Horse minister launches industry strategy action plan

An action plan that sets out how the horse industry can further strengthen its valuable contribution to the economy and lives of people in cities and rural areas across England and Wales was launched at the National Equine Forum 2006 today (Wednesday, 22 March). 

The action plan supports the Strategy for the Horse Industry in England and Wales, published in December 2005, and sets out how all 50 of the strategy's action points will be implemented.

Minister for the Horse Industry, Jim Knight, and Chairman of the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), Graham Cory, launched the Horse Industry Strategy's Action Plan.

Mr Knight said:

"The horse industry offers a multitude of social, educational and health benefits to the wider community, and the Government is committed to helping you promote and maximise these. 

"I am continually encouraged by the productive relationship that exists between Defra and the horse industry.

"Defra is making some key commitments to the horse industry this year, including the improvement of access to the countryside, and reviewing the issue of insurance. 

"We will explore, with Natural England, the possibility of establishing Access Enablers, to bring together and further the interests of people who want access to the countryside, including horse riders who need extra provision more than most.  If the pilot is successful and brings real benefits, we will look at extending this around the country.

"The Prime Minister's Respect agenda is about investing in good behaviour by creating the right infrastructure of support and facilities and amenities that people can use in their community.  Working with the horse industry is one of the ways we can take this forward."

Mr Knight said he was sympathetic to complaints from horse owners about the infamous Mirvahedy insurance case.

"I am keen to explore whether the effect of Mirvahedy on the 1971 Animals Act can be addressed.  My officials are already working on this, with a view to possibly supporting an amendment to the 1971 Act.  We expect to go out to consultation on this issue soon.

"We are also putting more funding into research - to explore and highlight evidence of what the horse industry can achieve."

Mr Knight made further commitments to raise horse industry issues to the attention of his Ministerial colleagues, to meet with the BHIC every six months, and he also pledged a further contribution from Defra towards the running costs of a newly developed BHIC website, which houses the action plan.

In launching this website and expanding on the horse industry's role in the action plan, BHIC Chairman Graham Cory, said:

"I can't think of a better example of government working productively, and to such good effect, with any other industry.

"A few years ago the strategy was little more than a pipe dream, a

twinkle in the eyes of the BHIC.  The fact that it exists today is a testament to what can be achieved when people set their minds to it.  With the publication of the action plan, the strategy has metamorphosed from a collection of worthy aims into a challenge.  Collectively, the various equestrian and equine organisations, and Defra, will be judged by their record of delivering against the various action points.

"By visiting the new BHIC website at www.bhic.co.uk, the development of which has been funded by Defra, you will be able to see how well - or otherwise - we are doing in delivering against the action plan.  The website will also help us improve communications between organisations and with the wider community."

March 22nd, 2006