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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Missing money

The Welsh Government seems to have given up on the fight to get additional cash from the UK Exchequer so as to match-fund European Convergence money, they also have a £260m gap in their block grant due to some sleight of hand on behalf of the Westminster Labour Government. Now it seems that another £6.5m has gone missing.

Farmers in England have been promised compensation to help them cope with the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak there, but the £8.1m for Scotland and £6.5m for Wales that should have been announced at the same time has disappeared into the mists of time, along with the General Election.

The Rural Affairs Minister has said that she is going to protest in the strongest possible terms but it is difficult to get away from the thought that Wales has been done over once more by Gordon Brown and his Ministers. This is an especially bitter pill to swallow when one considers that the blame for this costly foot and mouth outbreak can be pinned firmly on DEFRA itself and the failure of bio-security at Pirbright.

When Plaid Cymru signed up to this coalition they did so because Rhodri Morgan claimed that he had substantial influence at Westminster so as to deliver key parts of the One Wales agreement. Isn't it about time he used those contacts so as to get this compensation re-instated?
The money for English farmers came from the existing English farming budget - there was not a penny of new money from the Treasury for farmers anywhere. If Welsh and Scottish farmers were "done over" by Gordon Brown and his Ministers, then English farmers are victims too.
Yes, I understand that David. It seems that as the compensation for English farmers is not new money then Wales and Scotland do not get a barnettised share. My point is that Welsh and Scottish farmers have been 'done over' because they have suffered from an UK Government action and are not to be compensated by that government. English farmers it seems, will be receiving compensation. In the circumstances the source of the compensation is actually quite important.
It's fundamental - that's why it's important to explain the difference between Treasury and DEFRA cash and that there's not a penny extra in new money for English farmers.

The draft statement you mention - with the £6.5m for Wales, £12m for England - involved Treasury cash. That cash disappeared when the Treasury refused to cough up so Hilary Benn had to raid his own budget for the £12m. When he made the statement, WAG told us by comparison: "In Wales the Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has already made a number of announcements on assistance for the farmnig industry, and has made two statements to the National Assembly. The announcements include more than £1m for the promotion of Welsh beef and lamb. Last Thursday the light lamb welfare disposal scheme was announced which provides assistance for hill farmers who have lost the export market for their lambs which would normally go to Southern Europe. The scheme provides £15 per lamb and should it be taken up in full by the industry could amount to as much as £6.7m. The issue of light lambs is more acute in Wales than elsewhere in the UK and the scheme has been devised to meet Welsh needs in consultation with stakeholders including the farming unions."

There are bigger questions about why the Treasury vetoed the scheme - and whether the UK Government are responsible for the outbreak - that don't involve fuelling paranoia among Welsh farmers.
David Cornock should be congratulated on setting out the truth on this issue. It is quite clear that some people have swallowed the spin from Alex Salmond when he must of known that in the words of one famous civil servant 'he was being economical with the truth'. The key question that all assembly members should be asking is why Elin Jones hasn't been straight on this issue and also joined in the spinning. She must have known that Benn as david Cornock points out was using his own department's contingency money.The Welsh assembly should do the same and stop blaming the UK government. I suppose that we will soon be demanding compensation from the European country where bluetongue disease orignated. Someone told me that the midges spoke Flemish !
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