RPA admits losing more farmers’ details

The Rural Payments Agency’s handling of personal data has once again been called into question after it admitted it misplaced details of English hill farmers.

Files containing the names, addresses and field parcel information of nine Cumbria farmers went missing earlier this month after they were sent between RPA offices.

The files turned up three days later – in a mail sorting depot in Coventry.

While red-faced officials were quick to assure the farmers involved that no confidential data was included in the misplaced files, the revelation is another blow to the beleaguered RPA.

Last month, Farmers Weekly revealed the agency had lost data tapes containing the bank details, names and addresses of possibly thousands of farmers in England.

While DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn insisted it was ‘most likely’ the missing tapes had been destroyed, officials admitted they could never be sure what happened to the data.

The latest blunder occurred after a box containing12 files detailing hill farm allowance claims were sent via Parcel Force from agency offices in Reading on 13 November.

The box arrived at the RPA’s office in Penrith on 15 November, but only three files were inside.

Agency staff contacted Parcel Force and after an investigation were discovered three days later some 200 miles away in the courier’s Coventry sorting depot.

A DEFRA spokesman said the files were documents about Hill Farm Allowance inspections belonging to nine separate farmers in Cumbria.

He insisted the information detailed in the files was not confidential and contained only names, addresses and information about field parcels.

“These were just simple files to help inspectors do their jobs,” he said. “There is no fear that any personal information has been compromised.”

The spokesman said the farmers involved had been contacted and “were relaxed things were fine”.

“We are looking into how this happened and we have asked Parcel Force to hold an investigation to see how it happened,” he added.

“But fundamentally nothing happened.”

Were you one of the nine farmers involved? Email caroline.stocks@rbi.co.uk