Junior DEFRA minister Lord Rooker has indicated that the government will not make a decision on whether to pay partial single farm payments in 2006 until October.

The industry is pushing for a firm commitment to pay interim payments in December, so farmers avoid the stress and pain of 2005.

Answering questions in the House of Lords on Wednesday (5 July), Lord Rooker said that DEFRA’s preference was to make full payments.

“We will make an assessment over the summer on whether we can make or should make partial payments—our preference is full payments—but we will not make a decision on that until probably October. However, we will at that point make a decision.”

The minister stressed that there would be no promises or commitments made about the 2006 payment schedule.

“The first that farmers will know about it is when they get the money. We will not be hung on any petards or promises.”

He added: “We are trying to learn the lessons from what happened in 2005. We cannot with any confidence predict. Obviously, we want to move heaven and earth to do better, but I would say to farmers that, in adjusting their business for 2006 claims, they should look at what happened in 2005 – very little can be changed.

“The forms cannot be changed. There can be no de minimis. It will be 2007 before we can make substantial changes.”

Referring to the 460 commercial producers who are yet to receive a 2005 payment, the minister said that 140-150 related to probate and liquidation which would inevitably take a while to sort.

He said that 6800 of the 10,500 eligible claimants for Hill Farm Allowance had been paid and there rest were being treated as a priority.

However, the top priority was the 460 with claims of more than €1000. “Everything cannot be a top priority,” he stressed.