Conservatives have demanded that long overdue payments to UK farmers should be speeded up, after MPs condemned the Government’s handling of the issue as a disastrous debacle, and called for Margaret Beckett’s head.
With a cross-party Commons committee recommending that the former Environment Secretary should be called to account for her role in the multi-million pound fiasco, Mr Griffiths said:
“Farmers in Uttoxeter are still suffering, and those now in charge must get on with the job of making payments to farmers and minimising the amount taxpayers have to pay as a result of ministerial bungling.”
He was commenting after the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee described the controversial single payments scheme as an embarrassing failure, and protested that Mrs Beckett – who has since been promoted to Foreign Secretary – and her senior officials were not held personally responsible for the bungled, delayed payments to farmers.
With the shambles facing Britain with the threat of a £300 million fine imposed by the European Commission, and the entire debacle costing taxpayers up to £500 million, Mr Griffiths, a former farming advisor added:
“Why is it that Ministers can make such a botch of this, and yet no one takes responsibility? If it was Ministers who weren’t getting paid, I am sure someone would have been sacked by now.”
“When the words ‘catastrophe’, ‘disaster’, and ‘failure’ appear in the opening paragraphs of an official report, it is clear just how bad the Government’s performance has been. This accurately sums up the Department’s mismanagement of the single payments scheme, but it is our local farmers in Uttoxeter who are suffering.”