The government today launched the latest revamp of its green ministerial ranks, part of a reshuffle dominated by the shock decision to appoint former Prime Minister David Cameron as foreign secretary.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also replaced Environment Secretary Therese Coffey with Health Secretary Stephen Barclay, a move that gives Britain its seventh Environment Secretary since 2017.
A long-awaited reshuffle kicked off this morning after Sunak ended days of speculation by sacking Home Secretary Suella Braverman following a series of controversial comments about the government’s approach to protest, policing and homelessness.
In a surprise move, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was announced as the new Home Secretary, while former Prime Minister David Cameron was handed a peerage so he could be appointed Foreign Secretary.
Political opponents accused Sunak of being unable to find a single Conservative MP who could fill this role, but supporters argued that Cameron’s experience on the international stage would bring much-needed stability to the government at a time of intense geopolitical and security challenges.
“We face a huge range of international challenges, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East,” Cameron said. “At this time of profound global change, it has rarely been more important for this country to support our allies, strengthen our partnerships and ensure our voices are heard… Britain is a truly international country. Our people live all over the world and our companies trade in all corners of the world. Working to help ensure stability and security on the global stage is both essential and entirely in our national interest. International security is vital to our domestic security.”
One of Cameron’s first tasks in this role will be to attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai next month, where he will take up the challenge of convincing his colleagues that Britain remains committed to meeting its climate commitments, despite Sunak’s controversial decision to implement a number of key decarbonisation policies and fears that Britain will fail to meet its international climate finance targets.
Cameron was prime minister in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was signed and repeatedly advocated stronger climate action during his time as leader of the Conservative Party. However, he also angered green businesses and campaigners as prime minister by blocking the development of onshore wind farms and cutting back on energy efficiency programmes.
As such, his appointment will fuel speculation over whether he agrees with the current government’s climate strategy, especially given Cameron’s outspoken criticism of Sunak’s decision to scrap plans for the northern part of HS2.
Reacting to this morning’s news, Labour’s Pat McFadden highlighted how Sunak recently attacked the reputation of his predecessors, including Cameron. “A few weeks ago Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of a failed status quo, but now he is bringing him back as his life raft,” he said. “This undermines the Prime Minister’s ludicrous claim to deliver change after 13 years of Tory failure.”
However, Cameron insisted he was eager to return to government and was motivated by a desire for public service. “While I may not agree with some of the individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable Prime Minister, showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time,” he said.
The news was followed later in the day by confirmation that Therese Coffey has resigned as Environment Minister.
In her resignation letter, Coffey said it was the “right time” to step down from government after almost a decade in ministerial roles. “In my years of service and various ministerial positions, I am proud to have achieved something for people, planet and prosperity during that time,” she said. “Translating ambition into action has been the hallmark of my service.”
She also highlighted the importance of Defra as “the voice and guardian of nature, food security and our rural communities” and highlighted the recent Environmental Improvement Plan, Plan for Water and Britain’s role in delivering the Global Biodiversity Framework.
“I have strengthened the foundations for Defra to deliver here in Britain and globally, so that this government has achieved more than any other government to protect our planet,” she added.
However, Coffey’s assessment of her record will be challenged by green groups, who have accused Defra of repeatedly failing to meet its environmental targets and watering down its ambitious plans to reform agricultural subsidies to drive environmental improvements.
Number 10 confirmed that Barclay has been transferred from the Department of Health to Defra, where he will take responsibility for the Government’s environment programme.
WWF Chief Executive Tanya Steele urged the new Environment Minister to deliver on the promises made in the Environment Act. “Last week marked two years since the Environment Act became law, but the government has yet to implement measures to remove deforestation from supply chains and tackle Britain’s role in the destruction of precious places like the Amazon . This should be day one. priority for Mr Barclay,” she said. “We urge him to take immediate action and put Britain back on track to meet its environmental and climate commitments. He must recognize that the costs of inaction on climate and nature are high and will be borne by ordinary households. in Great Britain. This new appointment should not be an excuse for further delays.”
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, similarly called on Barclay to take swift action and deliver on the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to deliver “the most ambitious environmental program of any country in the world”.
“The inbox for the incoming Environment Minister is filling up faster than a river downstream from a sewage treatment plant,” she said. “The problems are huge and require urgent leadership: clean up our waterways, get a handle on plastic pollution, help build breathable cities, ratify the Global Ocean Treaty and ensure agriculture delivers for nature. That’s the success we need. So Steve Barclay needs to act quickly, because unfortunately the British public already sees what failure looks like.”
Coffey’s departure is one of a number of changes in the ranks of the government’s Green ministers, with Transport Secretary Jesse Norman confirming this morning that he is stepping down, George Freeman resigning as Science Secretary, and Housing Secretary Rachel Maclean resigning announces that she has been fired. from her role.
In his resignation letter, Norman confirmed that he had been planning to resign for several months. He added that he was “particularly pleased to have established the mandate for Zero Emission Vehicles and to have completed the new legislation for autonomous vehicles. I believe both will be seen as fundamentally important reforms in the long term.”
However, Maclean’s departure threatened to spark a row within the Cabinet, with reports suggesting Leveling Up Minister Michael Gove and Business Minister Kemi Badenoch had voiced their opposition to a decision that will see the government appoint its 16th Housing Secretary since 2010.
Writing on social media platform She added that she was “disappointed and looked forward to bringing the Renters Reform Bill to committee tomorrow and the Leasehold and Freehold Bill later”.
In response, Badenoch wrote that she was “vI’m sorry you’re leaving the government.”“You were an excellent minister, always attentive to MPs and their constituents, and you got some very difficult legislation passed,” she said.
New ministerial appointments are expected to be announced during the rest of the day.
More to follow…
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