Memorandum submitted by Mr Malcolm Bradley
I would like to make the following points for
the committee to consider when they reconvene:
1. HRI is a public body (NDPB) and must
behave as one. The lack of consultation with the UK horticultural
industry with regard to the structural changes that are being
proposed is totally unacceptable.
2. We are told that the closure and redundancies
are necessary as part of a business plan and that the plan has
been approved by MAFF. However there is concern that the plan
was simply rubber stamped by MAFF without detailed scrutiny. In
order to ensure that the plan is viable it should be carefully
vetted by independent experts.
3. Whilst the concept of having research,
development and technology transfer within a single organisation
was good in theory it has not worked out in reality. After 10
years of trying it must be time to acknowledge this and make necessary
changes. HRI has effectively done so by indicating that it intends
to concentrate on science in the future as stated in the earlier
presentation to the Agriculture Committee. It has confirmed this
by closing Stockbridge House and reducing the development function
at Efford and Kirton.
4. The UK horticultural industry needs new
technology in order to survive and prosper. That need is increasing
with the added economic pressures of the global economy coupled
with other issues such as environmental protection, food safety,
energy conservation, etc. Whilst scientific progress such as GM
will benefit the industry in the future businesses need to survive
until then and therefore more immediate technology is essential.
That technology is the main product of Stockbridge House which
is being abandoned by HRI.
5. Having invested so much money in HRI
over the past 10 years it should be supported in it's attempt
to establish itself as a scientific research organisation. It
will have more chance to success without the distraction of development
work and technology transfer. Future financial support should
be based on a three year plan leading to privatisation by 2003.
6. The development work and technology transfer
functions that are so important to the industry can be carried
out by other organisations with co-ordination by the Horticultural
7. When the HDC was formed it was meant
to be an industry/government partnership for the funding of development
work and technology transfer. The HDC levy income is approximately
£3 million. This should be matched with an equivalent amount
from the MAFF R&D budget to ensure that there is a dedicated
combined budget for development work and technology transfer.
8. The announcement that HRI no longer required
Stockbridge House was met with amazement by the industry. The
Stockbridge team is very highly regarded and the site has excellent
9. Following the announcement of the closure
of HRI Stockbridge House plans are well advanced to enable the
site to continue as an independent industry owned and funded operation
known as the Stockbridge Technology Centre. This development has
widespread support and will play a leading role in the development
of new technology for the industry in the future. Potentially
the STC could form close links with the CSL as the expertise and
facilities of the two organisations are complementary.
10. It is important that MAFF recognise
the potential value of the Stockbridge Technology Centre to the
UK horticultural industry and that they ensure that all available
assistance is provided to set-up and establish the new organisation.
20 November 2000