Opposition MPs have told DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett that she must give more thought to the possibility of introducing interim single farm payments, because so many producers are desperate for money.

Jim Paice, Tory agricultural spokesman, told the minister during a debate on Monday afternoon (27 Mar) that payment delays were costing the industry £10-12m /month.

“The first priority in the debacle is to get the money to the farmers who desperately need it. Tens of thousands of decent hard-working family farmers were promised their payments, which in many cases cover up to one third of their income.”

Lib Dem shadow DEFRA secretary Chris Huhne, added the introduction of the scheme had been “botched” and farmers needed assurances about the timing of the payments.

“If she can’t give them, will minister authorise interim payments so that farm businesses can maintain their obligations to their suppliers and creditors?”

Tory MP Kenneth Clarke said it was not good enough for Mrs Beckett so say that interim payments would be kept under review.

“Her first priority must be to try to put in place some manual system that will get interim payments as quickly as possible to people who will otherwise probably be forced to abandon their farms.”

Keith Simpson MP also accused the minister of attempting “to slough off any ministerial responsibility” for the SFP debacle.

But Mrs Beckett replied; “As for whether ministers take responsibility, I am taking responsibility, which is why I removed the chief executive [of the Rural Payments Agency].