§ Mr. Home Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the retention of five per cent. of arable area payments due to farmers; and when he expects to complete the payments due for 1997. 
§ Mr. Macdonald
Subject to the continuing co-operation of farmers, we aim to make most final payments by 31 March 1998.
It is a legal requirement that every field claimed under the 1997 Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) must be checked against a register consisting of unique field identifiers. Failure to carry out such a check would result in the UK suffering disallowance of AAPS funding by the EC Commission. Due to the scale of the task, it was not possible to complete this exercise prior to paying the bulk of the 1997 AAPS claims.
To avoid payments being delayed, and following discussions with the commission, we have made advance payments of 95 per cent. of the eligible areas claimed. The remainder will be paid when each field can be fully validated.
To 31 December 1997, Scottish farmers received over £124 million under the 1997 AAPS. Almost £110 million was paid to over 98 per cent. of claimants with a further £14.6 million of advance oilseeds payments. The balance of the oilseeds aid will be paid in the early part of 1998 following the announcement by the Commission of the final payment rate.