Thérèse Coffey returns to Defra as environment secretary

As the farming sector calls for much needed clarity on ELMS, and Rishi Sunak takes the helm in No 10, Ms Coffey has been appointed environment secretary – the third MP to hold the post this year.

Ms Coffey, who was health secretary under Liz Truss during her 45-day tenure as PM, has returned to Defra in Rishi Sunak’s new cabinet.

In 2022 alone the post has been held by three MPs – previously George Eustice, former Defra minister of state, who was environment secretary from 2020-2022; and Ranil Jayawardena, who had the post for less than two months under Liz Truss.

Mr Jayawardena resigned yesterday ahead of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle. In a letter to Mr Sunak he said he was ‘very grateful’ to Liz Truss for appointing him secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, and pleased to have ‘laid the groundwork to “free our farmers” and to continue protecting our environment’.

Previous roles held by Ms Coffey include work and pensions secretary (2019-2022) and Defra minister of state (July-September 2019). She was also Defra parliamentary under secretary of state from 2016-2019.

Farming and environmental organisations have been calling for clarity on the future of the Environmental Land Management Scheme after Liz Truss announced a review back in September – prompting concerns from some that the government could be set to delay or row back on its commitments.

Responding to Ms Coffey appointment, NFU president Minette Batters said: “We are at a pivotal time for agriculture policy. I look forward to working with the new secretary of state to provide urgent clarity for farmers and growers on the new Environmental Land Management schemes to ensure they can deliver a thriving food and farming sector, alongside and equal to continued environmental protection and enhancement.”

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