HC Deb 05 May 2000 vol 349 cc228-9W
Mr. Yeo

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the amount that British farmers have paid in groundwater charges in each of the years since the charge was introduced; and what his forecast is of the figures for the current year and each of the next three years. [120563]

Mr. Mullin

[holding answer 3 May 2000]During the transitional period of the Groundwater Regulations 1998, from 1 January to 31 March 1999, the Environment Agency received over 12,000 applications from farmers in England and Wales for groundwater authorisations representing a total of around £1 million. From 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000 the Agency received a further 131 applications amounting to total charges of around £12,000. Around £870,000 has been paid by farmers to the Agency as annual "maintenance" charges in respect of authorisations. This will be reimbursed following the announcement, in March, of the Government's Agriculture Strategy. The total charges payable for the current and subsequent years will depend on the number of applications made by farmers for authorisations, though the Agency's current estimates would indicate total charges to farmers for new applications of up to £300,000 for 2000–01. The administration of the Regulations in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive.