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Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales regarding agriculture in Wales. [109793]

My right hon. Friend has regular meetings with the First Minister and I meet the Assembly Agriculture Minister and DEFRA Ministers to discuss a variety of issues, including the future of agriculture in Wales.

The Minister will appreciate the importance of agricultural shows in helping to restore the fortunes of livestock farming in Wales, many of which take place within a few days of one another, and the six-day rule for the movement of animals will cause a serious problem with a reduction in the number of exhibits, rendering some of them unviable. Will the Minister consider making an exception to the movement of animals to agricultural shows in Wales this year?

I understand the hon. Lady's point, which the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) made earlier, but the veterinary advice that I have is strongly against providing any exemptions to the six-day rule. The view is that the rule provides the best balance between ensuring a limited amount of animal movement and protecting the industry from future problems of the sort that have beset it in the past year or so, so I cannot really offer any hope that that can change.