Heath and Benyon replaced at Defra

Clockwise from top left: Dan Rogerson, George Eustice, Richard Benyon and David Heath.

Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, David Heath, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Richard Benyon, have been replaced in a cabinet reshuffled, it has been announced.

A range of new ministerial appointments and resignations were confirmed yesterday (7 October) by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Despite no official press release from the department, it was made apparent in a Cabinet Office announcement that Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson, and Conservative MP George Eustice, will join Lord de Mauley as Under-Secretaries of State for Defra.

Role details

According to the government’s list of Ministers, Rogerson will take over Heath’s role as Minister for Agriculture and Food. Responsibilities for this role include:

  • animal health (including endemic and exotic diseases)
  • farming and food
  • hunting and shooting
  • Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)
  • Single Payments Scheme
  • welfare of farm animals

Rogerson previously served as Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, and was Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Education, Families and Young People

Eustice is currently listed as holding the title of ‘Parliamentary Under Secretary of State’, but it is thought he will take over Benyon’s responsibilities for the natural environment and biodiversity, specifically:

  • fisheries
  • flooding and water, coastal erosion
  • national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty
  • access and rights of way
  • land management and soil
  • marine environment and inland waterways

Eustice had been both energy adviser and press secretary to Conservative MP and Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Owen Paterson and Lord de Mauley both retain their positions at Defra, although the department has warned that all responsibilities - and role titles - are subject to review. An announcement from Defra to clarify ministerial portfolios is expected imminently.

Tweeting on Monday, Benyon said: “On back benches! 3 and half really fun years with much achieved. Really appreciate time working with outstanding ministers and officials.” He added: "Best comment: Fisheries Minister sacked, Word is he's 'gutted' (I'm not BTW!)", leading some to assume his departure from Defra had been voluntary.

Labour reshuffle and reaction

The Labour party also reshuffled some of its cabinet, with Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mary Creagh, swapping roles with Maria Eagle, Shadow Transport Minister.

Following her new appointment, Creagh took to Twitter, saying: "Thrilled to be taking on the transport role for @Ed_Miliband and tackling David Cameron's cost of living crisis with Shad Cab [Shadow Cabinet]."

Likewise, Eagle commented regarding the transfer of office: "Thanks to @marycreagh_mpfor all her work shadowing Defra. Looking forward to taking up the challenge of this new role."

However, Creagh reacted coolly to Richard Benyon’s departure, saying that she hoped it wasn’t a “move by Owen Paterson to water down [the] department’s environment enthusiasm”.

Waste industry response

Reaction to the reshuffle has been tentative, with the new Executive Director at environmental technologies and services sector trade association EIC, Matthew Farrow, saying: “We wish the new Defra Ministers well on their appointments. If they back high environmental standards, they have the chance to help show that the government has not lost interest in green issues as some suggest, whilst embracing the job and growth opportunities that can result from a robust approach to environmental protection.” 

Referring to changes in the Shadow Cabinet, Matthew added: “We also look forward to working with Maria Eagle in her new role as Shadow Environment Secretary as the Labour Party develops its thinking on environmental issues in the run up to the 2015 Election.” 

Read more about the cabinet reshuffle.