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6 Nov 2006 : Column 724W—continued

Rivers

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures he is taking to ensure viable riverflows during periods of (a) drought and (b) high water use. [98011]

Ian Pearson: The Government’s approach to the management of sustainable water resources is the “twin track” approach which involves the consideration of
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demand management alongside sustainable resource development. The Environment Agency has a duty to secure the proper and efficient use of water resources in England and Wales. This includes the regulation of water abstraction from sources of supply including rivers, lakes, canals and underground sources through a system of licensing, to minimise damage to the environment.

Water companies have water resource management plans which look ahead 25 years and include projections of current and future demands for water. These plans are regularly updated to account for factors such as projections of household numbers and occupancy rates and the implications of climate change. The plans are due to become a statutory requirement in 2007.

Water companies also have drought plans to ensure the security of the public water supply in periods of drought. The Water Act 2003 has made the production of such plans a statutory requirement. The plans contain a series of steps, which cause the company to initiate a range of actions depending on the severity and extent of the drought.

Rural Payments Agency

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will ensure that the Rural Payments Agency makes a substantial part payment to farmers in England of the 2006 payments due to them under the Single Payment Scheme before the end of the 2006 calendar year. [97589]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 31 October 2006]: The legal payment window runs from 1 December 2006 to 30 June 2007.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement on 22 June 2006, Official Report, column 1478, that delivery of the 2006 Single Payment Scheme will be very challenging and that he did not want to commit to a particular payment timetable until the Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency has had an opportunity make a realistic assessment of the prospects. That remains the position.

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the percentage staff turnover at the Rural Payments Agency has been in the past (a) six and (b) 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [98641]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 31 October 2006]: The following table shows all starters and leavers in the last six and 12 months. “Leavers” includes those individuals who left on redundancy terms as part of the downsizing of RPA.

(a) Six months 1 May 2006 to 1 October 2006 (b) 12 months 1 November 2005 to 1 October 2006

Staff

3,157

3,148

Leavers

325

630

Starters

214

665

Increase/decrease (percentage)

-3.52

1.11


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Seal Hunting

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to help stop the commercial hunting of seals by Canada. [99506]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government are opposed to the Canadian seal hunt and would prefer all seal hunting for commercial purposes to be banned. The Government are considering a possible extension of the current ban on the import of certain seal products and will make a statement to the House once the outcome of the review is known. However, the seal hunt does not break any current international agreements, and so this is ultimately a matter for the Canadian Government.

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has discussed the culling of seals in Canada with the Canadian Government. [99507]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government regularly makes their abhorrence of the Canadian seal hunt known to the Canadian authorities. On 27 February 2006 the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry raised the seal hunt with the Canadian Minister of International Trade during an introductory telephone call, and most recently my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs raised the issue with the new Canadian high commissioner to London during an introductory meeting on 11 October 2006.

Single Farm Payment

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will re-consider the entry requirement for the single farm payment to ensure that only those who are genuinely farming are entitled to that payment. [95782]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 23 October 2006]: The eligibility requirements for the single payment scheme, including the definition of a farmer, are set in EU legislation and I know of no plans to change them. However we will in due course consider if a de minimis should be applied to single farm payments.

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to make interim payments under the single farm payments scheme for the year 2006-07; and if he will make a statement. [98700]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 31 October 2006]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement on 22 June 2006, Official Report, column 1478, that delivery of the 2006 single payment scheme will be very challenging and that he did not want to commit to a particular payment timetable until the Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency has had an opportunity to make a realistic assessment of the prospects. That remains the position.


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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his estimate is of the proportion of farm income which was derived from the single farm payment scheme in (a) Lancashire and (b) the North West in each year since 1997. [98722]

Barry Gardiner: The single payment scheme came into effect in the UK on 1 January 2005 and in that year was estimated to total £2.4 billion after deductions for modulation. Total payments to UK farmers less levies were estimated at £3.0 billion while total income from farming was £2.5 billion.

Estimates at a regional level are made by apportioning the total using standard gross margins. These are not available for Lancashire and are not yet available for 2005 for the North West.

£ million
Total subsidies including SPS Total income from farming

UK

1997

2,777

2,864

1998

2,646

2,022

1999

2,692

2,053

2000

2,484

1,575

2001

2,459

1,847

2002

2,694

2,362

2003

2,796

3,081

2004

2,955

2,767

2005

3,043

2,521

North West

1997

154

80

1998

173

37

1999

176

50

2000

153

4

2001

138

46

2002

144

71

2003

163

94

2004

179

78

2005

n/a

n/a


Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the European Commission's audit of England's 2005 single farm payment. [97627]

Barry Gardiner: We are at an early stage in the European Commission's scrutiny of the 2005 single payment scheme (SPS) and have yet to receive any findings on which to base an assessment.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his estimate is of the likely financial correction to be imposed by the European Commission for the delays and difficulties in administering England's 2005 single farm payment; how he reached this figure; and if he will make a statement. [97628]

Barry Gardiner: There is a well established process for discussion on, and refinement of, any proposals for financial corrections that the European Commission
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may decide to make in due course. Experience of such proposals under the old CAP regime would suggest that that process would then take some time to reach a conclusion. However, in line with normal Government accounting arrangements, provisions and contingent liabilities totalling some £131 million have been shown in the 2005-06 departmental accounts, this being a prudent estimate based on the limited knowledge to date.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the expected expenditure is on the single farm payment in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08; and what the original budget allocated was in each case. [97649]

Barry Gardiner: The UK national ceiling for single payment scheme (SPS) is €3.945 billion in 2006 and €3.961 billion in 2007. Actual expenditure in each year will depend on the extent to which farmers apply for payment against their SPS entitlements and the level of deductions that pertain to those applications, including the effects of eligibility and cross-compliance penalties, EU and national modulation and, possibly for the 2007 scheme, financial discipline.

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers have not received the single farm payment for 2005 because of enforced penalties for late submission of claim. [97679]

Barry Gardiner: In 2005, 134 farmers applied after10 June which was the final deadline for submission for the single payment scheme and therefore received no payment.

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many penalties for late claim single farm payments enforced by his Department have been appealed against. [97680]

Ian Pearson: The Rural Payments Agency has received 10 stage 1 appeals under the single payment scheme appeal procedure against penalties applied for the late submission of 2005 single payment scheme application forms.

Of the nine appeals that have been reviewed two cases were successful and seven were unsuccessful.

None of the unsuccessful cases have progressed to the second stage of the appeal procedure although two cases remain in time to do so.

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many penalties for late claim single farm payments his Department enforced in the latest period for which figures are available; what the (a) largest and (b) average penalty was in that period; and if he will make a statement. [97681]

Barry Gardiner: There have been 4,824 late claim penalties in respect of single payment scheme claims received in 2005, to a value of £3,252,879. The information on the largest penalty and the average penalty is not available.


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Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will ensure that the Rural Payments Agency makes substantial part payments to farmers in England for the 2006 payments due under the single payment scheme before the end of the 2006 calendar year; and if he will make a statement. [98407]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 1 November 2006]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement on 22 June 2006, Official Report, column 1478, that delivery of the 2006 single payment scheme will be very challenging and that he did not want to commit to a particular payment timetable until the Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency has had an opportunity make a realistic assessment of the prospects. That remains the position.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what response he has made to the National Audit Office report on the single farm payment scheme. [99131]

Barry Gardiner: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has welcomed the NAO’s thorough report. The Department and Rural Payments Agency will draw on its findings and recommendations, along with those in the forthcoming reports from the Public Accounts Committee and Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, in taking forward work on the single payment scheme.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on decoupling of single farm payments. [99611]

Barry Gardiner: The single payment scheme is already decoupled. However, in discussions with the European Commission and other Members of the EU Agriculture Council, UK representatives, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, continue to press the case for completing the process of decoupling by removing the remaining coupled direct aid schemes.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers in Essex are still waiting for their single farm payments; and when he expects all outstanding payments to have been made. [97702]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 30 October 2006]: The single payment scheme is not administered on a regional basis, so it is not possible to identify specific payments outstanding to farmers in Essex.

As at 17 October, 114,037 claimants (97.91 per cent.) had received a total of £1.510 billion (99.7 per cent.) in full or partial payments based on an estimated total number of claimants of 116,474 and an estimated total fund value of £1.515 billion.

Of approximately 2,400 customers who have yet to receive a payment, most have claims valued below €1,000 (£682). This figure includes 58 outstanding priority one customers (those due an estimated €1,000 or above) with complex cases involving issues such as probate, liquidation and business partnership disputes.


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