Horticulture-industry relevant election 'asks' roll in

With the general election on 12 December, groups such as the NFU are issuing policy 'asks' including demands for access to overseas workers, more tree planting, parks protection, business rates reduction and protection of staff rights.

The NFU General Election manifesto outlines its net zero agriculture by 2040 target and plan for producing more food in the UK "for every budget".

The manifesto covers Brexit, future domestic agricultural policy, "building a thriving countryside", securing a long-term food strategy and "placing science at the heart of decision making". It also highlights three areas that require immediate attention from a future government:

  • A commitment that future trade policy will not allow the imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce in the UK, undermining British farm businesses.
  • A long-term investment programme to support British farming.
  • Guaranteed access to a skilled and competent workforce.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “The outcome of this General Election will determine the future direction of this country and our farming system, including how we trade with the world, how we invest in our food system and how we attract a workforce.

She added: “With the right political environment we believe that we can deliver even more. From our ambitious vision for net zero agriculture by 2040 to increasing our self-sufficiency by producing more high-quality, British food at home, British farmers are up for the challenge.

“However, there are still very real threats that we face as an industry. If we crash out of the EU without a deal or introduce a trade policy that allows imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce here, delivering on our ambitions suddenly becomes very challenging. That is why we are urging all political parties to commit to protecting our standards of production in future trade policy as one of our headline asks in this manifesto.

“Ahead of the General Election, I will be speaking to candidates from all parties and reiterating to them the strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation, contributing £122 billion to the economy and delivering almost 4 million jobs. It is absolutely crucial that the issues we raise in this manifesto are addressed by the future government, to ensure our sector has a sustainable and ambitious future.”

The Conservative Government has said it will quadruple the number of migrant workers taking seasonal jobs on British farms next year via its Seasonal Agricultural Workers pilot. It means fruit and vegetable growers to hire up to 10,000 workers from outside of the EU for temporary roles in 2020, up from 2,500 in 2019.

The move is a qualified victory for the NFU, which has been lobbying for the increase to address chronic shortages in the horticulture sector. But the NFU election manifesto, published on 12 November, the union calls for "an immediate expansion of the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme to enable recruitment this winter and rapid action to reach a full scheme of 70,000 seasonal workers as soon as practically possible".


Forestry trade body Confor has urged political parties to commit to ambitious tree planting targets in their general election manifestos "to show they are serious about tackling the climate emergency". 

Chief executive Stuart Goodall has written to the parties, asking them to commit to planting 30,000 hectares of new woodland annually by 2025 across the UK - about 60 million trees planted every year.

The figures are part of "ambitious, but achievable" targets set by Confor in its Woodland Carbon Targets policy paper earlier this year -  and recognise that tree planting at scale is a "simple, low-cost option" to reduce the damaging impacts of climate change.

The paper sets stepped UK-wide targets rising from 15,000 hectares in 2020 to 30,000 in 2025 - and rising to 40,000 hectares in 2030. 

This is broken down into specific targets for the four constituent parts of the UK - with the 2025 target including 15,000 hectares in Scotland, 7500 in England, 6000 in Wales and 1500 in Northern Ireland.  


Fields in Trust has issued a manifesto calling on election candidates to sign a six-point Parks Protector Pledge, promising to champion local parks and public spaces.

The charity said with public sector cuts leading to pressure on parks and green spaces, candidates are being asked to endorse the legal protection of green spaces and help prevent them being sold or developed.

Fields in Trust’s Green Space Index shows that, although Britain has 216,160 hectares of publicly accessible local parks and green spaces, less than 6% of this space is legally protected with Fields in Trust.

Fields in Trust chief executive Helen Griffiths said: “There is overwhelming evidence that parks and green spaces contribute health and wellbeing benefits to our communities. We are calling on election candidates to advocate for policies which protect and support parks and endorse local efforts to help maintain and improve the green spaces in their constituencies.

“There is an urgent need to ensure the current level of park and green space provision is maintained and review what more can be done to legally protect vulnerable spaces for future generations to enjoy, because once lost, they are lost forever.”

Fields in Trust’s research demonstrates clear health and wellbeing advantages, including a saving of £111 million each year to the NHS from regular use of parks and green spaces. Constituents are being encouraged to quiz candidates on their approach to parks and green spaces and encourage them to sign the pledge at www.fieldsintrust.org/pledge


The British Retail Consortium's manifesto for the coming election, ‘A Vision for the UK Retail Industry’, sets out how the next Government should support the industry "as it navigates a transformation driven by new technology and changing consumer behaviour".

Priorities outlined in the manifesto are:

  • Relieve the business rates burden by scrapping ‘downwards transition’, which takes £1.3 billion from retailers every five years. Money that should be invested in growth, skills and innovation.
  • Reform the Apprenticeship Levy to allow greater flexibility to spend on any form of accredited training.
  • Protect shopworkers by bringing forward legislation to safeguard the 115 retail workers who are attacked every day.


Ahead of the election, the Labour Party has pledged to close the gender pay gap difference in hourly earnings between men and women by 2030.

The difference between men's and women's average pay would take another 60 years to close under a Conservative government, the party said.  The Conservative Party said the pay gap was at a record low and that there had been "huge progress since 2010" in terms of the number of women in work.

The Fawcett Society said it would take until almost 2080 for the gender pay gap to close at the current rate. The Trades Union Congress puts that at about 35 years.

As well as the new 2030 pay gap target, Labour manifesto commitments include introducing a "real living wage" of £10 per hour and creating a Worker's Protection Agency with HMRC with powers to fine organisations that fail to report gender pay.

Labour said the new agency would certify firms with more than 250 employees (lowered to 50 by the end of 2020) were meeting gender equality criteria on recruitment, career progression, pay and work-life balance.

It will also extend maternity pay from nine to 12 months and introduce free childcare for two to four-year-olds.


The Royal Town Planning Institute's manifesto also urges the next government to protect and grow devolved powers to city regions, remove barriers to city-regional spatial strategies for development and infrastructure and remove legal barriers to allow city regions to fully use their devolved planning powers.

It also highlights that the future pipeline of urgently-needed planners via apprenticeships and planning schools should continue to be strongly supported by government.

From Neighbourhoods to Nations – the importance of planning is at: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/3531955/2019%20Manifesto%20for%20Planning.pdf


The Conservative Party has said it will plant 30 million trees a year by 2025 if it wins the general election, using a £640m Nature for Climate fund.

The party said it will treble planting to 30,000 hectares every year by the end of the next Parliament in 2025.

The Liberal Democrats pledged to plant 60m trees a year by 2025.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says 30,000 hectares of woodland should be planted annually. Less than half that amount was planted in the UK in the year to March 2019.


The Conservative's Nature for Climate fund would be used to restore degraded peatland across the country, the party said. A Peat Strategy document is due to be published in early 2020, outlining the future of England and Wales peat use.

Labour shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman has said she would have peat use banned if Labour was elected.

Further reaction

HTA policy and communication director James Clark said on the election's announcement: “Having a strong and vibrant British horticultural sector is vital for sustainable economic growth and environmental development.

"The UK horticulture sector has delivered business investment and created valuable jobs, enhancing economic prosperity in the country at local, regional and national levels. With over 500,000 people directly and indirectly employed across the ornamental horticulture sector, creating over £24bn in GDP we are looking for all political parties to foster supportive and innovative economic programmes to boost our sector’s full potential.

"On the environment, we want to see sustainability and climate change given the high priority it deserves. The garden industry is uniquely placed to support wider national health and well-being benefits of gardening and help create a Greener Britain.

"We will be engaging all the political parties in the coming weeks with our policy proposals.”

Country Land and Business Association president Tim Breitmeyer said: “We welcome the news of a general election in the hope that finally this political paralysis might be cured.

“The political and economic uncertainty faced by rural businesses in recent years has been hugely frustrating. Political parties now owe it to rural communities to lay out robust and ambitious plans to unlock the potential of the rural economy, particularly in recognising the unique role we play in delivering growth and jobs, while answering society’s demands for food production and on the environment.“

Plants for Europe's Graham Spencer said:

“For 2020, it’s hard to make any predictions, as the outcome of the election will have an impact on what happens with Brexit. A hung parliament could lead to further uncertainty. Even if Boris Johnson wins a majority and pushes through his deal, we could still end up on WTO terms (“no deal”) at the end of 2020 if no free trade agreement is agreed and the withdrawal transition period is not extended. I am convinced, still, that Remain would be the best outcome for our industry."

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