Assembly slated for foot and mouth ‘complacency’

17/10/2002

News Wales

http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Agriculture&F=1&id=6074

Plaid Cymru assembly members today attacked what they called ‘the culture of complacency’ that pervades the Assembly's response to the foot and mouth inquiries.

A joint statement to be made by the Westminster and Assembly governments next month (November 5) will accept the findings of the Anderson inquiry in relation to Wales.

It will mention that ' The Government is in discussion with the Welsh Assembly Government on the case for devolving more powers to it to deal with outbreaks of animal disease in Wales.'

Plaid argues that more should have been done to transfer powers on animal disease control from Defra to Wales and that the Assembly once again will merely be toeing the Whitehall line.

The party's agriculture spokespersons have always maintained that being answerable to a Whitehall department led to confusion and delays during the foot and mouth outbreak last year and that these problems were not encountered in Scotland where powers were devolved.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, Shadow Rural Affairs Minister said: "There has been a settled view that responsibility for animal health issues should be devolved to Wales and we expected a rigorous lobbying campaign from the Assembly Government to secure this goal.

“One year on after this dreadful disease eroded our rural communities, we see that nothing appears to be moving. We are merely told that discussions are ongoing. This is a dereliction of duty by Mike German. A memo obtained by Plaid Cymru reveals that National Assembly officials are keen to secure that the Assembly Minister has ' enough to give something positive to say in any press notice announcing the publication of the Government response'. This is another example of the Assembly Government putting spin and good news above the welfare of farmers."

Simon Thomas MP, Plaid's agriculture spokesperson at Westminster attacked the Liberal Democrats for complacency and said: "The Liberal Democrats can't even stand up for the need to devolve animal health issues to the National Assembly for Wales, but simply say they are in discussions.

“What's the point of the Liberal Democrats in Cardiff when everything they preach against in agriculture - illegal meat imports; the 20-day standstill rule and the handling of Foot and Mouth - they then support when in coalition with Labour. It is clear that Liberal Democrats in government stand up for Labour policies and forget their principles."

Mr Thomas has tabled an Early Day Motion today in Parliament pointing out the hypocrisy in the Lib Dem position.