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Peat Policy Paralysis: Government's Promised Ban Mired in Legislative Limbo

The Government has committed to prohibiting the sale of bagged peat within the year but has yet to introduce any formal legislation to enact the ban.

On 2 February 2024, Shadow Minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Toby Perkins MP, criticised the Government's inaction during a parliamentary debate on 1 February.

He remarked, "It's frankly ridiculous to suggest that after 14 years, this Government is brimming with so many new ideas that they can't find the time to progress with their plans. Can the minister clarify the situation? We were anticipating legislation in this year's King's Speech, yet it's conspicuously absent. There's a pressing need for it, supported by the industry. Why can't the Government proceed with one of its few remaining popular policies?"

Tim Loughton MP questioned when Defra intends to introduce legislation concerning peat bans. He noted, "The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) indicates that 40% of the industry is awaiting this legislation to fully implement a ban. The sector is ready to act but urgently requires the legislative framework."

In response, Defra Minister Rebecca Pow stated, "The Government is unequivocally committed to ending the use of peat in horticulture across England. Since our initial announcement in 2020, the use of peat has been reduced by half, and in August 2022, we declared our intention to ban its sale for amateur gardening. Our commitment to legislate remains, subject to the availability of parliamentary time. Meanwhile, we're collaborating with the industry to facilitate a complete transition to peat-free practices."

She further mentioned her visit to the RHS to observe "impressive trials of peat-free products" and highlighted ongoing research and experiments in the field, including the Forestry Commission's commitment to becoming peat-free.

On 23 January, Defra Minister Lord Benyon assured Parliament, "Legislation to ban the use of peat in horticulture will be introduced this year." However, given the upcoming general election and the absence of any related legislation in the King's Speech or through private members' bills, this seems improbable.

Defra has stated that peat legislation will proceed "when parliamentary time permits," which now seems unlikely to occur this year.

Further legislative updates include Shadow Defra Minister Daniel Zeichner raising concerns in a parliamentary debate on 25 January about the delayed border checks affecting plant and animal health products.

He highlighted the increased complexity of importing certain plants and the potential for border delays to disrupt the supply of imported goods, such as red roses for Valentine's Day.

In response, Department for Business and Trade Minister Greg Hands outlined the Government's efforts to prepare businesses for the new border processes and cautioned about the implications of Labour's proposed policies for future UK-EU alignment.


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