DEFRA maps out environment objectives

The newly appointed Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett MP, has announced how the new Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will be organised under the second term of the Labour government. Ministerial teams are to be appointed and will be responsible for different portfolios focusing on aspects of the environment and rural matters although many issues are likely to overlap between them.

“We have a strong role and remit to pursue in ensuring sustainable development is achieved,” said Beckett. “We intend to concentrate more on the farming industry and look at the future of the rural communities as a whole.”

What about the environment then? When asked about who will tackle issues such as global warming and energy efficiency, Beckett stated that Michael Meacher will continue to attend talks in Bonn and The Hague, and John Prescott will retain an interest in environmental issues. However, DEFRA will be ultimately responsible for the environment.

On the reason why transport issues were removed from the environment portfolio, Beckett firmly stated that boundaries had to be drawn somewhere but that she would personally ensure that the department responsible for transport would be ‘mindful’ of the implications of transport decisions on the environment.

The message that Beckett was keen to get across was that while the department may have a new name, the overall objectives, which can be found at, will stay the same. However, she intends that in setting up DEFRA, the focus will be shifted from isolated environment issues to integrated sustainable development in all areas of the economy.

“It is very clear from the intentions of the Prime Minister that we have the issues of sustainable development at the heart of what we’re doing,” said the Minister. “We intend to use the scope of the new department to get these issues across and dealt with now.”

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