12 June 2001
Alun Michael heads Rural Affairs

By FWI staff

FORMER Welsh First Secretary Alun Michael has been appointed Rural Affairs minister in a mid-level Government reshuffle on Monday (11 June).

Mr Michael takes up his new position in the new Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs 16 months after quitting as First Secretary.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been subsumed into DEFRA, headed by secretary of state Margaret Beckett following Labours General Election victory.

Mr Michael was unpopular in the Principality because it was believed he was imposed by Labours London leadership.

He resigned in February 2000 as he had been about to lose a vote of confidence. Prior his move to the Welsh Assembly, Mr Michael served deputy Home Secretary.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Michael has a reputation as “an industrious, reliable but rather dull minister” in both jobs.

Environment Minster Michael Meacher retains his job, while junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley is appointed as Parliamentary Secretary in DEFRA.

He is joined in this position by Lord Whitty.

The Guardian reports that former junior agriculture ministers Joyce Quin and Baroness Hayman had “volunteered for the backbenches”.

The newspaper says Ms Quin told Tony Blair some months ago that she wanted to step down, while Baroness Hayman is “a veteran of the 70s”.

The civil servant responsible for overseeing the foot-and-mouth crisis has been rewarded for his work, reports The Times.

Brian Bender, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, has been given “an even bigger empire” in DEFRA says the newspaper.

This is in contrast to former Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who was demoted to the new post of Minister of Work after criticism of his handling of the crisis.

Mr Bender has gained environment, rural development and countryside as well as animal welfare and foxhunting, in his new job.

The high-flying civil servant, who was at MAFF for nine months, gained a reputation as a moderniser anxious to put women and businessmen in senior positions.

However, The Times says there were critics of his performance in recent months and it remains to be seen how he will get on with Margaret Beckett.