Eustice replaces Villiers as Environment Secretary

Theresa Villiers has been replaced as Environment Secretary by farming minister George Eustice in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle after just seven months in the role.

The former Education and Justice Secretary took over from Michael Gove at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in July 2019 with no prior experience in the environment sector and a mixed voting record on environmental issues in the House of Commons.

George Eustice MP
Environment Secretary George Eustice MP
Never quite the same active figurehead as her predecessor Gove, Villiers presided over the reintroduction of the Environment Bill to Parliament in January, which previously failed to pass due to the calling of the 2019 general election.

Upon its return, the Bill, which included provisions for extended producer responsibility (EPR), a deposit return scheme (DRS) and a revamp of England’s recycling collection systems, introduced new commitments to ban the export of plastic waste to developing countries and to review international developments in environmental legislation every two years, using the findings to inform the UK’s environmental policy-making.

In a post on Facebook, Villiers said of her sacking: “I am deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to serve twice at the highest level of government, first as Northern Ireland Secretary and then as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I tackled both roles with passion, commitment, and huge amounts of hard work.

“While my time at Defra was short, I am proud that under my leadership, we published the most important Environment Bill for decades, setting out a world leading framework to protect nature, improve air quality and tackle plastics pollution; we published an Agriculture Bill with environmental goals at its heart; and a Fisheries Bill which will take back control of our waters and start to reverse the betrayal of our fishing communities which took place when we joined the EU.”

Villiers’ replacement George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth, has been a Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at Defra since 11 May 2015, having previously been made Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in November 2013. He also sat on Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee between 2010 and November 2013.

Meanwhile, Alok Sharma MP has replaced another former Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom as Business Secretary and has also been handed the Chair of the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November 2020.

There is currently no indication that other changes are expected in the Defra team, with Rebecca Pow, Zac Goldsmith and Lord Gardiner of Kimble currently making up the rest of the ministerial portfolios in the department. Eustice’s replacement as Minister of State will be announced in due course.

On a wider note, what was expected to be a limited reshuffle saw a major surprise in the resignation of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, following Boris Johnson’s demand he sack his Treasury advisors and share Number 10’s political advisors in a move designed to give Number 10 more political control over government spending.

Other high-profile appointments saw Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP appointed International Development Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP take the Culture brief and Suella Braverman MP become Attorney General.

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