Defra must provide compensation to farmers hit by late payments fiasco

Conservatives asks the European Commission to intervene

Brussels, 21 March 2006 -- The government should compensate farmers for the unacceptable delay in receiving Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) cheques, Sir Robert Atkins MEP and Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, said today. Conservatives have written to the the EU's agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer-Boel, asking the Commission to intervene in the saga as the delay is distorting the single market and putting English farmers at a severe competitive disadvantage to the rest of the EU.

Welsh and Scottish farmers received their funds before Christmas but only around one in ten English farmers have been paid. The head of the Rural Payments Agency was sacked last week but Sir Robert believes Margaret Beckett should take the bulk of the responsibility for introducing a unique and excessively bureaucratic methodology for calculating the new Single Farm Payment (SFP).

Sir Robert said:

"Defra should accept responsibility for this failure, apologise and compensate our aggrieved farmers.

"It's not like farmers are asking for some special treatment. All they want is the money they are entitled to, which is being paid out to other farmers across the EU. Our farmers are finding it difficult to compete with their continental counterparts because most other EU governments have paid the subsidies.

"How many farmers will be forced out of business by these blunders? If a farmer were late in paying a bill, he would soon receive a red letter. I will ask the Commission to send a final demand to Margaret Beckett today. Defra should compensate farmers for the huge distress they have been caused.

"Words of sympathy from Blair are not enough, they should be taking some action."

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