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 Wellesbourneone
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 sitesincluding
the Wellesbourne sitemaking 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
betterbut 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