Updated: Spelman shuffled out of Defra

4th September 2012


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Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson replaces Caroline Spelman as environment secretary following David Cameron's first major reshuffle of the cabinet

The Conservative MP for Northern Shropshire is confirmed as the new environment secretary by Defra as news of the prime minister’s new cabinet emerged from Number 10.

Paterson, a former president of the European Tanners’ Confederation, managed his family’s leather business before becoming an MP in 1997.

In opposition he was a spokesperson on agriculture and transport before being appointed as shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, a post he has held since the coalition came to power.

Former chancellor Lord Lawson, a leading climate change sceptic, welcomed Paterson’s appointment, telling Sky News that, while he was not particularly well now, Paterson is “one of the most able and promising young men or women around the cabinet … he is a man of reason and sense.”

The UK’s waste industry body, the Environmental Services Association (ESA), has already called on the new environment secretary to take action to reform public procurement processes to drive demand for more recycled content in products and to push for new tax policies that will help the application of the waste hierarchy.

Spelman, who has headed up the environment department since the general election and came under fire after the government backtracked on selling state-owned woodland, has not been appointed to another government role.

Cameron’s reshuffle has also seen Justine Greening moved from her role as transport secretary to a lower profile role as international development secretary. Cameron’s decision to move Greening has been taken as a sign by Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and London Mayor Boris Johnson, as well as environmental campaigning group Friends of the Earth that the government is considering going back on its pledge not to build a third runway at Heathrow.

“[Greening has] been shunted out of her transport job because of her opposition to a third runway at Heathrow,” argued Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s executive director.

The Mayor of London agreed. “There can be only one reason to move her – and that is to expand Heathrow airport,” he said.

In another unexpected move Charles Hendry was demoted to the back benches and replaced as energy minister by fellow Tory John Hayes, who has moved from his role as minister for skills at the business department.

On assuming his new post Hayes released a statement saying he was proud be taking on the role at "such a crucial time both for our energy security and for tackling climate change".

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, David Heath, replaces Paice as farming minister, while Lord de Mauley becomes the new parliamentary under secretary of state. Also at DECC, Baroness Verma takes over from Lord Marland.

In another change, Chloe Smith, who had been responsible for energy and environment policy at the Treasury, has moved to the Cabinet Office.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has also reshuffled his cabinet, with Stewart Stevenson stepping down as minister for environment and climate change, to be replaced by Paul Wheelhouse.

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