Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

363 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the regulations which prevent him from waiving the repayment of an overpayment made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork in relation to her pension under the early retirement scheme. [19180/00]

The person named had entered the scheme of early retirement from farming in joint management with her husband. The overpayment arose because he was receiving a national retirement pension for some months while she was still being paid her full pension under the early retirement scheme. The regulation under which the scheme was introduced requires that in such cases the pension payable under the scheme must be reduced by the amount of the national retirement pension. Participants in the scheme or their partners in joint management arrangements such as this are required to notify my Department when they become entitled to a national retirement pension. This is to ensure that the national pension can be offset promptly against the early retirement pension, thus preventing overpayments. As the person named did not inform my Department that her husband was receiving the national retirement pension, an overpayment took place and my Department had no option under the regulation but to recover it. My Department had no discretion under the regulation to waive the recovery of the overpayment.

The specific regulation is Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2079/92. Article 3.1.(d) of that Regulation provides that the total amount eligible for part-financing per holding shall be calculated on the basis of the following reference method: (a) aid is paid, from the age of early retirement to the normal retirement age, in the form of annual compensation at a rate of ECU 4,000 per holding, plus an annual allowance of ECU 250 per hectare, up to a maximum annual total of ECU 10,000 per holding; (b) aid is paid, as appropriate, in the form of an annual supplement to the normal retirement pension paid by the member state in order to arrive at the same annual total amount as that specified in (a).

Accordingly, as the overpayment in the case of the person named arose due to her spouse becoming entitled to the national old age pension, my Department is obliged to recover all of the overpayment as failure to do so would jeopardise its obligations with regard to EU funds.