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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Badgers again

I have just asked a question of the Rural Affairs Minister about the imminent badger cull in North Pembrokeshire. I was particularly concerned about the Cilgerran Wildlife Centre which includes amongst its activities families watching badgers in their natural environment.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, who own this centre have had notice that they are included in the cull area and that the badgers on their property will be trapped and shot. I asked whether there was a compromise that might be put in place here to test these badgers rather than destroy them so as to preserve the sanctity of the wildlife centre.

Unfortunately the Minister was having none of it. She was very clear that these badgers form part of the 'resevoir of disease' in the area and could not be excluded from the measures she has put in place. This was despite not having any evidence to back up this assertion.

Another development on this cull is that I have now hit a brick wall in my attempt to discover how much the Welsh Government will be giving to Dyfed Powys Police to police their actions. Having submitted a freedom of information request I was told that the Government could not release the details as it was not in the public interest. They said that the publication of such information is likely to 'impede the course of justice in that it is likely to affect the ability of the Police to take action to prevent offences in law.'

This is complete nonsense of course. Both the Welsh Government and the Police Authority are public bodies, whose proceedings, budgets and actions are meant to be open to scrutiny. I was not asking for operational details only the additional sums of money being given to the police over and above their existing resources.

Needless to say I appealed and as a result got a different answer. The Welsh Government still won't give me the information I want but this time they say it is because they do not hold it at this time. Apparently, 'the cost recovery agreement which accompanied the memorandum of understanding does not contain an agreed sum of money which the Welsh Assembly Government would pay Dyfed Powys Police for additional activities relating to the pilot area. This is because the response and reactions of members of the public to the activities being undertaken in the Intensive Action Pilot Area is not known at this stage.'

What they are saying therefore is that in addition to the £9 million that is being spent on culling badgers the Labour-Plaid Cymru Government has signed a blank cheque for the Police Authority to help manage the slaughter.

It is right of course that any protest is lawful and non-violent but it is also essential that when a democratically elected government embarks on a course of action then their decisions are open and transparent and subject to full scrutiny. That is something that Labour and Plaid Cymru have avoided at this time on this issue.
"...Having submitted a freedom of information request I was told that the Government could not release the details as it was not in the public interest..."

What a cop-out!

A FOI request I've been tempted to make is a list of the Section 44 areas within the South Wales Police Authority.
Its a great place Cilgerran, real dedication to habitat, flanking the teifi, an extinct old railway track nw acting as a path, otters

Real hard stuff from a minister who should scrap this cull and let the people of Wales decide, HOLD A REFERENDUM, let the will of the people prevail not the will of landed assembly members
Surely another solution is to allow the centre to charge top dollar to people who want to watch the culling 'in action' ??

Necessity is the mother of invention and all that..
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