Incoming minister gives pledge to continue talks with industry

Possibility of a meeting between DEFRA boss and industry representatives not ruled out.

New DEFRA boss David Miliband has promised to meet the industry in time following frustration at the departure of Margaret Beckett and Lord Bach. Miliband replaced Margaret Beckett as secretary of state for DEFRA following Tony Blair’s post-election cabinet reshuffle. The All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group and industry representatives had a groundbreaking meeting with Beckett last month, just three weeks before she was replaced. There were concerns that the hard work that went into securing the meeting had been wasted. But Miliband told HW last week: “It would be ridiculous of me to say no [to another meeting], but it’s not going to happen tomorrow.” He said there needed to be a settling-in period so he could familiarise himself with the issues. A DEFRA representative said the industry first needed to develop a relationship with Lord Rooker, who has taken over from Lord Bach. HTA director general David Gwyther said: “He will find it a changed industry from the one he looked after for MAFF. “It’s under more pressure but just as resilient.” Northern Ireland minister Lord Rooker took Lord Bach’s role as horticulture minister amid confusion after Baroness Ashton turned down the job a week after being appointed, according to the Conservatives. Shadow agriculture minister Jim Paice said there had been a “catalogue of chaos” while a DEFRA representative denied Ashton had ever taken the role. The cabinet reshuffle followed local government elections that saw the Conservatives gain control of 11 local authorities. This is predicted to have a positive impact on parks and green spaces because the Tories campaigned on a “vote blue, go green” platform. The Conservatives promised to improve the quality of parks by increasing security, allocating more resources to tackle litter and graffiti, and providing more funding. They claimed parks had improved in Tory-controlled boroughs.

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