25 December 1998

Welsh payments

THE Welsh Office is to invest £16m over three years to speed up payments to farmers.

This follows years of complaints about delays of up to three months, which farming unions claimed put 20,000 Welsh farmers at a trading disadvantage.

A comprehensive review of alternatives, which included moving the administration of support payments to MAFF offices in England, has concluded that a new computer system is the answer.

The decision saves the jobs of about 500 staff at Welsh Office Agriculture department offices, and was warmly welcomed by the unions. Bob Parry, Farmers Union of Wales president, said the reaction of producers would be sighs of relief.

and a chorus of "at long last. It wont mean any more money in farmers pockets but will reduce the chance of them having to borrow more to survive until payments arrive."