Steve Barclay replaces Thérèse Coffey as Defra Secretary of State
Following the Conservative cabinet reshuffle, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt. Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey and Minister for Primary Care and Public Health Neil O’Brien have resigned.
It was announced that Steve Barclay will replace Coffey as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, leaving his previous role as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Addressing PM Rishi Sunak in her letter of resignation, Coffey wrote: “Having been a Minister since July 2014, and having served all five Conservative Prime Ministers, I consider it is now the right time to step back from Government.
“As you know, Defra touches so much of our lives. It is the voice and guardian of nature, food security and our countryside communities. Just in the last year, I was pleased to publish our Environmental Improvement Plan, launch our Plan for Water, and help to secure the Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal and the fund to deliver it.
“I have strengthened the foundations for Defra to deliver here in the UK and globally, such that this Government has achieved more than any other to protect our planet.
“Having a sustainable farming and food sector is critical for our long term food security, and by listening to farmers and making changes, I am confident we can deliver that sustainability and strengthen both our farming and fishing sectors.”
Following the news, the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) shared that it welcomed the news, highlighting how it is now up to Barclay to address industry concerns over labour shortages and global exports.
A spokesperson for AIMS said: “With his constituency covering an area which is both important for livestock farming and meat and poultry processing we are confident that they are well placed to understand our members’ needs and we look forward to meeting with him at the very earliest opportunity to discuss how we can best work together.”
Rupert Ashby, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), said: “I hope he brings a sense of urgency and a clear focus on addressing the issues BFFF members are facing. We would particularly like to see an effort to resolve the complex issues around the Northern Ireland border and further clarity on EU goods entering the UK.
“In addition, we would like measures to ease labour movement regulations to ensure that growers and food manufacturers can attract more seasonal and permanent staff to harvest and produce the food the country needs. Looking ahead, we’d also welcome the opportunity to discuss with him the role of frozen food in reducing food waste.”
Robbie Moore MP has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defra.
Public Health MP resigns
Minister for Primary Care and Public Health Neil O’Brien has informally resigned from his position in Government, stating on social media platform ‘X’: “It’s been a privilege to serve at DHSC. Great ministerial team and spads and some fab officials.
“But with so much going on locally I want to focus 100% on constituency work so have asked to go to back benches.”
At the time of this story’s publication, it is unclear who will replace O’Brien.