Ten-Minute Rule Motion to prohibit the sale of peat set for second reading

The Private Members’ Bill to ban the sale of horticultural peat met with some opposition in the House of Commons, but will see a second reading.

Chamber of the House of Commons

By means of the 10-minute rule peat motion, conservationists sought to urge the government to deliver on their 2022 promise to ban the sale of peat compost and peat-containing products in England for private gardens and allotments, by 2024.

The ten minute rule allows a backbench MP, in this case former environment secretary Theresa Villiers, to make their case for a new Bill in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. An opposing speech may also be made before the House decides whether or not the Bill should be introduced. If the MP is successful the Bill is taken to have had its first reading. Officials have said that the Government will set out its position on the Bill when it reaches the second reading – which has been scheduled for the 26th of April.

Villiers explained that a public consultation of 5,000 responses, found 95% of people supported the ban. She quoted Professor Alistair Griffiths, RHS Director of Science, who said in 2022: “Peatlands are the world’s largest carbon store on land with great potential to store carbon long-term, helping to reach net zero. To tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis it is essential to have a sustainable transition to peat free alternative growing media . The RHS stopped selling peat based media growing bags in 2019 and will continue to work with Defra, industry and gardeners to accelerate the transition to peat free”.

Villiers went on to thank the horticulture industry, Defra ministers, campaigners like Monty Don and responsible gardeners. Yet, despite the good efforts and the most ecological of gardeners, Villiers said that there is still much hidden peat used in potted house- and bedding plants. She acknowledged that real progress has been made since 2011, peat use has more than halved 2020 and end of 2022, including a reduction of nearly 70% in the amateur sector. In 2022, professional use of peat fellow 50% of their total consumption of growing media for the first time.

Villiers explained that peat is part of our history, identity and culture. “A storehouse of pollen that can helps understand our ecological history and the changing climate”. She ended her motion by saying: “Removing peat from amateur gardening gives this house the opportunity to recognise the value of that cultural and ecological heritage. To take active and practical steps to protect and restore precious habitats and to take us closer to our goal of reaching net zero and preventing disastrous climate change”.

Sir Christopher Chope, Conservative MP for Christchurch found that the bill was “..disproportionate, not based on science or fact and another exercise in gesture politics”.

Responding to the outcome of Theresa Villiers MP’s Ten-Minute Rule Peat Motion, Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) said:

“The Horticultural Trades Association and wider environmental horticulture sector have been working incredibly hard to transition away from peat use. At current reduction rates, with an estimated 10% or less of peat in bags of compost in 2023, the sector is already heading close to zero by the end of this year. This decrease is attributed to the collaborative efforts of UK suppliers, retailers and gardeners to adopt peat-free practices. Therefore, we find it curious that parliamentary time was given to something already happening. The industry is on track to phase out peat use in bags of compost in retail settings without the need for legislation.

We urge MPs, who will debate this subject at its second reading, to give in-depth consideration to the UK’s tree and plant growers and allow them the time and grant support for trials, equipment and analysis towards a 2030 deadline for peat-free growing (with the notable exceptions needed for conservation reasons). Some of our grower members have already made the transition to peat-free, while others are still on this complex journey with thousands of different plant species being propagated. With the right support, we can eventually achieve this milestone; without support, there will be a significant contraction in the plants and trees that British environmental horticulture will be able to produce.”