DEFRA press release (13 May 2021)
DEFRA welcomes new Minister
Lord Benyon has today been appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defra. He will replace outgoing Defra minister Lord Gardiner, who will become Senior Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords.
The Environment Secretary today welcomed Lord Benyon, commenting on his passion and dedication to environmental causes.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“I am pleased to welcome Richard back to Defra. He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion for the environment, developed during his previous experience as a Defra Minister and during his work as Chair of our review in to Highly Protected Marine Areas.
“I look forward to working with him during this truly exciting time for Defra, with the Environment Bill returning to parliament, our agricultural reforms now starting to take root and the government leading the world on protecting nature and tackling climate change. Richard will be invaluable as we continue our ambitious work to ensure we leave our natural environment in a better state for future generations.
“I would also like to extend my congratulations to Lord Gardiner on his election as Senior Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords and to thank him for his work as Minister in Defra.”
Defra Minister Lord Benyon said:
“It’s both a privilege and a pleasure to be returning to Defra as a Minister in the House of Lords. I have fond memories from my time as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.
“From the flagship Environment Bill and tackling climate change to helping our farmers through the agricultural transition and supporting our fishing industry, Defra is at the heart of this Government’s work to build back greener. It’s an exciting time to be back at Defra.
“I look forward to working with everyone as Defra tackles some of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Lord Benyon’s portfolio will be confirmed in due course.
Grouse moor and pheasant-shoot – owner Richard Benyon is a former Trustee of GWCT and is no stranger to the pages of this blog. E.g. this from 2014:
In 2013, as Wildlife Minister under David Cameron, Richard Benyon refused to make possession of Carbofuran a criminal offence in England, despite other MPs calling for such a move, and despite it being an offence in Scotland, and despite it being well known that Carbofuran is the gamekeepers’ poison of choice for killing birds of prey.
In response, Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) said:
“The minister’s shocking refusal to outlaw the possession of a poison used only by rogue gamekeepers to illegally kill birds of prey would be inexplicable were it not for his own cosy links to the shooting lobby“.
Also while Mr Benyon was in post at DEFRA, the government sanctioned the controversial buzzard ‘management’ trial and committed £375k of taxpayers money to help support it (see here), although they swiftly backtracked after a huge public outcry against the plan (see here). However, the following year Natural England, acting on behalf of DEFRA, decided to go ahead and issue a licence (to a gamekeeper with a past conviction for wildlife crime) to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to protect pheasants (see here).
Mr Benyon also decided there was no need to introduce vicarious liability to England because “there are very good laws in place to punish the illegal killing of any animal. If they are not being effectively enforced, they must be and we will take steps to make sure that happens. However, this is a good opportunity to applaud gamekeepers for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside” (see here and here).
In 2016 he spoke at the Westminster Hall debate on driven grouse shooting where, along with other grouse-shooting pals and supporters, he claimed that a ban on driven grouse shooting would be ‘a catastrophe for the biodiversity of the uplands‘.
It’s probably safe to assume that this latest appointment to DEFRA’s ministerial team will have significant influence on campaigning efforts to rid the English uplands of the wildlife crime and environmental damage continually associated with driven grouse shooting.
It doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying, though.