Paper application forms for farm support payments are likely to remain for at least the next three years.
An online-only approach to Basic Farm Payments applications was abandoned last spring after IT failures at the Rural Payments Agency which administers the money.
Agency chief Mark Grimshaw, appearing before MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said a fully digital approach relies on the roll out of broadband to rural areas.
It comes after a report by the Public Affairs Committee which suggested Government Digital Services went beyond European Union requirements when the new IT system for the Basic Payment Scheme was developed.
Angela Smith, Labour MP for Stocksbridge and Penistone, asked Mr Grimshaw whether he thought a fully digital applications process was ever going to be feasible.
Responding, he said: “It’s very much dependent on the roll out of rural broadband and on the capabilities of the customer base but we are required through EU legislation to make a range of application processes available to customers. So certainly for the next three to five years there will be a paper application route.”
He added: “Having at the heart of the solution a digital capability is absolutely the right thing to do and you will wrap around it the customer access requirements that you need for your different customer types. So this year we will be sending out 21,000 paper application forms. They will come back into a processing centre where they will be keyed into the service.”
He vowed that “almost all” outstanding BPS payments would be paid by the end of the month.