News in brief: Tories attack government over controversial water pollution measures
The Welsh Conservative have launched a new bid to halt the introduction of controversial water pollution rules that would limit the use of slurry and fertiliser on farmland in Wales.
Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, has called on the Welsh Government to adopt a voluntary approach in a cross-Parliamentary letter organised with Virginia Crosbie MP (Ynys Môn), and signed by eighteen Welsh Conservative Members.
Last week the government members defeated a Plaid Cymru motion to annul the all-Wales nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) regulations by 30 votes to 27.
The new regulations will apply from 1 April and be phased in over the next three and a half years.
The Welsh government says the new rules are necessary to tackle river pollution and improve water quality in rivers and lakes.
Over 10,000 farmers sent emails to Senedd members highlighting the financial impact of implementing the new regulations, which include the upgrading of slurry storage facilities to enable farms to have at least five months’ worth of slurry storage.
A three-month ban on slurry spreading for three months every autumn to curb run-off from fields during wet months will also be introduced.
“Following two Senedd debates and a vote on annulling, I have joined with my Welsh Conservative colleagues in writing out to the First Minister to once again ask him to listen to the Agricultural industry and to concede that the proposed NVZ is a regulatory overstep that should be halted,” Mrs Finch-Saunders said.
“As I have tried to make clear in my series of representations to this devolved administration, the Regulations are already having a detrimental impact on the mental health of many in agriculture. Given that this concern was also raised in their own Explanatory Memorandum, the continued pursuit of the NVZ should alarm us all.
“Sadly, instead of actively engaging with the Welsh farming sector as they sought to provide actionable recommendations on how best to protect the environment, no detailed reply was issued to the Water Standard and the Wales Land Management Forum Sub-group on agricultural pollution.
“Our letter urges the First Minister to renew his trust of our land custodians and give the voluntary approach a real chance. It is not too late to recognise the serious plight of our Welsh farmers and reel in this regulatory misstep.”
Health chief calls on parents to help control Covid in schools.
A top health official has called on parents to help control the risk of an increase of Covid-19 infections as more pupils return to school in Wales this week.
From today, all primary school pupils and students in years 11 and 13 will return to school, and schools also have the flexibility to bring back years 10 and 12 and the Welsh government plans for all secondary-aged pupils to be back in school full-time from 12 April if case numbers remain low.
“We need your continued support to control the spread of Coronavirus, so please do not send your child to school if they are unwell, even if you are not sure if they have Coronavirus. Please continue to work from home if at all possible, “Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said.
“When you take your child to school, always keep your distance from other parents, wear a face covering, and don’t stay around and chat. Please don’t invite other children or their parents to your home to play or stay, even outdoors, and even if they are in the same bubble at school.
“Make sure your child understands the importance of washing their hands regularly.”
Meanwhile, Education Minister Kirsty Williams says that measures in schools to reduce the spread of Covid-19 will be kept “under review”.
Speaking at today’s government press briefing she acknowledged that the wearing of face masks and other protective measures in schools “curtail that normal educational experience”.
“As soon as the advice says we can move away from some of them, then we will do so,” she added.
The minister said the small number of cases reported in schools since children started to return to face-to-face leaning last month were “not a surprise”, adding.
“There is nothing in our experience of the last three weeks when the foundation phase pupils have been in that has made us think we can’t proceed with the important steps we’re taking today,” she said.
“But clearly one of the reasons we’re having a phased return is that we can monitor the data really closely.”
Two more people have died with coronavirus, according to the latest figures from Public Health Wales and 248 new cases have been reported in today’s update.
The newly reported deaths were in Swansea Bay health board area and Cwm Taf Morgannwg. area.
Merthyr Tydfil continues to have the highest rate case in Wales, with 144 per 100,000 people, overt three times the national average of 39.1.
The positive test rate in Merthyr is also the highest in Wales at 11.2% per 100,000 tests. The national rate is 3.7%
Up to yesterday evening 9,433 people received a first dose of vaccine, taking the total to 1,122,931, over 35% of the adult population in Wales and just under 2,900 people had second doses, making the total to 264,255.
Campaign launched to encourage people to stay local,
Visit Wales is launching a new campaign to encourage people to “stay local” following the latest change to the coronavirus lockdown measures announced on Friday.
First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed that from Saturday the government was changing ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay local’ – and people should stick to within five miles of home, although there will be more flexibility in rural areas.
In response to the new measures Visit Wales’ Addo campaign is asking the people of Wales to make a promise as they start exploring their local communities once again to care for each other, for our land and for our communities.
Addo means to promise and Visit Wales says the campaign is about people working together, “making a collective promise to care for each other and our country.”
The campaign will initially be rolled out within Wales and will include a mix of digital, PR and out of home advertising. The second phase will include TV, radio and will be extended to target visitors in key markets once restrictions are lifted further.
The pledge can be signed on Addo: make your promise.