I propose to take Questions Nos. 645, 657 and 665 together.
I am fully aware of the impact of the very difficult weather conditions of recent weeks on farmers and of the potential impact on farm incomes. For that reason I have sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment. If approved, this will enable payment to issue at the earliest possible date after 15th October and will represent the early payment of very substantial funding to farmers. I will press the Commission for an early response.
I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date and AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that all payments due in respect of 2012 are discharged at the earliest possible date.
In a bilateral meeting with the Commissioner yesterday I addressed the issue of advance payment in view of the effects of the weather on farming and asked if the Commission would consider going beyond the 50% to a 70% advance. However, the Commissioner raised some practical concerns around doing so.