Help to Buy – Wales Shared Equity Scheme »This shared equity loan will make up the shortfall between the purchase price of a property and the funding available to buyers through their cash deposit and mortgage offer.Learn more »
“Autumn Statement has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales” – Jane Hutt
Wales’ Finance Minister Jane Hutt has responded to the UK Government’s Autumn Statement – saying that it has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales.
- New guidance on care and support for over 65s
- Independent report revealed at the Event Wales International Conference 2013 outlines positive impact of games and events for Wales
- “Autumn Statement has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales” – Jane Hutt
- Consultation on Regional engagement partnership structures in the tourism sector
- Implementation of Commission Directive 2013/45/EU concerning the change to the botanical name of tomato
- School term dates regulations
- Beyond 2011: Consultation on Census and future provision of population statistics in England and Wales
- M4 Corridor around Newport Consultation
- Undertaking fatal and non-fatal drug poisoning reviews in Wales
Featured consultation »New guidance for the Risk Assessment of Walked Routes to School
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In this section
Section highlightThe Housing (Wales) Bill
The Bill will introduce significant improvements across the housing sector to ensure that people have access to a decent, affordable home and better housing-related services.
Legislative programme 2013 - 2014 »
The First Minister detailed the 8 bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the 3rd year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightProject pipeline update - December 2013
This Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan annex highlights planned investments and potential procurement opportunities.
Final Budget 2014-15 »
The amount of funding allocated to Welsh Government Departments for 2014-15 is £14.9bn.Learn more »
- Statistics & Research
Oral - Bluetongue
Bluetongue is a virus spread by infected midges, which affects cattle and sheep. The first cases of bluetongue strain 8 spread into northern Europe from Africa in summer 2006. In 2007 the disease became widespread and wind conditions brought it to East Anglia in September 2007. The disease then spread within the east of England and Dorset.
The risk of disease transmission is usually at its highest from late August, when the midge population reaches its peak, through to late December. There have been more than 15,000 new cases of bluetongue in northern Europe over the past few weeks. The disease has no human health implications. It is an economic disease against which farm businesses must protect themselves.
The Wales core group of industry representatives and officials has met throughout the summer to advise me on the development of a vaccination policy that would ensure that Welsh farmers are in a position to protect their livestock against this disease. I have worked closely with the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, and have succeeded in securing 7.5 million doses of vaccine for Wales. I arranged for the first million doses to be made available in the south-east, the first protection zone in Wales, from 27 June. We then received additional doses so that there was sufficient vaccine for the remainder of Wales to be declared a protection zone on 1 September.
Under European regulations, animals can only be vaccinated against bluetongue in a protection zone. By declaring the whole of Wales a protection zone, there were inherent risks as livestock movement is relatively unrestricted within the protection zone, which now includes areas of Europe where the disease is prevalent. However, this risk is balanced by the provision of the vaccine so that farmers in Wales can immunise their livestock against the disease.
In south-east Wales, some 85 per cent of the 1 million doses of the vaccine made available to farmers in this area since 27 June have been taken up. Since 1 September, the take-up of the vaccine in the remainder of Wales to protect livestock against bluetongue has been disappointingly low, despite an intensive publicity campaign by the Government, farming unions and other stakeholders. As at 15 September, only 1.36 million of the 7.5 million doses available had been taken up by farmers in Wales; this includes the vaccine take-up in south-east Wales.
On 16 September, there was confirmation that two bulls on a farm in Ruthin, Denbighshire were confirmed as testing positive for strain 8 of bluetongue. A third bull’s test was inconclusive, but following further tests on 19 September, it was confirmed that it was also infected with strain 8 of the diesase. The bulls were imported from the Limoges area of France and bluetongue was detected as part of the post- import checks, which determine whether animals are infected with bluetongue strains 1 and 8. The GB experts group, which consists of senior vets and epidemiologists, including my veterinary advisers, has recommended that the bulls should not be slaughtered as the risk of transmission from these animals is negligible. This disease cannot be passed from animal to animal; it is passed by the bite of an infected midge. The three bulls in Ruthin will remain in isolation until 31 October and all the stock on the farm will remain under restriction, which includes movement restrictions, until then.
In the event of further cases of imported animals testing positive for bluetongue anywhere in Wales, I will consider ordering their slaughter if they pose a risk of transmitting the disease; there will be no compensation for farmers if that happens.
Since this case emerged on 16 September, the take-up of the vaccine has increased slightly. As of this Monday, 1.82 million of the 7.5 million doses ordered have been taken up by farmers. That is an increase of 460,000 on the previous week. I am pleased that some farmers are recognising the danger that bluetongue poses and are vaccinating their animals, but this trend must improve if Welsh farmers are to protect their livestock and livelihood.
The only cases of bluetongue in Britain this year have been from imported animals. The main reason why the disease has not been prevalent in Britain this year to date is primarily the success of the vaccination programme in the high-risk areas of England. This highlights the continued importance of vaccination, particularly as we have now entered a period of high risk, which will last until the temperatures drop.
Under current EU guidelines, which allow animals to move relatively freely between member states, vaccination is the only protection against bluetongue—there is no other way to prevent it. Farmers must contact their vets now in order to vaccinate their animals. Farmers who do not vaccinate are endangering their livelihoods and the health of their livestock, and that of their neighbours, and the health of the national sheep flock and cattle herds. Welsh farmers have an opportunity to vaccinate their animals now, and we are advising them to do so. This is in contrast to the situation in Scotland; they will not be vaccinating there before November.
The cost of the vaccine is reasonable so that farmers can protect their livestock and livelihood. Depending on the manufacturer that produces it, the vaccine costs from 55p for sheep and from £1.10 for cattle.
Over the past few weeks, there have been many instances of imported animals testing positive for bluetongue in England and now in Wales. EU legislation allows the importing of animals from protection zones in mainland Europe, and, as I have said, there are significant risks in doing that. We must remember that, in some parts of France, there are also cases of strain 1 of the disease but, in Britain, we have only had to deal with strain 8 so far. The vaccine that we are using will only protect livestock against strain 8. If farmers import from an area adjacent to a bluetongue strain 1 protection zone, they should consider the additional risk that they are posing to the entire GB cattle and sheep industry by importing a new strain of this disease. Farmers have a responsibility to help protect their industry against the disease by thinking carefully about where they source their animals and avoiding moving them to Wales from bluetongue infected areas in mainland Europe. I have heard rumours suggesting that there are suspected adverse effects from vaccinating animals, including decreased fertility and spontaneous abortion. There is no evidence to support any of these claims. Pregnant animals can react adversely to being treated in preparation for the vaccination.
It has been suggested that there should be a compulsory vaccination programme. After hearing the opinion of the Wales core group, I decided upon a voluntary vaccination programme, because a compulsory vaccination programme would have resulted in increased regulatory and administrative burdens, with additional form-filling and inspections by local authorities. Potentially, it could have increased the cost to the farmer by as much as 50 per cent and slowed down the process.
In conclusion, I have two key messages for farmers in Wales. First, contact your vet to arrange a vaccination to protect not only your livestock and livelihood, but those of all farmers in Wales. Secondly, think twice before importing animals from areas where the bluetongue disease is already prevalent.