Horticulture sector reacts to legislative programme set out in Queen's speech

A clearer picture of how the new Government's plans will affect the horticulture industry is unfolding thanks to a series of announcements made as the new Parliament opened this week.

On Tuesday The Queen's Speech outlined the new legislative programme - including an Energy and Green Economy Bill - of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition under which its plans for the country will be rolled out.

Some of these plans, such as the introduction of measures to protect wildlife and promote green spaces, mark good news for the sector but a question mark hangs over how well they will be delivered due to the Government's overriding priority to make £6bn in savings in 2010/11 - making it necessary to slash the funds of most of its departments.

Defra has to make the third largest saving, contributing £162m or 5.5% of its 2010/11 budget, towards the Government's overall £6bn savings.

This means that, to help balance the books, Defra will have to limit recruitment, cut down on staff and make "savings within the delivery of selected programmes".

NFU acting communications director Terry Jones said: "We believe it is absolutely crucial that the new coalition Government balances the pressures of this financial black hole with a growing demand for food supplies in the future."

The Queen's Speech did not go into great detail about the Energy and Green Economy Bill, which will promote "enhanced energy efficiency" and "low-carbon energy production", although further details of the Government's plans for the environment and other issues relating to the horticultural sector were published a few days prior the speech in a 36-page "programme for Government."

This is where its plans to introduce measures to protect wildlife and promote green spaces, and the supermarket ombudsman to enforce the Grocery Supply Code of Practice and curb supermarket abuses of power, were announced.

NFU chief horticultural adviser Phil Hudson said: "It is encouraging because this reinforces the commitments made during the election campaign."

Communities & Local Government will lose £780m. The Department for Culture Media and Sport loses £88m. Almost a third of the culture department's loss, £27m, will come from the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Concerns continue over cuts threatened agencies such as the South-East England Development Agency, which has supported several horticulture projects.

Meanwhile Play England reacted angrily to treasury criticism that the national play strategy was an example of inefficient government spending.

The Government has also pledged to:

- Launch a national tree planting campaign.

- Abolish regional spatial strategies and return decision-making on housing and planning to local councils, including new powers to stop "garden grabbing".

- Use Pitt Review findings to improve UK flood defences, and prevent unnecessary building in areas of high flood risk.

- Introduce honesty in food labelling.

- Promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion.

- Make import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.

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