Zac Goldsmith joins Defra as Under-Secretary of State

As part of the latest act in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle, Zac Goldsmith has been appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as at the Department for International Development (DfID).

Zac Goldsmith MP

Following his appointment on Saturday (27 July), Goldsmith said that he was “thrilled” to have been asked by Johnson to join the Defra ministerial team, where his responsibilities will include expanding protected areas around the UK’s overseas territories, which are part of the battle against ocean plastic pollution.

This new appointment follows the promotion of former Under-Secretary of State Therese Coffey, who has now taken on the role of Minister of State at Defra, where her portfolio is yet to be finalised but is likely to continue to include resources.

Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and former London mayoral candidate, is a keen environmental campaigner, having worked as editor of The Ecologist magazine from 1998 to 2007.

Goldsmith has also been an active member of the Conservative Environment Network, and Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, a group of cross-party MPs who scrutinise the environmental impact of government policies.

Goldsmith’s reputation for environmentalism gained further prominence due to his opposition to the Heathrow airport expansion – he resigned as Conservative MP over the issue in late 2016, although he was later re-elected in 2017.

During Goldsmith’s campaign for the London mayoralty, environmental concerns were at the forefront of his agenda, with his Transport Manifesto promising to tackle air pollution by driving a ‘clean air revolution’, improving the Ultra Low Emission Zone and introducing a Boris Bike equivalent for electric cars.

Goldsmith, who voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, was one of 256 Conservative MPs that backed a no-deal Brexit being kept on the table in March 2019.

As a Brexit supporter with a long-standing environmental record, it could be perceived as somewhat surprising that Theresa Villiers was appointed Secretary of State at Defra on Thursday (25 July) rather than Goldsmith, given that he has experience and a demonstrated interest in environmental matters to accompany his willingness to support a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

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