Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Derek Hargreaves, Cucumber Technology Group (D 38)

  The well publicised reductions in staffing levels within HRI have not been well received by the whole of the UK horticultural industry. Any reduction in the research to secure our future in this industry is to be regretted but the loss of Stockbridge House as an excellent centre of research is a major blow to the efforts we have made over the past 15 years.

  I understand the need to reduce the spending within HRI if their costs are escalating but to remove a very effective centre that we are told was only dependent on 10 per cent of its income from MAFF and BBSRC contracts seems poor judgement.

  Are we to assume that if these cuts go ahead that this will be the end? I would suggest not. If HRI are allowed to close Stockbridge House how soon before Efford and Kirton follow? This will allow the research scientist's to fall back to Wellesbourne—one of the options considered in this latest round of cuts. If the experimental centres are closed the contract with the industry will be reduced. The scientists at Stockbridge House have built up a good working relationship with the local, national and international industry and this is about to be lost because all the staff have decided that re-location does not fit in with their personal circumstances. The losses are also to affect all of the other sites—including the Wellesbourne site—making the effect even greater.

  The Government is supposed to be supporting the rural community but this does not show much evidence of this. The horticultural industry employs many people in rural areas. There is a need for research at present to overcome the cost burden of fuel price increases, climate change levy, proposed pesticide taxes and whatever else is about to hit us. We need the experienced staff at centre such as Stockbridge House to help with this.

  I am also a member of the HDC protected crops panel and I find it difficult to know how HRI will be able to fulfil its commitment to the SOLA programme and the contracted research without the staff and facilities it is about to lose.

  This last ditch attempt to save the existing centres of HRI we can cynically assume is just to make us feel better—but if there are no plans for a change of direction we can only ask that you do all that can be done to assist the formation of the proposed Stockbridge Technology Centre.

  The group trying to keep Stockbridge House in the forefront of research appear to be succeeding in getting the backing they need and they will get the industry support that the Government seems reluctant to give to this industry.

28 November 2000

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