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The rise in staff numbers between April and May is due to the amalgamation of Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (HMI) and Defra's Investigation Branch (IB) into RPA
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the impact of the delay in single farm payments upon feed merchants; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: Feed merchants are, to varying effects, likely to be affected by the cash-flow issues faced by farming business waiting for receipt of payments under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Over £1.3 billion, representing 89 per cent. of the total value of such payments, has been disbursed and the Rural Payments Agency remains focused on paying the outstanding sums as soon as possible for the benefit of all concerned.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment the Rural Payments Agency made of the efficiency of the (a) historic system and (b) regional average area system of calculation for the Single Payment Scheme prior to the implementation of the Single Payment Scheme; and what such assessment the Agency has undertaken since undertaking the implementation of the Single Payment Scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agency contributed to the advice supplied to Ministers before the decision was taken to adopt the flat rate model of the Single Payment Scheme. That advice pointed to a greater degree of challenge in implementing a flat rate, as opposed to a historical, model of the SPS, but at no point was any suggestion made that the chosen model was undeliverable. Given that EU regulations required member states implementing the SPS in 2005 to notify the Commission of their chosen models by 1 August 2004, subsequent assessment of different models would not serve any practical purpose.
The Rural Payments Agency is working hard to ensure that payments are made as soon as possible within this time frame. Staff have already started basic validation checks on a proportion of the 2006 application forms.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that farmers who have now received their single farm payments will receive interest due on the delayed payments. 
Barry Gardiner: The question of interest arises only in respect of payments made after the legal deadline of 30 June. We have not reached that point yet and I do not want to deflect the Rural Payments Agency in the interim period from concentrating on its main priority, which is to ensure that outstanding payments are made as soon as possible.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received from the European Commission on the UK Governments implementation of the Single Farm Payment Scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The Department and the European Commission are in regular contact in order to help further our common interest in ensuring that the Single Payment Scheme is implemented as smoothly as possible.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the extent to which the dynamic hybrid system has contributed to the delays in the Single Payment Scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: Experience among member states implementing the Single Payment Scheme in 2005 has indicated that there is a greater degree of challenge in implementing flat rate models. However, the precise timing of payments in each member state will have been dependent on a range of factors.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by what processes and for what reasons the decision was reached to use a dynamic hybrid system of calculation for the single payment scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South explained her reasons for adopting the flat rate model of the Single Payment Scheme when she announced that decision on 12 February 2004, Official Report, column 1585. This followed analysis of advice and supporting data from officials, responses to a public consultation document and discussions with stakeholders.
Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent to which Tendring Hundred Water Co. is conserving water during the present drought. 
Ian Pearson: The Environment Agency's report, Drought Prospects 2006Spring Update, explains the likely consequences of a continuing rainfall deficit and recommends action by water companies. The report recommends that water companies in Norfolk and Suffolk should monitor their water resources carefully and be prepared to take further steps to manage supply and demand if the drought intensifies. This report is available from the Agency's website:
Each water company has specific plans to manage short-term water shortages depending on the severity of a drought. These drought plans are a statutory requirement, and also subject to public consultation. A consultation on Tendring Hundred Water services draft drought plan is currently in progress. This can be viewed on the company's website at:
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to meet water companies to discuss the issue of leaks; and what guidance his Department has issued to water companies on leakages. 
The Secretary of State and I met with representatives of the water industry, including water companies, on 1 June. Leakage reduction was discussed and a commitment was reached to keep leakage
targetsset by the Economic Regulatorunder review, taking account of costs, technology and best practice. All parties are set to meet again before the end of the year.
Ofwat is responsible for leakage target setting and enforcement. A Leakage Study commissioned jointly by Ofwat, the Environment Agency and Defra was published in March 2003, and all water companies were asked by Ofwat to update their appraisals of leakage in line with best practice identified in the study. Ofwat assesses the leakage appraisals to ensure that water companies meet the best practice principles identified in the report.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the leakage of water in each water supply company region in each financial year since 1997. 
Ian Pearson: Water company leakage figures are published annually by the water services regulation authority (publicly known as Ofwat) in the Security of supply, leakage and the efficient use of water reports. Total water company leakage for each year since 1996-97, in megalitres per day, was reported as follows:
|(1) In spring 2003, Severn Trent Water revised its water balance data. The company attributed most of the increase in leakage to methodological changes.|
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