7. The Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (Wales) Regulations 2024

– in the Senedd at 5:11 pm on 21 May 2024.

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Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:11, 21 May 2024

(Translated)

Item 7 is next, the Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (Wales) Regulations 2024. The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs to move the motion. Huw Irranca-Davies.

(Translated)

Motion NDM8586 Jane Hutt

To propose that the Senedd, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5, approves that the draft The Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (Wales) Regulations 2024 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 30 April 2024.

(Translated)

Motion moved.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 5:11, 21 May 2024

Diolch, Llywydd. Animal welfare is a priority for this Welsh Government. We want our farmed animals to have a good life, and we take welfare at slaughterhouses seriously. The Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (Wales) Regulations 2024 will require CCTV cameras to be installed in slaughterhouses in areas where live animals are unloaded, kept, handled, stunned and killed. Recorded images will need to be retained by the slaughterhouse operator for a 90-day minimum period, and made available to authorised persons, for example official veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency, to view, to copy or seize for the purpose of monitoring and verifying animal welfare standards.

So, subject to Senedd approval, the regulations will come into force in two stages. First, regulations 1 to 4 will come into force on 1 June. These are the requirements to install and operate a CCTV system and to keep CCTV footage and information. Second, regulations 5 to 14 will come into force on 1 December. These are the offences and the powers to inspect, to seize and enforce the regulations. So, this provides a six-month period where the FSA will support slaughterhouse operators to ensure they are compliant with the requirements of regulations 1 to 4 ahead of the regulations being enforced. We have worked with the FSA to develop guidance to help operators comply with the regulations. Just to say, slaughterhouse operators have been aware of our intention to require CCTV in slaughterhouses since 2021, when the chief veterinary officer first wrote to advise them of this programme for government commitment. He then wrote again recently to advice operators that the regulations had been laid.

Now, let's be clear, CCTV cannot replace direct oversight by slaughterhouse management or official veterinarians of the FSA, but we know it can improve the efficiency of monitoring and enforcement. FSA data for 2022/23 indicate at least 15 per cent of slaughterhouse non-compliances are identified either by live or retrospective CCTV viewing, and CCTV is routinely used as evidence to support enforcement action. A review of CCTV in slaughterhouses in England, where it has been mandatory since 2018, identified benefits to animal welfare and the assurance of welfare standards. CCTV recordings can also be a useful tool for slaughterhouse operators when training new and existing staff. So, all of this supports improved consumer confidence that welfare standards are being delivered.

When my predecessor, the Minister for rural affairs, consulted on proposals, there were over 16,000 responses. The overwhelming majority agreed that CCTV cameras should be installed in all slaughterhouses in areas where live animals are present. And to be clear, most of our slaughterhouses do already have some form of CCTV in place. Our larger slaughterhouses, which process the majority of animals, already adhere to a protocol jointly developed by the FSA and industry bodies to enable official veterinarians access to CCTV footage. The cost to slaughterhouse operators in complying with the requirements to the regulations will vary, depending on the size and the layout of each premises, and the explanatory memorandum and the regulatory impact assessment give a fair and reasonable view of the expected impact of the regulations, and I'm satisfied the benefits justify the likely costs. I would also like to take this moment to thank the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee for its report on the regulations, which we have noted. So, Llywydd, I ask Members to approve the regulations. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of James Evans James Evans Conservative 5:15, 21 May 2024

I'd like to thank the Cabinet Secretary for bringing forward these regulations. Today, my colleagues and I in the Welsh Conservative group will be supporting these regulations that you have tabled, as we firmly believe that the mandatory use of closed-circuit television in slaughterhouses across Wales is required to drive up standards across the industry. Animal welfare is a cornerstone of our values in Wales, and these regulations, we believe, are a vital step towards ensuring humane treatment of an animal throughout their life. Right now, upholding animal welfare in slaughterhouses relies on inspection and self-reporting. While these methods are valuable, they do have their limitations. A 2021 report by the RSPCA found that over 22 per cent of investigated welfare concerns stem from slaughterhouses, so CCTV offers a solution to addressing this issue. We also have to consider the public's trust in the food industry, and this hinges on openness. CCTV provides an objective record of animal handling and welfare, thus fostering the public confidence that these regulations are being followed, and driving up standards. As you said, Cabinet Secretary, authorised persons can review footage, allowing them to identify potential issues and investigate concerns more efficiently. Studies by the University of Bristol show that CCTV footage significantly improves detection of animal welfare breaches. People who work in slaughterhouses, if they know they're being recorded, it encourages those staff to be more consistent and adhere to practices and to not do anything that falls foul of the law.

I understand that some may be concerned about the cost or misuse of footage. However, I and the Conservative group believe that the benefits far outweight these. The cost of implementing CCTV is minimal compared to the ethical and economic benefits of improving animal welfare. Stricter regulations ensure footage is solely used for monitoring and enforcement purposes only. The Welsh Government's own impact assessment on these regulations highlights that, while larger slaughterhouses already have CCTV, there are many across the country that do not. This creates an uneven playing field and limits oversight. So, we believe that this is another reason why it is needed.

But, as you said, Cabinet Secretary, this is not about replacing inspections; it's about strengthening the entire animal welfare monitoring system right across Wales. I know there have been concerns from smaller slaughterhouses right across Wales, but I would say to those people: do not see this as a hindrance. See this as a help in actually improving animal welfare standards and improving public confidence in the food that we're producing here across Wales. We do have a long and proud history in Wales of championing animal welfare, and these regulations demonstrate our continued commitment to that. By implementing these regulations, we are sending a clear message that cruelty towards animals will not be tolerated. We must use every tool at our disposal to ensure every animal's well-being, right through the food chain. So, I urge everybody in this Chamber today to give your full support for these important regulations, and we'll be supporting the Cabinet Secretary this afternoon.

Photo of Llyr Gruffydd Llyr Gruffydd Plaid Cymru 5:18, 21 May 2024

Likewise, Plaid Cymru will be supporting these regulations as well, although I do have some concerns around the financial implications for the smaller abattoirs, which obviously will have this expected of them. There are already many of them operating on a very tight margin, and they are a vital part of rural economies. They offer a higher value route to market for native and rare breeds, which is something that the larger abattoirs don't tend to do, or they're unable to, maybe, sometimes, or even unwilling to do so, so we need to be careful here that we don't lose something in introducing these regulations. And they also do support higher standards of animal welfare, by the way, because smaller local abattoirs help, of course, to reduce journey times to slaughter, so we don't inadvertently want to find that we have fewer of the smaller abattoirs and subsequently animals have to travel further, because that will obviously introduce a different element of welfare concern.

So, my question, effectively, that I would ask you to maybe address in responding to this debate is: what kind of financial support measures would you be considering, potentially, as a Government, to support the smaller abattoirs to comply with these new regulations? Because I think the total capital cost is £40,000 for CCTV installation. It wouldn't be a huge contribution from the Welsh Government, but, for the smaller abattoirs it would make, I think, a big difference. I know that the UK Government a few months ago announced a £4 million smaller abattoirs fund. They've actually had to increase the maximum level of grant allowed because smaller abattoirs are struggling and need more support. So, I’m just wondering—. There may or may not have been a Barnett consequential to that, but, if not, do you have anything in mind in terms of helping the smaller players, in what is a very important contribution that they make in so many ways, to implement these regulations effectively? Diolch.

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour 5:20, 21 May 2024

Llywydd, earlier in the year, I was part of a Senedd delegation to the Falkland Islands with Members of the Senedd, where we talked of mutual areas of interest and the spokesperson for the Welsh Conservatives this afternoon, I can say with confidence, demonstrated his knowledge on this particular area and spoke at length during our period overseas and certainly brought me up to speed on this topic.

Presiding Officer, if passed today, these regulations will deliver on the actions sought by a petition, P-04-433, 'CCTV in Slaughterhouses', which was first submitted back in 2012. That petition was submitted by Kate Fowler on behalf of Animal Aid and it received over 1,066 signatures in support. Back in 2020—I think the Chair was Janet Finch-Saunders then—the committee wrote a report and made the following recommendation:

'The Welsh Government makes the installation and maintenance of CCTV monitoring systems mandatory in all slaughterhouses in Wales.'

I was pleased to read that, in 2020, the Welsh Government did accept the recommendation in principle, and I’m pleased, with the support of the Senedd and Senedd approval after today, that it will be accepted in practice.

Llywydd, the journey of a good idea from conception to national policy is not always a straight line, it is not always as straightforward as it may seem or we may wish it to be, but I do hope yourself and the Cabinet Secretary in responding can join me in congratulating the petitioner and all those who signed that petition over a decade ago now. Diolch.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

The Cabinet Secretary to reply.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 5:22, 21 May 2024

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd, and thank you to everybody who has contributed to this debate, and can I thank everybody for their support as well? I’ll deal with the questions that have arisen in a moment. But, James, thank you so much for the way you’ve spoken, signalling support for this, both on animal welfare grounds, but also, as I touched on in my opening remarks, on consumer confidence as well, and the fact that we need to speak strongly about our good animal welfare standards and then make it happen right across the piste, and reiterating as well some of the evidence that shows that this actually works; it really does work.

I thank you as well for what you’re saying, that the fact that the cost is really minimal compared to the benefits that accrue from this, which brings me, Llyr, to your points, and, again, thank you for your support on this as well and for Plaid Cymru’s support on this. The first thing to point out is that the cost is indeed, as James mentioned, fairly low in terms of the overall costs of the operating even of a small abattoir, and I have small abattoirs in my own town that I live in. But just out of interest—. I mentioned earlier on the long lead-in time we gave them in order to allow people to prepare for this. But, on the funding, first of all, let me say we will keep on working with the FSA and with slaughterhouse operators in a very supportive relationship to make sure that this is rolled out. We have already made funding available through the food business investment scheme to support small and medium-sized slaughterhouses to, amongst other things, install and upgrade their CCTV systems. Now, the food business investment scheme closed previously. There were eight applications invited, of which three projects were successfully completed, with several thousand pounds of grants supported for CCTV installation. Then the food business accelerator scheme opened up in November 2022 to provide capital grants to support investment in manufacturing equipment and modernising to increase efficiency. Interestingly, there weren’t any applications from slaughterhouses for this fund, but if funding does become available—and that is an ‘if’, I have to say, at the moment, bearing in mind the situation we’re in at the moment—if funding becomes available, that scheme may reopen.

But just to say as well that the Welsh Government food division provides a range of industry support that small abattoirs in Wales can access to enhance productivity, including business growth, skills, scale-up and finance support. The reason I say that is, whilst we don’t have a dedicated scheme right here, right now, which we've had before, which could have been accessed for CCTV installation, there are other schemes there that a small abattoir, with some advice, speaking to the operators on the ground, with the support of the FSA, can access for their overall business that might help mitigate the other minimal costs here of actually putting in place CCTV.

Let me turn, then, finally—. And Jack referred to the petition back in 2012 brought by Kate Fowler, with the immense number of signatories on that, and we do absolutely give credit to all those who've supported this over many, many years. It's a decade. This has been a long time in coming. But we'll have a six-month lead-in before we get to enforcement, so we'll work with slaughterhouses, and, as Llyr was saying, those small and medium-sized slaughterhouses that are so important to the fabric of our rural communities and our food production system. We'll make this work, we'll do it sensitively. But there has been a massive demand to actually get on with this and put it in place and do it well, so we will do that.

Can I just say in closing, Llywydd, this has also been a long-running campaign of individuals in the Maesteg Animal Welfare Society, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, which they've invited me to recently? I spoke before this weekend to one of the organisers of that, and she was beside herself with the fact that we're now getting on with this. So, well done to everybody who has campaigned for this, and I hope the Senedd this afternoon will support it. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:26, 21 May 2024

(Translated)

The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No. The motion is therefore agreed.

(Translated)

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:26, 21 May 2024

(Translated)

There will be no votes this evening.