8. Statement by the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd: Controlling BVD in cattle and scab in sheep in Wales

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 5:51 pm on 31 January 2023.

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Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 5:51, 31 January 2023

Thank you very much for welcoming the statement this afternoon and the announcements around the eradication of both BVD and sheep scab.

I think, in relation to BVD, it was good to give the voluntary scheme some significant time. I think there's been a real push to go for legislation, and I absolutely understand that, because I think what the sector didn't want was to lose the gains that had been made. Clearly, there was a significant issue with just a few farms—a small percentage of farms—not taking up the voluntary part of the scheme. Sometimes, you don't want to use legislation to crack a nut—it's too heavy handed. We wanted the scheme to have the five years to look at the data, and I was absolutely clear that we would only bring forward legislation if the evidence was there to show that legislation was needed. I do think we've made such gains in relation to BVD eradication, and it would indeed be a shame to lose that, particularly, as I mentioned in the statement, because of the challenging times we are facing, particularly coming out of the European Union. You don't want other countries to go ahead of us in relation to eradication. 

In relation to sheep scab, I suppose what I mean by 'step up' is I think it's really important that the industry itself takes a grip of it, the ownership of it. I'm very happy to work in partnership. I had hoped to bring forward this scheme a while ago. I think it was back in 2019 I announced the funding, and that funding had to be repurposed then during the COVID pandemic for a couple of years. But I'd promised to bring the funding forward to have that all-Wales sheep scab eradication programme, although it's been a little longer than I'd hoped. We haven't really seen a lot of progress. So that, I suppose, is what I mean about it. I'm very happy to work in partnership. I think, if we're going to do anything, we need to work in partnership. 

I hear what you're saying about the ongoing Natural Resources Wales consultation regarding their regulatory fees and charges. You will have heard me say before that what that review is intended to ensure is that NRW does achieve full cost recovery, because those fees haven't been reviewed for a number of years. But NRW do expect the increased costs of licences to impact on a very small number of farms. At the moment, they issue, on average, about 37 permits a year, so you can see it's not a substantial issue for a lot of people.