Urgent investigation into causes of meat processing plant virus outbreaks

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Following First Minister’s Questions was questions to Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham).

Minister can’t reconsider in-year NRW budget cut

With a criminal investigation into the causes of a polluting fire at the Hafod tip near Wrexham still ongoing, Llyr Gruffydd MS (Plaid, North Wales) asked for an update.

He was also becoming increasingly concerned about Natural Resources Wales’ capacity to carry out their role with an in-year cut to their budget.

“(NRW) already saw a real-terms cut in their budget for this year and now they’re facing….a £7.5million further cut to their in-year budget. Now, if you add in the multi-million-pound losses projected for the timber operations, then this is becoming critical. So, in light of their key role in protecting the environment and responding to flooding and in leading the charge against the climate emergency, will you now reconsider the proposed budget cut for Natural Resources Wales?”
– Llyr Gruffydd MS

Llyr Gruffydd said people would be left “bemused” when the Minister told him tipping was safe to continue at the Hafod site given the causes of the fire are, as of yet, unknown.

On the wider question of NRW finances, the Minister said there was no avoiding a budget cut as money was redirected to support efforts in the coronavirus pandemic, therefore she couldn’t reconsider the cut.

Causes of meat processing plant virus outbreaks being urgently investigated

Both Llyr Gruffydd and Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies MS (Con, South Wales Central) asked about Covid-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants in Anglesey, Wrexham and Merthyr Tydfil.

The latter asked whether a “rapid piece of work” the Minister has ordered on the outbreaks would be made public?

The Minister would make it public if she could, hinting that the cause could be related to cold surfaces in these plants:

“….we know the virus can live much longer on cold stainless steel than it does outside. So, clearly, for those of us who have been in those sorts of organisations and places, we know that they are very cold. Last week, we were told that noise can have an impact. So, again, some of these places are very noisy, so that could be having an impact too.”
– Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths

Additionally, Andrew Davies asked about pandemic support for farmers. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have committed £25million and £45million respectively to support their agricultural sectors, particularly in light of price falls of up to 20%. Would similar levels of support be considered for Wales?

The Minister made no commitments on finance, saying support was on a “case-by-case basis”, with the dairy sector coming first.

  • 7