Letter from Sue Beesley
To Chris Davies MEP
26th November 2013
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    Dear Chris Davies,

Re: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL On the production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material (plant reproductive material law) COM/2013/0262 final - 2013/0137 (COD)

I am writing to express my strong concern and objections both in principle and on personal grounds to the proposed regulation of the marketing of plants.
At a personal level, I run a plant nursery based in Cheshire and I can confirm that if the regulations are passed as planned, my rural nursery, livelihood and the livelihood of my five part time staff would become, in effect, illegal, since 80% of the plants I grow (organically and peat-free) would not meet and would be unlikely ever to meet the requirements of the regulation. I could not continue to trade based on the remaining 20% of formally listed stock. There are hundreds such businesses around the UK that would be similarly affected.
I would also have to close Bluebell Cottage Gardens, a lovely rural RHS Partner garden which attracts around 7,000 visitors a year, as it is cross-subsidised by the nursery.

My main objections on the wider questions of principle are as follows:
  • What is the public benefit served by these regulations?

  • Where is there a wrong that needs to be put right?
    I believe there is none at all. There is no public health issue, or safety concern, nor a public commercial problem.

  • Not one person has ever complained or sought redress for any of the 100,000 plants I have sold in the past seven years because they were not formally registered in the way described. Quite the reverse. We offer choices not available in mainstream garden centres, which is exactly why people visit us. All the plants we offer are listed in the RHS Plant Finder.

  • The effect of these regulations would simply be to remove long-established and prospective new plants from circulation, where they are not likely to sell in the hundreds of thousands required to justify the cost of registration, but are currently traded freely on common knowledge or the customer seeing the parent plant from which it was propagated. Ask yourself, who wants this law passed? Might it be those organisations which do register their plants (and they are free to do so and enjoy the commercial protection thus provided) in order to restrict competition?

  • Trades Description laws can readily deal with any complaint that a customer might make regarding a plant which does not meet a customer's expectation, like any other product. No law is required specifically to address ornamental plant naming. What would be next? Must jewellers register their new designs with a two page description before they may sell them? Must hairdressers register styles they invent? These proposals have no precedent and may open a new wave of unnecessary, restrictive regulation.

  • Prestigious internationally recognised events such as RHS Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Show rely heavily on nurseries showing unusual, rare, new or recovered varieties to sustain the level of consumer and media interest. I am an exhibitor at RHS Shows and my fellow exhibitors and I firmly believe that removing unlisted plants may well render these shows unviable.

  • Exempting small nurseries from the regulations is no solution. Smaller nurseries like mine rely on larger wholesale nurseries to produce plants in greater quantities than we can, or where specialist propagation is needed. Supply would simply dry up and a valuable UK and European industry would be decimated.

  • If passed, the regulations would be completely unworkable. Who is going to write the descriptions and then police any transgressions? The only people with the relevant knowledge at the detailed level required work in the nurseries that would be affected. As they are likely to be put out of business, or simply stop producing plants that they can’t sell, there will be no-one with the knowledge to assess ‘transgressors’.

I have heard these regulations described as ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. That is an incorrect analogy. The actual position is that there is simply no nut in need of cracking. These regulations need to be completely scrapped and I urge you to ensure this is what happens.
I have been in business in the UK for almost 25 years. I have paid every scrap of tax, obeyed every law and am proud to be an entrepreneur in the UK. Having finally created a wonderful, healthy, environmentally friendly business that I really want to run well into my retirement I do not want to face the choice of closing it down or running it quasi-legally because of an ill-considered, pointless, unenforceable EU law.

Yours sincerely,
Sue Beesley
Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery

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