HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 cc63-4W
Mr. Charles Kennedy

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many (i) farmers and (ii) crofters have been found in breach of maintaining adequate stock level records following the introduction of the revised guidelines and associated penalties in respect of the application of the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme and the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance Scheme; what is the total amount of subsidy clawed back and penalties imposed to date; and if he will make a statement. [51185]

Mr. Macdonald

[holding answer 21 July 1998]: The requirement to maintain an accurate, up to date and continuous flock record has been a fundamental condition of these schemes since 1992. The Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) Order 1996 imposed further record keeping requirements on all sheep producers. Administration of these schemes is subject to regular EC scrutiny and successive EC audits have been highly critical of the standard of flock record keeping in the UK generally. The inadequate standards of record keeping displayed by our sheep producers was a major factor in the EC decision to disallow £30.8m of Sheep Annual Premium (SAP) expenditure in the UK in 1994 and additional disallowance on subsequent years' expenditure is anticipated. A further consequence of the audit criticism was the decision to double the number of sheep and records inspections conducted during the schemes' retention period each year. It is essential, therefore, that the schemes' record keeping requirements are strictly enforced if disallowance on current and future schemes' expenditure is to be avoided.

To date, in processing claims received under the 1996, 1997 and 1998 SAP and Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCA) schemes (and as a result of our inspection visits in a sample of cases), 116 SAP claims and 126 HLCA (Sheep) claims have been rejected because of inadequate flock records; of those claims identified, recovery action has been necessary in 62 SAP cases and 102 HLCA cases, the amounts involved totalling approximately £98,400 and £61,600 respectively. Under the rules of the schemes no differentiation can be made between crofters and farmers.