Business

Spelman ousted as DEFRA secretary

Tuesday 04 September 2012 10:21
Caroline Spelman

Caroline Spelman has lost her job as DEFRA secretary in David Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle, according to reports.

Mrs Spelman has held the post since the coalition government came to power in 2010.

But her tenure was blighted by a humiliating U-turn on the proposed £100m-sale of national forests last year.

The controversial plans, announced after her department suffered the biggest budget cut in Whitehall in the 2010 comprehensive spending review, sparked a public outcry.

The Tory electorate revolted and Mrs Spelman took the flak in front of the cameras as the government backed down.

After an independent panel was appointed which recommended that England’s forests remained in public ownership, Mrs Spelman  told parliament in February 2011: “I am sorry, we got this one wrong.”

She has also fielded criticism over the failure to deliver on the promise that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”.

In farming circles her stance on the Common Agricultural Policy led to concerns that the best interests of UK farming were not being robustly represented at negotiations on policy reform.

Early in 2011 she appeared to call for an early end to direct farm support in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference which shocked and surprised UK farming leaders.

"Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments," she told the conference.

She added: "Rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and plan for their abolition.

However, Mrs Spelman will be remembered more favourably for announcing the government’s proposals on a badger cull in England.

In a statement to the commons on 14 December 2011 she said:

"Bovine TB is a chronic and insidious disease which is having a devastating impact on farmers. Unless further action is taken now it will continue to get worse. There is great strength of feeling on this issue and no one wants to see badgers culled. But at present there is no satisfactory alternative."

Biography

Caroline Spelman was appointed as secretary of state for DEFRA on 12 May, 2010.

Her portfolio included overall responsibility for departmental policy; particular interest in CAP reform, biodiversity and climate change.

Mrs Spelman has been Member of Parliament for Meriden since 1997. In opposition, she served in the Shadow Cabinet, covering the Environment, International Development and Communities and Local Government portfolios, as well as holding other senior posts.

Before entering Parliament, she had an extensive career in the agriculture sector, with 15 years in the agriculture industry and in-depth experience of the international arena, including as deputy director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers and a research fellow for the Centre for European Agricultural Studies.
 
Mrs Spelman was sugar beet commodity secretary for the NFU from 1981 to 1984.

She has also authored a book on the non-food use of agricultural products.
Mrs Spelman is fluent in French and German and holds a BA First Class in European Studies from Queen Mary College. She is married with three children.

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