Bovine TB Cattle Vaccine

2. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs – in the Senedd at on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour

(Translated)

8. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the planned deployment of the bovine TB cattle vaccine? OQ61107

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 3:11, 15 May 2024

Field trials to collect data for the use of TB cattle are continuing. In tandem with this research and development work, we are considering strategies for incorporating cattle vaccination into our TB eradication programme. The future scale of use would be informed by the analysis of effects following the initial authorisation.

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour 3:12, 15 May 2024

Thank you for the answer, Cabinet Secretary. As we all learned through COVID, breaking chains of infection is important, and vaccination, as well as hygiene, is a key part of this. Studies have shown a reduction in transmission in vaccinated cattle, with a total vaccine efficacy of 89 per cent. These suggest that vaccination could represent an important tool for bTB control. As of 2024, the UK has culled 330,000 cattle, with around £150 million paid to support farmers' losses each year, and this is added to the 210,000 badgers culled at a cost of £58.8 million. These figures don't sound very effective and are still heavily pursued in England. Cabinet Secretary, please could you outline a time frame for a cattle vaccine roll-out, how you anticipate this will help us tackle bovine TB going forwards, and how this should be the most effective strategy, along with hygiene? Thank you.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 3:13, 15 May 2024

Carolyn, thank you very much. You are right that this could be something of a step change in the way that we deal with bTB, which is such a devastating illness for cattle but also for the farmers who see so many of their cattle then destroyed as a result of this. We have reason to be optimistic, but what we can't do is put a timeline on it, because we have to test and prove the efficacy of this. So, in order for cattle BCG to be used, we first of all have to have a diagnostic test that is capable of differentiating infected from vaccinated animals. That is needed. Once such a test is available and validated, then the use of cattle BCG, combined with a DIVA test, could indeed be approved. But we don't have a timeline on that. The work has got to be done and carried out. 

The field trials to collect the safety data for the use of TB cattle vaccine and the companion DIVA skin test and to gather additional data on the DIVA test specificity—I always have a problem with that word—and to explore options to optimise the performance of the new test are ongoing. We continue to work at pace, but to make it clear, we, and I suspect other nations within the UK as well, will only deploy the vaccine and the companion DIVA skin test when we've got all the right evidence and the right steps in place. So, our aim is to deliver an effective cattle TB vaccination strategy within the next few years to accelerate our continued progress towards eradicating bovine TB in Wales. Thank you.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 3:14, 15 May 2024

As you're still a keen new Minister, I'm going to take you back to question 1 [OQ61091] and the supplementary that Siân Gwenllian had attempted to ask. I’m going to allow her just to ask the supplementary again and for it to be answered. 

Photo of Siân Gwenllian Siân Gwenllian Plaid Cymru 3:15, 15 May 2024

(Translated)

Thank you for your patience, Llywydd. I was pleased to hear the First Minister yesterday, and yourself, Cabinet Secretary, this afternoon, restating the Government’s stance, namely a presumption against new gas-fired power stations in Arfon and elsewhere, and I was also very pleased to hear your emphasis on creating an affordable clean energy supply. But, unfortunately, that isn’t the view of the Conservatives, and constituents in Arfon will be very disappointed and very concerned to hear that the Tories do support the building of a gas-powered fire station in an old quarry in Caernarfon, which would emit toxic fumes and endanger the health of local people, given that homes, a hospital and a school are all nearby. In addition to the health problems, do you agree with me that the impact of new fossil fuel developments is very damaging to biodiversity and is entirely contrary to this Senedd’s legislation, including the future generations Act, the environment Act and the clean air Act?

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 3:16, 15 May 2024

(Translated)

Thank you, Siân, and it's nice to have you back.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour

Nice to have you back. Llywydd, it’s helpful if I can restate our approach here and in Net Zero Wales—it’s how we increase renewable energy in Wales whilst also committing to phasing out unabated gas-fired generation, and it’s for the reasons that you outline. Where the Welsh Government is called to decide on future proposals, and I cannot, as I said in my response to you earlier, Siân, comment on individual proposals that might come forward, but in general, where we’re called to decide on future proposals to build unabated power generation in Wales, it would be the intent of Welsh Ministers to maintain that strong presumption against new fossil-fuelled power plant, and also to avoid, I have to say, replacing our current fleet of plant with alternatives that may themselves have the impact of becoming a source of greenhouse gas emissions or even, I have to say, a costly stranded fleet of generators as well. So, this presumption may well have the effect of discouraging local decision makers from consenting to new small-scale fossil-fuelled plant. But, Siân, those comments are in the generality of our approach in Welsh Government, which I’m happy to restate, rather than in respect of one individual proposal, Llywydd.