HL Deb 08 October 2003 vol 653 cc57-9WA
Baroness Byford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Whitty on 3 June (WA 147–148), how many of the "significant discrepancies which had to be resolved before payment" (under bovine schemes) were traced to errors in the cattle tracing system; and what steps have been taken to prevent this happening again.[HL4447]

Lord Whitty

The enclosed table shows the number of animals claimed in 2001 under the Beef Special Premium Scheme (BSPS), the Suckler Cow Premium Scheme (SCPS) and the Slaughter Premium Scheme/ Veal Calf Slaughter Premium Scheme (SPS/VCSPS) and the number of claims submitted under the Extensification Payment Scheme (EPS).

All animal and claim details were cross-checked against the cattle tracing system in accordance with the European regulations that govern these schemes. The table shows the initial number of discrepancies identified between the information declared by producers on their subsidy claim forms and the data held on the cattle tracing system. All discrepancies were examined by RPA and where necessary by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). Where the discrepancy could not be resolved and the data held on the cattle tracing system meant that the animal claimed was ineligible under the rules governing the subsidy schemes the animal was removed from the claim with penalties. The table shows the penalties applied under each of the schemes.

Many of the errors that could be put right did relate to discrepancies between what the cattle tracing system and the information given to other parts of the department had been told about animals by keepers. The most common errors were differences in animals' eartag numbers between notifications, the failure to report the movement of cattle or the reporting of incomplete or conflicting information. Some 91 per cent of all the discrepancies found were able to be resolved and all queries cleared. The remaining 9 per cent could not be cleared because of the seventy in the nature of the error.

A number of measures have taken place to try to minimise the number of discrepancies between the data declared on subsidy claims and the cattle tracing system for future scheme years, including the following:

We have worked closely with industry representatives to ensure producers understand that their claims will be cross-checked and to promote the need to keep CTS up to date and regularly check their records held on the database.

RPA has also issued further guidance in the cattle schemes explanatory booklet, which is mailed to all bovine subsidy claimants.

The format of claim forms has been changed and since the 2002 schemes producers have been asked to submit movement cards (torn from the CTS-issued cattle passports) in support of their SCPS and SPS/VCSPS claims (cattle passport documents themselves have always been required with BSPS claims). The movement cards allow RPA to scan in the identifying number of the animal using a pre-printed barcode. This ensures a direct match with the animal record held on CTS and prevents problems with transposition errors and formatting differences.

BCMS has stationed experienced staff at RPA claim processing sites and now provides regular training updates on the use of the CTS database.

The introduction of statements containing a record of all transactions reported will aid the process of continuous improvement.

The management structure of the existing crosschecks team at BCMS has been strengthened and additional staff have been recruited. An enhanced training programme has been successfully carried out.

BCMS provides keepers with access to printed and electronic information on their holdings records so that problems may be identified and corrected in advance of subsidy deadlines. BCMS also actively promotes electronic notifications to the database through the CTS website at www.bcms.gov.uk.

The BCMS has also now supplied all cattle keepers with envelopes to return batches of movement cards in to reduce the number that are lost in the post. They have also introduced an additional counting and reconciliation step in their handling of these movement cards to ensure that all cards received at the site are scanned into the system and their contents recorded.

Scheme Total number of animals claimed and cross- checked Number of discrepancies identified following the cross- check Number of penalties applied Number of discrepancies resolved
BSPS 1,242.374 117.765 8.033 109,732
SCPS 673.012 264,421 6.619 257.802
SPS/VCSPS 1,484,304 189,534 30,928 158.606
EPS1 28,459 2,449 529 1.920
Total 3,428.149 574.169 46.109 528.060
1EPS figures shown arc for claims not animals