Industry and MPs frustrated as Bach and Beckett leave DEFRA

The government reshuffle last week has meant more changes at the helm of Defra.

Lord Bach has lost his role as minister for horticulture at DEFRA after just a year, frustrating the industry and MPs. The move follows Margaret Beckett’s replacement as secretary of state by David Miliband in the wake of the local council elections. All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group (APGHG) secretary Brian Donohoe MP said he was disappointed and concerned that Bach had gone after he “had begun to learn the ropes”. However, HTA director general David Gwyther said Bach “did not spend a great deal of time on horticulture” and would not be “hugely missed”. Bach is believed to have gone because he was unable to deal with problems with the Single Farm Payment scheme. He has been replaced by former Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office Lord Rooker. Miliband, the new head of DEFRA, is former ODPM communities minister. RHS director general Andrew Colquhoun said Miliband’s appointment was positive because he is “clearly a rising star”. But he added: “It’s obviously disappointing so shortly after we had managed to talk seriously to Margaret Beckett. We’ll have to start again.” The APGHG and industry representatives had a groundbreaking meeting with Beckett last month (HW, 27 April). APGHG vice-chairman Christopher Fraser, a Conservative MP, said: “Having hit various brick walls at DEFRA under Margaret Beckett’s leadership, and supported the Conservative frontbench calls for the resignation of Lord Bach because of the shambles of the Single Farm Payment scheme, I think we can only hope for better things under the new regime. Time will tell. “At our recent meeting, Mrs Beckett listened sympathetically to the concerns we raised, but actions speak louder than words,” he added. “The meeting created an opportunity to establish an ongoing dialogue with the department. “I will continue to press the Government to make a commitment to horticulture.” Colquhoun said he had had a positive meeting last week about Britain in Bloom with ODPM parks minister Baroness Andrews, who retains her job. The ODPM is being broken up to form the Department for Communities & Local Government, which will be headed by former education minister Ruth Kelly.

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