Climate change and pesticides key themes at All-Party function

Balancing the horticulture industry's potential influence in stopping climate change with the sector's use of peat and pesticides were twin themes in speeches at the eighth All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group (APGHG) annual reception at the Houses of Parliament this week.

DEFRA minister Lord Rooker urged Lords and MPs attending the reception to participate in the Government's "flagship" climate change bill, which is proposing the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

Rooker told more than 100 politicians and industry figures he applauded the activity of the group.

He added that with "the amount of regulation and red tape we come up with, it is good you can get to us". He said the industry had suffered enormous damage because of changing weather patterns after the wet summer but added: "By the way we plant and grow we can help mitigate climate change."

Rooker, standing in for DEFRA secretary of state Hilary Benn, said: "I hope we don't regulate too much on chemicals and pesticides", adding that he thinks he still has Roseclear in his shed, which he banned years ago when at MAFF.

Scotts general manager Martin Breddy said: "I think our industry can be a torch bearer to help shift consumer attitudes to the climate change that is besetting us."

He added that the Government's 90 per cent peat reduction plan for 2010 was a "stretching target" and that the Growing Media Association, backed by the HTA along with suppliers, NGOs, retailers and growers and DEFRA were "working out how to make progress against this challenge".

Breddy hoped the Government would endorse what the collaboration was doing and trust it to self-manage reduction in peat use.

APGHG organiser Mark Glover said: "We had one of the highest turnouts of Parliamentarians for a number of years. To attract two ministers and two shadow horticulture spokesmen shows how much of an impact the group has made in the eight years it has been going. Following on from last week's meeting with Hilary Benn, this has been a very successful time for the group."

MPs and Lords who attended included energy minister Malcolm Wicks and shadow horticulture spokesmen Lord Taylor and James Paice.

Scotts, HW, HTA, the Corporation of London, the Royal Parks and BALI sponsor the group. The Landscape Institute will join them as sponsors from 2008.

- See p8 for more All-Party news


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