Stewart moved on from Defra as reshuffle finalised

Rory Stewart has left his position as Resources Minister to take up a role as Minister of State at the Department for International Development, as junior ministers found out their fate this weekend in the continued reshuffle of Theresa May’s government.

Taking Stewart’s place at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is Therese Coffey, previously Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Borders, took over as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs from Liberal Democrat Dan Rogerson following the 2015 general election. He has spent much of his time in the position focusing on the flood element of his brief, with his constituency among those most affected by last winter’s storms.

Harmonisation pet project

Despite waste and resources seemingly being quite far down Defra’s list of priorities, Stewart did convene a Harmonisation and Consistency Working Group, led by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to investigate the possibilities of limiting the range of kerbside collection systems used across England.

Stewart moved on from Defra as reshuffle finalised
Rory Stewart at this year's Resourcing the Future Conference
His desire to cut down on this variation, which he said is harming recycling efforts, was first signalled at last October’s Conservative Party Conference. During a fringe session at the event, Stewart said it was “completely mad” that each local authority (LA) in England was doing something different with its waste and that in London the different collection systems were creating “Berlin Walls” for residents.

The working group, consisting of representatives from LAs, waste management contractors, recyclers, producers and the retail sector, was due to publish a vision for greater consistency in collections prior to Parliament’s summer recess, which begins on Thursday (21 July). However, when addressing the Resourcing the Future Conference in June, Stewart appeared to row back on his vision saying that his “gut instinct” told him that “all of this stuff is deeply, deeply local” and mentioning a ‘no-one-size-fits-all’ mindset.

During his year at Defra, Stewart also launched a review into regulatory and enforcement barriers to growth and innovation in the waste sector as part of the government’s ‘Cutting Red Tape’ programme. Following the review the government said that it would work to simplify and improve the definition of waste, permitting for different types of waste and Environment Agency (EA) inspections.

Stewart’s move to the Department of International Development is not unexpected. He has previously chaired Parliament’s Defence Select Committee and served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and prior to his political career worked for the Foreign Office and served as a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. In 2004, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his service in Iraq with the Foreign Office.

Therese Coffey

While Coffey has been announced as Stewart’s replacement as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs, it has not yet been confirmed whether she will take on the brief for waste and resources.

Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal since 2010, joins Defra after leaving her role as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, to which she was appointed last year. Prior to that, she spent a year as Assistant Whip in HM Treasury.

Stewart moved on from Defra as reshuffle finalised
Therese Coffey
Coffey does not list the environment as one of her political interests, though ‘rural affairs’ is included. In 2011, she voted in favour of the then coalition Government’s proposal to sell public forests and woodland, a bill that was subsequently dropped after protests. She has also been a strong proponent of nuclear energy, actively championing the construction of a new nuclear power plant at Sizewell in her Suffolk constituency.

After studying at Somerville College, Oxford, Coffey was awarded a PhD in Chemistry by University College London in 1998. She then worked at Mars, Incorporated as a chemist and then trained as a Chartered Management Accountant, becoming Finance Director for Mars Drinks UK. In 2009, she joined the BBC as Property Finance Manager.

Before being selected to stand in Suffolk Coastal in 2010, Coffey stood as Conservative candidate in Wrexham and in two European elections in the South East.


Theresa May’s reshuffle after assuming the position of Prime Minister last Wednesday (13 July) has been more wide-ranging than anticipated, with the vast majority of department ministers being moved.

Two of May’s first moves were to promote the heads of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the now-abolished Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Liz Truss and Amber Rudd, to more senior cabinet positions.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that Andrea Leadsom, a supporter of fracking and campaigner for Brexit, would take up the role of Environment Secretary, and that May, in one of the most significant moves of the reshuffle, would be abolishing DECC and transferring responsibility for energy and climate change to a new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a move that has caused consternation and dismay among both politicians and green groups.

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