Politicians hear cross-industry issues

Annual reception of All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group attended by 130 industry figures and politicians.

Reception: attended by 130 industry figures and parliamentarians
Reception: attended by 130 industry figures and parliamentarians

Defra minister Lord de Mauley has reassured the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group (APPGHG) that Defra is in control of issues on plant health, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), bees, peat, R&D and plant reproductive material (PRM).

Speaking at the APPGHG annual reception, attended by 130 industry leaders and parliamentarians, De Mauley said the Horticulture Innovation Partnership will bring "wider sector benefits" in R&D and Agri-tech grants are available until the end of November.

He said Defra has a "tight focus" on plant health and stressed the importance of "pollinator health". On sustainable growing media, he added that "peat use has fallen significantly" in 2013.

De Mauley said the EC is "relenting" on proposed "onerous" PRM rules following "concerted pressure from Defra". He added that helping those hit by a gap in CAP funding after 2013 is also a key priority.

APPGHG chairman Baroness Janet Fookes, who opened the reception, said: "We try to bring together as many of the disparate parts of horticulture as possible. There are no great battalions to wheel out - you're all in small platoons."

She described visits to Stoke Common, the garden at Dorneywood, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and a successful meeting with Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson and his parliamentary under secretary Lord de Mauley in a "lively and interesting year."

Martin Breddy, general manager of Scotts Miracle-Gro, which sponsored the reception, said the trade needs a "new language" if it is to inspire young gardeners.

He recalled a talk he gave to an Oxford University careers service where students linked peat to mud, fertiliser to pesticides and gardening to grandparents.

Breddy said: "We need to find a new language to inspire them if we want to inspire a new generation."

After thanking Baroness Fookes and the officers of the APPGHG for their efforts on the industry's behalf, Horticulture Week editor Kate Lowe highlighted the launch of the cross-sector champion for public parks, The Parks Alliance, chaired by London Legacy Development Corporation director of park operations Mark Camley.

She told parliamentarians that The Parks Alliance, which grew out of HW's Make Parks a Priority campaign, seeks to "make the case for greater investment in public parks."

Above all, she pointed out that The Parks Alliance is seeking to engage with Government in averting the crisis facing parks.

Special guest Downton Abbey star Jim Carter made an appeal for the industry to support the charity Greenfingers, which builds gardens at children's hospices.

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