UK: House of Lords debates Horticultural Sector Committee Report

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On Friday, 19 April, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) was in the gallery of the chamber to witness the next step in the Parliamentary process for the House of Lords’ Horticultural Committee Inquiry. The debate and motion were the formal presentation of the report in Parliament and provided peers from all parties the chance to set out views on some of the key aspects covered by the wide-ranging review. With nearly 100 recommendations, the debate on the report covered several areas: green growth, borders, and trade, the transition to peat-free skills, the health benefits of gardening, and seasonal workers.

Committee Chair Lord Redesdale gave the opening speech, thanking sector advocate Baroness Fookes for being the driver behind the inquiry with the ambition of ensuring ornamental horticulture was key and visible. Throughout the debate, many references to the work and evidence from the HTA were made, including those made by the responsible minister, Lord Douglas-Miller, who was leading from the government’s front bench. The focus of challenges to the government was on the abandonment of launching a Horticulture Strategy, the lack of clarity and risks associated with the imminent border changes, and the content of its official response to the Lords’ report. The latter was criticized by all parties, including Conservative peers, as disappointing and a missed opportunity.

The report is now officially lodged in the Parliamentary Library. The HTA, which is supported with written and in-person evidence and briefings, has asked any future government to review the report in its recent ‘Environmental Horticulture Manifesto’. The HTA seeks that such a review would then take forward many of the Lords’ report recommendations, including on a cross-government body to maximize the sector’s potential.

Commenting on the Government response in February, James Barnes, HTA chairman, stated: “The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) actively supported the Lords’ Inquiry and welcomed its wide-ranging report. The report recognized the importance of UK environmental horticulture, from its contribution to the economy to the pursuit of a net-zero future.”

“The Government’s response fails to grasp the opportunity to truly recognize the cross-government reach of the sector to deliver on key policies or the need for swift action and urgent announcements – including on imminent trade costs and April border changes – which present a real and present threat to sector viability and growth.”

“The HTA remains committed to growing the profile and impact of environmental horticulture with government and policy-makers, and in anticipation of a general election, has set out its top-ten asks for a future government. These asks include creating a cross-government Office for Green Spaces to deliver a Horticulture Strategy, which is important to underwriting UK climate change ambitions. We implore any future government to re-open the response to this report, understand the significance of what is being asked, work in partnership with ourselves and the industry, and have the mandate and motivation to truly recognize the needs and potential of the original green industry.”

For more information:
Horticultural Trades Association
www.the-hta.org.uk

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