Steve Barclay new Defra Secretary as Theresa Coffey resigns

(Photo: Official portrait of Steve Barclay MP | | CC BY 3.0)
(Photo: Official portrait of Steve Barclay MP | | CC BY 3.0)

Steve Barclay has been appointed the new Defra Secretary replacing Therese Coffey, who was in the post for just twelve months.

The ex-Health Secretary and MP for North East Cambridgeshire is the new Environment Secretary following today's cabinet reshuffle by the prime minister.

Mr Barclay, who is the tenth Defra Secretary since 2010, replaces Therese Coffey, who had been in the role since October last year.

It comes as farmers continue to see a wide-range of issues affecting the industry, including the phasing out of BPS, the roll out Environmental Land Management schemes, continued inflation and low prices.

Posting her resignation letter on social media, Ms Coffey said it was 'the right time' to be returning to the backbenches.

"As you know, Defra touches many of our lives," she wrote, "It is the voice of nature, food security and our rural communities.

"Having a sustainable farming 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 strength our farming sector."

Mr Barclay, a prominent Brexit backer, previously served as Health Secretary under Rishi Sunak, having previously held the position from July to September 2022 under Boris Johnson.

Before that, he served as Brexit Secretary from 2018 to 2020 and Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2020 to 2021.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) welcomed Mr Barclay to his new role amid a 'crucial time' for farming and the rural economy.

“It is vital Mr Barclay hits the ground running," said CLA president, Victoria Vyvyan, adding that low economic productivity was hampering rural businesses and workers.

“With a general election expected next year, politicians of all colours must grasp that rural voters cannot be taken for granted and votes are up for grabs for those with a robust and ambitious plan for the countryside.”

AIC, the UK's agri-supply trade association, called for the new Defra Secretary to provide more certainty for the industry.

AIC chief executive, Robert Sheasby, said: "Our industry is crying out for some stability in these challenging times - businesses need certainty to invest with confidence.

"We look forward to engaging with the Secretary of State on the range of issues facing British agriculture and our environment, including bolstering the UK's long-term food security."