Judging by Margaret Beckett’s reaction to the severe censure of her handling of payments to English farmers, it looks like ‘mea culpa’ is not on her favourite list of Scrabble words. MPs have called for former Environment Secretary Beckett to be held to account over delayed EU subsidies to English farmers. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called the handling of the new Single Payments Scheme an "embarrassing failure"
Not much wringing of hands from Maggie. No offer to do the decent thing even though she has moved on to another job. No grovelling apology for the number of English farmers who have gone out of business – or even committed suicide whilst waiting for an EU subsidy cheque from DEFRA that never actually arrived. Margaret’s conscience is clear – apparently, she took the decisions "in good faith" ….. So that’s all right then.
Worse still is the potential fine that the taxpayer is going to have to stump up £500 million to the EU for the late/non-payment fiasco.
The MPs' report said: "A culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service delivery."
The committee wants new guidance to make clear to ministers what they should do to take responsibility in the event of serious departmental failure….
Some hope. Since when has a government minister ever taken the noble route and resigned because they had cocked up? Twenty five years ago – Lord Carrington and Richard Luce fell on their swords citing their failure to address Argentina’s aggression in the South Atlantic. Since then we seem to have had either bloody fantastic and capable ministers – or a load of utter dumkoffs whose only knowledge of ‘honour’ is the kind that Lord Cashpoint reputedly sets up for wads of cash…..
Interestingly enough, and true to form, the BBC reports on TV, radio and web avoids describing the victims of this cock up as ‘English farmers’ – preferring to describe them simply as ‘farmers’… There is however a superbly agricultural quote on one web page from Leicestershire farmer Andrew Brown that, somehow managed to slip through the BBC web censor’s red pen….
Farmer Brown agreed with an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report calling for Mrs Beckett to be among those considering their positions.
"It was Mrs Beckett who decided to go down this route of the most complicated system for England and England alone," he said.
"Whereas in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they had a different system and they paid their farmers on time. So that left the English farmers at a great disadvantage.
"And where else but the Westminster village would the person who's in charge of this mess get promoted to foreign secretary?"