Gove replaces Leadsom at Defra

12th June 2017

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Ciaran Burns

Prime minister Theresa May has appointed Michael Gove as secretary of state for the environment in a cabinet reshuffle following the general election.

The MP for Surrey Heath replaces Andrea Leadsom, who has been made leader of the House of Commons.

Gove’s previous roles include shadow minister for housing (2005-07); shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families (2007-10); secretary of state for education (2010-14) and lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice (2015-16). He has also been government chief whip and parliamentary secretary to the Treasury (2014-15).

During his time as education secretary he tried to remove climate change from the national curriculum, but was forced to drop the plans after intervention by then climate change secretary Ed Davey.

In a speech at the launch of the Conservative Environment Network in 2014, he claimed to be a ‘shy green’, adding: ‘One of the things that I’ve learnt throughout my life is that I’m an environmentalist but a lot of time I didn’t realise it.’

He also clarified his position on climate change in education: ‘I think it’s important that children understand the science that underpins climate change, and that’s why it’s always in the curriculum that we’ve been drawing up, and I think it’s critically important – both in science and in geography – that the impact of changing climate on our physical environment, but also on economic and other facts in our lives, has to be appreciated.’

According to his voting record on, he has generally voted against action on climate change and financial incentives for low-carbon electricity generation but in favour of selling state-owned forests. However, he has also voted for higher taxes for plane tickets and has voted both for and against increased regulation for fracking.

Gove was a key campaigner for leaving the EU, and was a member of the parliamentary Committee on Exiting the European Union. He has spoken out against the Habitats Directive, which he blames for holding back housebuilding in his constituency.

Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven said: ‘Gove will need to abandon the notion that environmental laws are just a hindrance to housebuilders and realise that without them we won't be leaving a greener, healthier Britain to our children. And his trademark reformist zeal could be put to good use in reshaping our shambolic farm subsidy system so that it works for the common good.’

Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of the Green Party, said it was hard to think of many politicians as ill-equipped for the role as Gove, given his voting record. ‘As we enter Brexit negotiations, Gove’s past suggestion we scrap vital EU environmental protections becomes ever more concerning.’


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