The deadline for 2006 single farm payment applications should be delayed until all 2005 claims have been validated, according to shadow agriculture spokesman Jim Paice.

Mr Paice told the Eastern Agrilink Ltd AGM in Essex on Tuesday evening (2 May): “The government is quick enough to seek an extension to deadlines when it suits them but not when it is in the best interests of farmers.

“I have repeatedly said to DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett that farmers cannot complete a 2006 application if their 2005 application has not been validated.

“It is hypocritical of the government to seek to extend the regulatory window for payments while denying farmers any extension to the deadline for 2006 claims.

“The government cannot justify imposing penalties for late submission when thousands of farmers are still waiting to be paid for last year and many entitlements for this year are still unvalidated.

“This is why the opposition is tabling a motion in parliament calling for the date to be delayed until validation is complete.”