Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs minister Lord Whitty hailed the contribution of the All Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group at Westminster last week.
Whitty said: “There is an impressive level of all-party support for this organisation, which represents a very important occupation for British people and significant contribution to our rural economy.”
More than 100 key industry figures and MPs attended the group’s annual reception in the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons.
Lords Whitty and Clark represented the upper house, while the MPs who accepted invitations included Marion Roe (Broxbourne), Nigel Jones (Cheltenham), Chris Pond (Gravesend), David Hinchliffe (Wakefield) and Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich).
Group secretary Brian Donohoe MP said: “I think the event was another success that indicates that the industry is alive and is continuing to prosper. The message is that gardening and horticulture is healthy.”
Whitty, Donohoe, horticultural writer and broadcaster Peter Seabrook and Scotts’ managing director John Wyatt spoke at the function. Donohoe firstly remembered the contributions of Lord Walker (who was group chairman at the time of his death earlier this month) and Horticulture Week editor Pete Weston (the inspiration behind the founding of the group in 2000), who died last month.
Donohoe added: “There have been ups and downs this year for the organisation, but the numbers present here indicate the success of the group, which is growing from strength to strength.”
Main speaker Lord Whitty said horticulture is a “very important occupation for British people and a significant contributor to our rural economy, bringing employment
and enjoyment to the countryside and to us”.
Whitty said this year’s key issues for him as a minister had been pesticide regulations, finding a “proper place for research, sorting out the future of HRI” and the question of CAP reform and horticulture. He said: “Horticulture has survived on its own through difficult times and is a truly commercial part of agriculture, bringing employment, income and a future to agricultural communities.
“We recognise this sector as important in terms of the economic and cultural contribution and the contribution to rural economies.”
Representing the industry and as one of the sponsors, Wyatt said: “This is an important gathering to recognise the contribution of horticulture.”
He referred to the scale of the industry — £5 billion a year retail — the thousands of people it employs and also highlighted horticulture’s “often overlooked” contribution to the environment.
Wyatt added on the “hot topic of health issues in society” that horticulture “in some small way does help people to get out and about”.
Of the past 12 months, Seabrook said: “If there was ever a year when you needed to garden then this was it.”
He concluded: “If we are able to give more people gardening success it can be of enormous benefit to all of us.”
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