DEFRA’s response was ‘shoddy’ to critical single payment report

The government’s lack of response to a report that criticised the handling of the Single Payment Scheme has been branded “shoddy” by a cross-party committee of MPs.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee issued a strongly-worded report on the single farm payment debacle, on 29 March. It criticised heavily senior civil servants at DEFRA and called for sackings or resignations. The EFRA MPs also said Margaret Beckett, then Secretary of State, should have been demoted not promoted.

On Tuesday this week (24 July) the EFRA committee published the government’s response to that damning report. In an accompanying statement, the committee makes it clear it is not satisfied by DEFRA’s response and intends to return to the issue in the future.

“Given the in-depth analysis contained in our report, we believe that the government response is, to say the least, shoddy. In a number of cases it fails to provide any response at all to the specific recommendations we made.”

The group is also angered by the long time taken by DEFRA to publish its response which meant it could not be presented to the House of Commons in time for a scheduled debate.

The group also refutes DEFRA’s criticism of it that it should not have named those it judged to be responsible for the failure.

“We were not attempting to act as a disciplinary tribunal of senior civil servants, but seeking to allocate responsibility for a fundamental failure of government policy.”

Conservative MP and shadow junior DEFRA minister Jim Paice said: “Gordon Brown says he wants government to be more accountable but this response is a complete abdication of responsibility by his ministers.

“If the Prime Minister really wants to bring about change he should make significant interim payments before Christmas, which would make life a little easier for farmers whose incomes have been devastated by flooding.”

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