
as Acting Chief Executive in place of Johnston McNeill. Mark Addison
has outstanding experience and abilities which I believe fit him
for this task, and I have asked him to report to me by Tuesday
on the immediate steps needed to get us back on track. A new Chief
Executive will be recruited as soon as possible to take on the
task of leading the agency forward at this crucial time.
Ministers had already concluded, on advice from the Permanent
Secretary, that there were structural issues in the RPA which needed
to be addressed over a longer period of time. I am therefore announcing
today our decision to set up a fundamental review of the agency,
to look at its current and possible future functions, and the effectiveness
of its relationship with my Department and its other key stakeholders,
and to make recommendations for the future. Details of the review
are being published today on my Department’s website.
I know that this House and everyone in the farming community will
be as disappointed as I am about the announcement I have had to
make today, but a successful conclusion to the 2005 round of SPS
and a smooth start to the 2006 scheme will remain one of the department’s
RPA staff have worked with absolute dedication throughout, often
in the face of considerable difficulties. I am sure they will continue
to do so.
Shambles needs sorting out now
CAP payments to farmers will begin in February
Farm Payment Relief