MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have said the problems in delivering BPS 2015 payments have done nothing to ‘inspire confidence’ in Defra’s ability to cope with future Brexit challenges.
A report by the committee slammed the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for its failure to pay farmers in England on time and in full.
It read: “The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for rural affairs in England, but it has not assessed the impact of these failures on farmers and the rural community, nor done enough to mitigate the impact on farmers’ livelihoods of late and partial payments.
“The Department’s record of failure when developing systems to support subsidy payments to farmers does not inspire confidence in its ability to cope with the challenges associated with Brexit that lie ahead.”
The committee also said Defra had not learned any lessons from other countries on how to avoid disallowance fines, pointing out Germany had a dedicated team of 200 people ensuring its digital land data was no more than a year old, compared to just a dozen in the RPA.
The MPs made a number of recommendations for the future, including ensuring Mark Grimshaw’s departure from the RPA does not have an impact on performance, making sure the Agency’s land register is accurate and giving the RPA a seat at the table to discuss any future subsidy payment scheme.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “It is reassuring to see the PAC agree with our concerns over issues such as accuracy of mapping which is clearly continuing to haunt the system.
“It is also pleasing to hear them lay down a clear recommendation to Defra that over 90 per cent of accurate BPS payments should go out in the first few days of December.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The Common Agricultural Policy is a complex and bureaucratic scheme. The UK Government is working to improve the system and ensure farmers get the support they are entitled to.
“We have made major progress – this year the Rural Payments Agency has already met its target to pay 93 per cent of farmers by March 2017, and it is working hard to get outstanding payments into bank accounts.”