Steve Barclay has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as Thérèse Coffey resigns amid the Conservative cabinet reshuffle.

Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, has been named as the new Defra Secretary of State. He will take over from Thérèse Coffey, who was placed in the role on 25th October 2022.

In her public letter of resignation, Coffey said: “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.”

In response, PM Rishi Sunak wrote: “As Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs you have worked hard to deliver for our rural communities. The Farm to Fork summit, which I was delighted that we could host together in Downing Street, did a great job of promoting the wonderful food and drink produced by our farmers.

“You have driven work across Government to support the rural economy and taken measures to protect food production here at home. You have been a consistent champion of better rural broadband.”

Robbie Moore MP has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defra.

Resolving issues

The British Frozen Food Federation responded to the news, with chief executive Rupert Ashby saying: “Congratulations to Steve Barclay on his appointment as Environment Secretary. 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.”

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) welcomed the appointment, and stated that it was “essential” that Barclay now address industry concerns regarding labour shortages and global export barriers.