Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2005-06

30 March 2006


30 March 2006

Committee to extend its inquiry into the Rural Payments Agency

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published an interim report on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on 24 January 2006. That report raised several concerns about the RPA's ability to meet the deadline for making payments to farmers under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Since then, it has been announced that the RPA will miss its target of making the bulk of payments by the end of March, Mr Johnston McNeill has been replaced as Chief Executive of the RPA and the Secretary of State has announced a fundamental review of the RPA's work. The Committee has decided to take into account the implications of these events in the further work that will form the basis of its final report on the RPA.

The Committee has decided to appoint a sub-committee to carry out this inquiry. The sub-committee's evidence sessions will provide an opportunity for a forensic examination of how the current situation came about, looking in particular at the decisions taken at the start of the process of implementing the new SPS and the start of the development of the IT system used to execute it. A key element will be to examine what wider lessons the implementation of the SPS has for the relationship between "core Defra" and its agencies, given the fundamental issues thrown up about communications between the RPA and Defra, and about how Defra validated the information it was given by the RPA. The sub-committee hopes to hear from all parties who may be able to add to its understanding of these issues.

In conducting its inquiry, the Committee will bear in mind the overriding need not to detract from the current efforts by Defra and the RPA to ensure farmers receive their single farm payment as soon as possible

The Committee invites interested parties to make brief written submissions to address these issues. More information about the required format of submissions is given overleaf.

The Committee intends to call selected witnesses to give oral evidence during a series of evidence sessions, currently scheduled to start in late April. A separate press notice providing more information on the evidence sessions, and listing the membership of the sub-committee once this has been agreed, will be issued in due course.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

On 24 January 2006, the Committee published an interim report on the Rural Payments Agency and undertook to produce a final report once additional information had been received from Defra and the RPA. This interim report is available at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmenvfru/840/840.pdf

Further details about the Committee, and this inquiry, can be found on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/efracom. Information about the Committee can also be obtained by ringing 020 7219 5774.

NOTES FOR SUBMITTERS

Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to [email protected] The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

Submissions must address the issues identified above. They should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary, ideally no more than one page long.

Committees make public much of the evidence they receive during inquiries. If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk of the Committee to discuss this. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Personal information, such as address and contact details, should be provided separately from the body of your submission. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, no public use should be made of the submission unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.

For further details about this inquiry, please contact Jonathan Little, Agriculture Specialist, on 020 7219 3279.