David Heath has been sacked as Minister of State for Agriculture and Food at Defra. In his place is North Cornwall Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson, but at the more junior position of Parliamentary Under Secretary.
In his letter to Heath, Nick Clegg said:
I am very aware of the pressure on you within Defra over the last year, and I am particularly grateful to you for the clarity and objectivity you have brought to issues of animal and plant disease, your defence of environmental issues, your commitment to agriculture and rural areas, and the development of new and exciting policies to enhance our forests.
In my view and that of many environmentalists, Heath never made much of an impression at Defra. He was unable to counter Owen Paterson’s increasing swagger as an anti-environmentalist. As Paterson publicly undermined the government’s policies on climate change, we longed to hear – even from anonymous briefings – that his ministers were in a rage with his antics. We did not hear that.
David Heath has yet to make a statement on the reshuffle.
One minister who was happy with Paterson’s sceptical line on climate change and the environment line was Tory Richard Benyon. He’s been dismissed too and that has to be good for wildlife and biodiversity. Back in May, Berkshire Lib Dem Shaughan Dolan called for Benyon to be sacked:
As a Minister for the Environment he has consistently acted with contempt for the nature he has sworn to protect.
That’s putting it mildly. As the seventh richest minister in the UK, Benyon also is the one that urged the poor to survive on leftovers. I guess he feeds scraps to his dogs too. But we can at least lift our hat a little to him for his sense of humour:
Benyon is replaced by Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, George Eustice.
Like Eustice, Dan Rogerson has served on the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. Rogerson brings a lot of experience to his role and opposed the controversial incinerator at St Dennis. I reckon he will be a good Lib Dem voice in Defra, but his position is perhaps too junior to have much impact.
It is very disappointing that the Liberal Democrat presence in Defra has been demoted. Only a week ago, I was saying here on Lib Dem Voice:
It is time for the Lib Dems to develop a strong environmental voice within Defra to counter the anti-environment sentiments of the current Tory paradigm.
We have not got that strong environmental voice from this reshuffle.
* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Shropshire, and a former editor for Lib Dem Voice