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Consultation On Draft Animal Health Bill

19 April 2010

UK - NFU Scotland welcomes the invitation to comment on Draft Animal Health Bill, published 25th January 2010 for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The objective of the Bill, as stated by Defra, is to help implement Government plans for responsibility and cost sharing (RCS) in animal health by building greater responsibility sharing.

NFU Scotland acknowledges that the draft bill is primarily about creating an RCS framework for England, but that some provisions have implications for and could extend to Scotland

The aim, as stated in the draft Bill, is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which animal disease and the risk of disease outbreaks, is managed in England;

  • Establish an Animal Health Organisation to take over from DEFRA responsibility for animal health policy (separate from Welfare policy which will remain under Defra) deliver in England.

  • Create a Chief Veterinary officer for the UK as distinct from a CVO for England

  • Simplify payment procedures for slaughtered animals and introduce options to reduce or deny payments to those who are deemed to have contributed to disease spread.

  • Broaden powers in England and Wales to test and vaccinate.

Summary of NFU Scotland’s comments

The views of NFU Scotland on the main issues we see as relevant to Scotland.

The draft Bill’s stated aim, through creating a separate Animal Health Organisation with stakeholder inclusion, is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency with which animal disease, and the risk of disease outbreaks, is managed in England, through greater involvement keepers and livestock and other animals. NFU Scotland believes that the current situation in Scotland works very effectively as it stands. Stakeholder and Government partnership and consultation has worked extremely well with recent examples being TB, BTV and the proposed BVD strategies.

NFU Scotland does not believe with the view expressed in the proposal which states that financial incentives in the shape of ‘cost sharing’ arrangements are crucial along with the proposed new AHO to change the perceived need for behavioural change within the livestock industry. The financial incentives of reducing disease and disease risks are clear to see and livestock keepers in Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government are aware of their responsibilities without recourse to cost sharing ‘incentives’.

NFU Scotland believes that the current situation of having Animal Health and Welfare policy devolved, while the budget remains with Defra is unacceptable. The UK Government has accepted the principal of devolving the budget, but progress is slow and the situation should be resolved as speedily as is possible to allow the Scottish Government in partnership with stakeholders to manage policy and it’s own Budget.

NFU Scotland believes that while the European Commission is developing EU wide policies on animal health, welfare and disease control it would be sensible to work in conjunction with this, rather than developing this Defra initiative.

Further, any unilateral introduction of a ‘disease levy’, even as an England only measure will introduce extra cost which will disadvantage the UK livestock industry and has the potential to de-stabilise a UK-wide approach to disease control and compensation.

NFU Scotland also believes that the proposed transfer of functions from Defra should be free of obligations to maintain the present structures, to allow cost-effective delivery taking account of the devolved political environment.

NFU Scotland questions the cost net benefits, as we are not convinced, certainly in Scotland, that there is anything to be gained in efficiencies by the expensive initiative in separating health and welfare.

NFU Scotland welcomes the acknowledgement within the proposal that devolved administrations have there own policy powers and consequently if these proposed changes for England are implemented it is essential that communication and co-ordination is a fundamental priority within the UK. Further, in the case of organisations or departments, which have responsibility for cross border issues eg BCMS, then it is imperative that Scotland is directly involved.

NFU Scotland therefore agree, in principal, with the establishment of a UK Chief Veterinary Officer and the precondition that the new AHO and its officials would be required to work closely, when needed, with the officials of devolved administrations. Co-operation and co-ordination are key to disease control and eradication and NFU Scotland therefore welcomes this acknowledgement.

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