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Section highlightHouses into homes This report details findings to emerge from the evaluation during the first six months of delivery (April to September 2012).
Written Statement - The Draft Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill »We are committed to ensuring that out-of-control and dangerous dogs are dealt with effectively.Learn more »
Minister tells NHS managers: "Listen to your staff and take action"
Health Minister Mark Drakeford has given a clear message to NHS managers to take action in response to the recent NHS Wales staff survey
- Minister supports International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
- Porth Eirias set to be major North Wales attraction
- Minister tells NHS managers: "Listen to your staff and take action"
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Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
National minimum standards for regulated child care »These standards determine whether child minding and day care settings are providing adequate care for children under the age of 8.Learn more »
- Continuity and Change - Refreshing the Relationship between Welsh Government and the Third Sector in Wales
- Repealing air quality ‘Further Assessments’ from Part IV of the Environment Act 1995
- Equality Impact Assessment of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan for Wales
- Consultation on the Equality Impact Assessments for the 2014-2020 Structural Funds Programmes in Wales
- Development of a national standards and outcomes framework for Children and Young People's advocacy services in Wales
- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report, Rural Development Plan for Wales 2014-2020
Featured consultation »Implementing the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011
29 days left
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Section highlightFurther and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill 2013
Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
Local authorities can charge a Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments to support the infrastructure needed.
2nd Supplementary Budget 2012-13 »
Proposes a number of changes to the 1st Supplementary Budget for 2012-13, which was published on 26 June 2012.Learn more »
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.