The chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency will be summoned before a powerful parliamentary committee early next month to explain why England’s single farm payments have been delayed.

MPs on the influential environment, food and rural affairs select committee have requested that Johnston McNeill attends an oral evidence session at Westminster on 11 January.

They have indicated that they intend to probe Mr Johnston on whether the agency will be in a position to meet its February/March target for full payments.

If the agency is not, committee members say they will push on the issues involved in getting an interim payment to farmers.
The cross-party group of MPs is also planning to quiz junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach.

The decision by MPs to look into the Rural Payment Agency’s progress on payments follows preliminary investigations by two of the committee’s members.

Labour MP David Taylor (North West Leicestershire) and Lib Dem MP Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) have already taken written evidence on payment issues and recently made a visit to the RPA’s headquarters.

One of their key questions has been the extent to which the RPA’s IT systems have failed to deliver what is required of them.