Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture and Rural Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 7th February 2000.
8. asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development how long after culling farmers have to wait until they receive payment under the over-30-months scheme.
The Intervention Board Executive Agency operates the over-30-month slaughter scheme. It is therefore outside my responsibility as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. I have referred the Member’s question to the chief executive of that agency, and I have asked him to provide an answer direct to the Member.
I understood that when this contract was put out the payment to the farmer was to have been made in less than four weeks. I know for a fact that many of these payments take two months to issue. That is totally wrong. Three months ago they seemed to be on top of the problem, but now, whenever people have their cattle taken away and they enquire about the delay in payments, they are told that the computers were down. That is not a valid excuse, and it needs to be investigated very seriously. I understand that the firms that lift the cattle get the cheque but hold it back for a time and use the money for themselves. That is the information I have been given, and I have no reason to disbelieve it.
I understand the Member’s concern. However, it is not within my remit, and for that reason it is a matter for the Intervention Board. I have asked the Intervention Board to respond to the Member.
Given that the Minister has made it clear that this is not within her remit, it is difficult to pursue the question.