Portfolio shuffle at the Environment Department

The Secretary of State for the Environment has announced a shuffle of portfolios between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) ministers, with each minister receiving a variety of responsibilities.

It is usual for ministers’ portfolios to be moved around as priorities change, to ensure that no one minister is overburdened whilst others are under-worked, a DEFRA spokesman told edie. On this occasion, the reshuffle of duties has been carried out with sustainable development in mind, and has been done deliberately to ensure that sectors are divided up between ministers, building in overlaps said the spokesman. Sustainable development cannot be compartmentalised,” he said.

“Now is the time to look afresh at DEFRA’s ministerial portfolios and how their responsibilities interrelate,” said Beckett. “In particular, we are keen that all of us be ‘DEFRA’ ministers, with, for example, all of us carrying some direct responsibility for environmental, rural and agricultural issues – sustainable development is the fundamental principle of DEFRA’s work, not just a turn of phrase.”

The reshuffle won’t make any difference to anyone dealing with the department, the spokesman said.

Michael Meacher’s title is now Minister of State for Environment and Agri-Environment. He is responsible for the following portfolios: climate change; horizontal and international environmental issues; GMOs; plant health, plant variety rights and seeds; agri-environment, including non-food crops and organics; chemicals; waste, including radioactive waste and incineration waste; business and the environment; and the Environment Agency. He is also Chair of the Green Ministers – the group of ministers that is dedicated to ensuring that each government department become more environmentally sustainable.

Alun Michael, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Urban Quality of Life, will be responsible, amongst other things, for environmental liability, air quality and noise. He is also the Department’s Green Minister.

Elliot Morley, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Water and Nature Protection, includes in his portfolio, water quality and flooding. Finally, Lord Whitty, Parliamentary Secretary for Farming, Food and Sustainable Energy is responsible for, amongst other things, transport and the environment, and energy efficiency and other energy issues.

There will no longer be the situation where members of one sector – such as agriculture – would deal with only one minister, the DEFRA spokesman told edie. “That’s the old way of doing it,” he said.

However, recently a couple of sector groups have called for responsibility for their sector to become less divided. Last year, the bioenergy industry called for an industry champion (see related story), and this week the waste management industry has done the same.

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