HC Deb 10 May 1988 vol 133 cc96-7W
Mr. Martlew

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many applications for review he has received from farmers in Cumbria claiming to have suffered losses as a result of the Chernobyl disaster but who had not been compensated under the Government's scheme; if he will give the date range when these applications were made; if each such application was considered individually; on what date a decision was taken on them; how many of these applications he has rejected; and if he will make a statement on the general pattern of the defects in the applications which led to their rejection.

Mr. Donald Thompson

[holding answer 9 May 1988]: When the Chernobyl sheep compensation scheme was first introduced, we and the farmers unions concluded that it would be cumbersome and slow to try to cost the effect of the restrictions on each individual enterprise. We decided instead to set qualifying criteria which were designed, in close consultation with the NFU, to target compensation on those who needed it in line with a formula which enabled rapid calculation. The element of rough justice that would be involved was accepted by the farmers unions as inevitable in the interests of getting money to affected producers as quickly as possible and on the basis of clear criteria for their claims.

In December 1986 the NFU claimed that a small minority of restricted producers had suffered losses that year which were not covered by the compensation arrangements which we had introduced. My Ministry had exhaustive discussions throughout 1987 with the NFU to examine the issues involved. However, those discussions failed to find a sound basis for avoiding the rough justice which had been anticipated.

On 5 January 1988 the Cumbria branch of the NFU wrote to the Ministry's Carlisle office reporting that it had completed a survey of the local producers affected by the restrictions, identifying some cases of alleged inadequate compensation. On 28 January the survey forms which the NFU had devised and sent to producers were supplied to us. These covered 66 farmers. Only nine have received no compensation at all: 57 have already received some compensation (totalling at present over £80,000) under one or more of the four legs of the compensation arrangements we have introduced.

The cases identified by the Cumbria branch of the NFU represent some 4 per cent, of the 1,600 Cumbrian producers who fell under restriction. Their claim is that the Government should pay amounts which each producer has identified as arising in respect of his own holding totalling £177,000. Thus, they are seeking in effect individual assessments which would take account of what would have happened in a "normal" year. Since the scheme does not provide for individual assessment in this way, such payments cannot be made.

The question of defects in the information in the forms provided by the individual farmers does not arise since there is no basis against which to assess it. Careful examination of the new information in the forms has again failed to establish a sound basis for identifying farmers whose cases might justify further consideration or for making changes to the scheme. My right hon. Friend wrote to the president of the NFU explaining this on the 23 March 1988 and, at his request, the divisional office wrote to the Cumbria NFU in similar terms.

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