THE GOVERNMENT has started the process that will transfer powers on animal health and welfare to the Welsh Assembly.

The Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 2004 is being debated in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Nov 3, and is due to be considered by the House of Lords on Thursday.

Don Touhig, a Wales Office minister, forecast that the move, made in response to a request by the Assembly, would be widely welcomed as a further example of the partnership approach between Westminster and Cardiff.

“The last foot and mouth outbreak caused some practical difficulties and public confusion about who was responsible for controlling the disease in Wales,” Mr Touhig admitted.

“This order will simplify matters by giving the Assembly full control of any future disease outbreaks in Wales, such as foot and mouth outbreaks.”

If approved the transferred powers include responsibility for the control of animal diseases, the cleaning, movement, transport, slaughter and disposal of animals.

The Assembly will license slaughterhouses and assume responsibility for the prevention and eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

Animal health powers are just part of the composite order, which also covers such issues as the removal of abandoned vehicles, and deciding whether items of artistic or historical interest should be accepted in lieu of inheritance tax.

Welcoming the order Carwyn Jones, the Assembly‘s rural affairs minister, acknowledged that diseases did not respect national boundaries and that each country in the UK must comply with EU legislation.

But if local circumstances demand a separate approach to that being taken nationally, these additional powers will give the Assembly the freedom to implement its policies on the handling of disease outbreaks,” said Mr Jones.