21 June 2001

Q2 Alison Halford:

Will the Minister make a statement about the infected area status being lifted for north Wales? (OAQ12047)

The Minister for Rural Affairs (Carwyn Jones):

The infected area status on Anglesey and northern Gwynedd was lifted on 2 June. These areas, together with the rest of north Wales, have at risk area status.

Alison Halford:

In light of the recent sad events brought about by the foot and mouth disease disaster, do you think that the Assembly is doing enough to support farmers and their families during this stressful and worrying period?

Carwyn Jones:

During the course of the outbreak, 29 information points were established throughout the whole of Wales. Many of those were local, for example in Churchstoke and Montgomery, so that people could access information in that way. In addition to those information points, the National Assembly gave £215,000 towards a helpline in Wrexham, which people could access. I welcome the work that has been done by various voluntary organisations towards alleviating rural stress.

On the communication of information, we set up a helpline in Cathays Park so that people could receive information. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food veterinarians also have their own helpline in Llanishen. I encourage people to ring these helplines, particularly the Assembly’s helpline in Wrexham, to discuss whatever problems that they have and receive the proper assistance.

Elin Jones:

One of the obstacles that arose during this crisis was the movement of animals into clean areas, such as Dyfed. Will you confirm what you discussed in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee yesterday, that there will be an announcement before the end of the week to ensure that licences will be available so that animals can be moved into clean areas? I ask specifically about animal movements from south Meirionnydd to north Ceredigion, as that obstacle has affected several famers in my constituency and, I am sure, in the Presiding Officer’s constituency.

Carwyn Jones:

As I said, I hope that a statement can be made by the end of the week. The statement must be agreed between the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and myself. I am hopeful that we can move on this matter by the end of the week. Therefore, the situation remains the same, and I understand the problems facing people in Ceredigion and Meirionnydd.

Alun Pugh:

Will the Minister tell the Assembly how many cases of foot and mouth disease have been caused in Wales, or anywhere else in the UK, by the activities of climbers and walkers? I know several farmers who are concerned about that.

Carwyn Jones:

None, as far as we are aware.

Peter Rogers:

Do you agree that, if you had read the Northumberland report on the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 1967, the lifting of the infected area status in north Wales could have been done much sooner? It would also have saved the Exchequer millions of pounds and would not have left the north Wales agriculture industry in tatters. I refer particularly to the speed of slaughter, burial of carcasses, the closing of roads, the use of the army and better communication.

Carwyn Jones:

We must remember that the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 1967 was fundamentally different to the current outbreak. It was more regionalised and less virulent. Many people were affected then, however, the spread of the disease was entirely different. The Northumberland report suggested that carcasses should have been buried on farms. That is not a viable option in 2001. It was possible in 1967; if there was no obvious watercourse near land, carcasses could be buried there. We have not buried any cattle this time in Wales. There are a number of issues that concern cattle, particularly those over 30-months-old regarding BSE. In relation to sheep, we have disposed of them as quickly as possible. It is not simply a matter of disposing of carcasses in the ground as was done in 1967. That disposal method is no longer acceptable nor would it be environmentally friendly. We are trying to take on board the best lessons of 1967. However, we must bear in mind that the current outbreak is fundamentally different and that the disposal methods are also different.

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