Horticulture industry welcomes end to uncertainty on government

The first coalition government since the Second World War has been cautiously welcomed by industry figures, keen to see an end to a week of confusion.

Key ministerial positions have yet to be filled but an announcement of who will take the reins at Defra is expected shortly.

Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne will reportedly take on the Department for the Environment and Climate Change while Vince Cable is to oversee business and banks.

This suggests a dismantling of the oversized Department of Business Innovation and Skills, but it is not yet clear which department will absorb the functions not in Cable's portfolio.

But despite the remaining confusion, the industry reacted positively to the belated news that a deal had been struck.

HTA chairman David Gwyther said: "There is the promise of some economic stability now and a proper addressing of our problems by the financial management talents within the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. This will be good for the economy and that must be good for our industry in formulating investor plans and reassuring our customers that it will be safe to continue to spend on their gardens."

Growers too welcomed the news, despite the non-appearance of a predicted bounce in the markets.

HTA ornamentals committee chair Geoff Caesar said: "Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats covered issues affecting our industry in their manifestos. The big one for us was the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board promised by the Conservatives. It just appears for ornamental horticulture to be an administrative burden so we would be very happy to see it go."

The NFU said they would set out their full position once a new Defra minister had been announced, but a spokesman said: "Our core message is that we will be working closely with whoever forms the government and impress on them that farmers have a key part to play in tackling major changes the country faces."

Public sector workers may face a tougher time under a Conservative administration, though all party's acknkowledged the need for cuts.

Oldham head of Parks Steve Smith said:  "With the Conservatives before the election William Hague said the best way for the public sector to go forward was through the private sector which suggests Compulsory Competitive Tendering but the new alliance will see those extreme views diluted. Prior to the election although Oldham faces public sector cuts of £45m over three years, the LibDem administration was generally supportive of parks and frontline services."

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