George Eustice has been named as Environment Secretary as part of Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle today.
Replacing Theresa Villiers, Mr Eustice will make the step up from his previous role as minister of state for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at Defra.
The MP for Camborne and Redruth was re-appointed to the department as part of Boris Johnson’s government in July 2019. He had previously resigned from the position five months earlier when Theresa May promised MPs a vote on delaying Brexit from the March 2019 deadline.
He was first appointed to Defra in 2013, after he was made minister of state as part of David Cameron’s reshuffle, and also worked as part of the ‘Number 10 Policy Board’ to advise Mr Cameron on Energy and Environment issues.
He also vowed in 2014 that waste would not be “sidelined” as part of government cuts at the Environment Agency (see letsrecycle.com story).
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) February 13, 2020
In his early career, Mr Eustice stood as a candidate for UKIP in the 1999 European Parliamentary elections, and became head of press under Michael Howard in 2005 in the Conservative Party.
In 2010,he also served as a Member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee until November 2013.
Rumours have been swirling throughout the day that Mr Eustice was going to be given the role, and he was apparently called from a meeting on the Agriculture Bill this afternoon.
George Eustice has just been called out of the #AgBill Committee….
— Kerry McCarthy (@KerryMP) February 13, 2020
As part of a 500 word statement on Facebook, Ms Villiers said she was grateful to have been able to serve as part of the government, and wished her successor well for the future
“What the Prime Minister giveth, the Prime Minister taketh away: just over six months ago, I was delighted to be invited by the Prime Minister to return to government after three years on the backbenches. This morning he told me that I need to make way for someone new,” she said.
“While my time at Defra was short, I am proud that under my leadership, we published the most important Environment Bill for decades”
The statement from Ms Villiers added: “I am deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to serve twice at the highest level of Government, first as Northern Ireland Secretary and then as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I tackled both roles with passion, commitment, and huge amounts of hard work.
“While my time at Defra was short, I am proud that under my leadership, we published the most important Environment Bill for decades, setting out a world leading framework to protect nature, improve air quality and tackle plastics pollution”
The full statement can be seen here.
Theresa Villiers, the MP for the Chipping Barnet constituency in North London, was only appointed to Boris Johnson’s cabinet in July, but will now move to the back-benches.
In recent weeks she was heavily tipped to be one of the casualties of the cabinet reshuffle.
A Brexiteer, she left government shortly after Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister after reportedly having been offered a job outside of the cabinet.
Ms Villiers also served as a transport minister from May 2010 until September 2012.
In a statement on Twitter, Labour shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard was full of praise for the departing Villiers, as seen in the Tweet below.
I’d like to thank Theresa Villiers for her service as Defra Secretary. Her sacking shows it’s not just me who wants a bolder approach to tackling the climate emergency. I look forward to working with her successor, to put a renewed focus on the environment and the climate crisis
— Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) February 13, 2020
It’s thought Rebecca Pow’s position as parliamentary under secretary of state for Defra will be safe, although an official announcement is expected later today. Reports have suggested that several female junior ministers will be appointed.
Other Defra ministers however could be on the move, with Zac Goldsmith tipped to become COP 26 chair, as the United Nations Climate Change conference will be held in Glasgow later this year.
Elsewhere, Andrea Leadsom was replaced in her role as secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by the MP for Reading West, and secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma. He will also be a minister for the COP conference.