Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Some 17,500 farmers submitted applications to the national reserve but when account is taken of the number of farmers who applied under two or more categories over 23,000 files have to be processed.
While much work has been done in processing the vast majority of the applications, none of the applications has yet been processed to finality with national reserve allocations attributed. Some 11% of the applications received are still under query with the farmers concerned as my Department has sought additional information in support of their applications. Processing of all applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants within the next two weeks. I will be making a formal announcement in due course setting out the various criteria for allocating entitlements.
I thank the Minister for her reply. The only difficulty I have with the reply is that it is very similar to the replies we have been receiving for the past 12 months and all stating the allocation is imminent. When will the allocation be made? Is it not the case that as far back as 15 November 2005, 18,400 applications had been resolved and yet the Minister had given a commitment that the allocation of the national reserve would be made in January 2006? The single farm payment application forms for 2006 are currently being circulated and the entitlements for 2005 are still not available.
Will the Minister clarify for the House whether she has decided the amount of the regional average calculation and how it will be formulated?
I wish to again advise the House that in November or December of last year I indicated my priority was the single farm payment and this was the basis for delaying work on the national reserve. My view at that time, which was correct, was that the single farm payment should be dealt with as quickly as possible. With regard to the national reserve, the decision will be available within the next two weeks. If we find ourselves in the situation whereby people are under pressure with the application for the 2007 single farm payment and the timeframe is too short, I will certainly consider extending the timeframe by allowing another week or two. At that stage I will outline the criteria by which I will make my decision.
The Minister has still not made her decision regarding the definition of regions, nearly 12 months after the applications have been submitted. Will the Minister at least ensure that a helpline is made available so that applicants can resolve any outstanding queries, considering that 11% of applications are under query? No one can get through to Port Laoise. The situation is in a mess because of the mid-term transfer of the single farm payment and the impact of staff and payment facilities being transferred from Davitt House to Port Laoise. Even at this late stage I ask the Minister to provide information and the means of access to that information.
I am preparing for a possible onslaught following the letters being posted out. Unsuccessful applicants will naturally feel aggrieved but an appeals process will be available to them. I will ensure the resources will be in place so people can have a discussion about their application. I assume the successful applicants will be happy enough and will be able to proceed.
I know the Deputy will also be doing that.
I appreciate that disappointed applicants will have concerns. Much work has been done on the basis of the mandatory criteria set down and in particular with regard to the special criteria set down by the Department. I do not agree the transfer from Davitt House to Port Laoise has undermined the work.
The Department has been meticulous in its interaction so people are assured that the relevant information is made available when an application is made. This is being done in the evenings and by letter and telephone call. I hope this matter will be finalised prior to Easter.