Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has published a consultation seeking views on the role of the Independent Panel in Area-based Schemes Review of Decisions Cases.
Under current arrangements, where a farmer is dissatisfied with a decision taken by the Department in relation to their Area-based scheme payment, they can ask for a review of that decision. As part of the Review of Decision process the farmer can apply for an independent panel assessment of their case. The Independent Panel hears the case and makes a recommendation to the Department. The Minister at present is making the final decisions.
Minister Poots has decided that the final decision in future reviews of Area-based scheme payments should be made by the Independent Panel.
Minister Poots said: “I am acutely aware of the importance of direct payments to farmers and the wider rural community and it is vital that farmers receive the correct payment.
“Where farmers are not happy with the decisions made by my Department, it is also important that they have confidence in any review process. I believe that it will be fairer for everyone if the final decision in a Review is made by an Independent Panel.
“Therefore, as Minister, I have decided that the Independent Panel be given decision making powers in Review of Decision cases. This requires my Department to prepare new legislation. However, there are a number of questions around any new process, and this Consultation will provide stakeholders the opportunity to submit their views.”
The closing date for responses is 17 August 2021
Notes to editors:
- The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has operated a Review of Decisions (RoD) process for area-based schemes from 2001.
- Whilst the Department is not required by law to have such a process, it represents good practice. It provides an opportunity for redress and an independent assessment on whether the Department’s decisions are in line with the rules and legislation to which it is bound.
- An Independent Panel has been a feature of the RoD process since its inception.
- The current process involves the Panel hearing the case and makes a recommendation to the Department, with the Minister making the final decision.
- Following the consultation, legislation will be introduced to give the Independent Panel decision-making powers.
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