HL Deb 28 July 2000 vol 616 cc128-30WA
Lord Desai

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have made in meeting the service delivery targets set out in Commitment to Service. [HL3741]

Baroness Hayman

The table below sets out the performance achieved by the Regional Service Centres (RSCs) during 1999–2000 against the targets published in the Charter documentCommitment to Service.

RSC Performance data (per cent) for financial year 1999–2000 (unless otherwise specified)
Arable Area Payments Scheme Oilseeds Main payments 99
Non-Food payments 97
Advanced payments 99
Final payments 99
Beef Special Premium Scheme Advance payments (1999) 97
Balance payments (1998) 99
CID applications issued (1999) 99
Premium paid CIDs issued (1999) 99
Stickler Cow Premium Scheme Balance payments 1998 99
Advance payments 1999 99
Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances Claims 1999 99
Sheep Annual Premium Scheme Claims marketing year 1999 99
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Applications 90
Claims 98
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Conservation Plan Applications 77
Claims 93
Farm and Conservation Grant Scheme 1991 Plan Claims 78
Farm Woodland Premium Scheme Applications 90
Claims (1999) 81
Injurious Weeds Complaints receiving a response within 15 working days 95
New Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme Claims (1999) 98
Protection of Badgers Act 1992 Licence applications 97
Strychnine Permits Applications 99
Agricultural Wage Inspections Visits made within 10 working days of the RSC receiving the complaint 67
Wildlife & Countryside Act Licence applications 98
Correspondence Answered within 10 working days 92
Complaints Numbers receiving response within 10 working days 80


(i) FWPS claims—Under certain circumstances, FWPS agreement holders may count some or all of their FWPS land towards their AAPS set aside requirements. The AAPS set aside payment rate (to which the FWPS payment is "linked" in these cases) fell below the FWPS rate for the first time in 1999, and the associated payments had to be restricted. Problems/delays were encountered both by the Information Technology Division in amending the payment system, and also by the RSCs in identifying the agreements/land involved. Regettably, this resulted in a significant number of Charter failures.

(ii) FWPS applications—The FWPS is one of a number of measures which were notified under the new EC Rural Development Regulation (RDR), which took effect on 1 January 2000. The majority of "failures" reported relate to applications submitted on or after that date, which cannot be approved until the England Rural Development Plan (ERDP) has received Commission approval.

(iii) The high failure rate for Agricultural Wages Inspections arose primarily because of difficulties at one RSC where most of the complaints were sent for investigation during a short period when the wages inspectors' time was already fully taken up carrying out IACS Arable Area Payments Scheme inspections needing urgent completion to protect the Department from EC disallowance.

(iv) The relatively high failure rates for the ESA Scheme were due primarily to the introduction of new and complex EC Regulations, uneven workloads and staffing difficulties.

(v) The number of claims processed for the Farm and Capital Grant Scheme 1991 is insignificant compared to most other schemes. Staffing problems at the two RSCs with the largest number of claims has distorted an otherwise excellent success rate.

(vi) The 80 per cent response rate to complaints is explained by the fact that often cases require referral to HQ or the National Scheme Management Centres and thus take longer than 10 days to resolve. In all cases where the deadline was not met, a holding letter was issued to the complainant detailing the reason for delay.

General Notes:

(i) The total percentage has been calculated by setting the entire number of applications or claims cleared within the target time against the total number received. Applications and claims not cleared due to reasons beyond our control (incorrect information supplied by applicant, etc.) are not included as failures to meet target.

(ii) The Farm Conservation Grant Schemes 1989 Claims and Pilot NSA Claims have been omitted from the table since these schemes are now closed.

(iii) 44 complaints were referred to the MAFF Adjudicator during the year. 10 of these were upheld and 4 were partly upheld, 27 were not upheld. 3 cases were dealt with outside of the Citizen's Charter Unit.