11 June 2001
Margaret Beckett – who is she?

By Alistair Driver

MARGARET BECKETT, head of the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is an anti-hunting MP who loves caravanning.

Mrs Beckett, 58, voted for an outright ban against hunting with hounds during a House of Commons vote on the issue in February 2001.

As well as caravanning, the 2001 edition of Dods Parliamentary Companion lists her favoured forms of relaxation away from politics as reading and cooking.

Mrs Becketts new responsibilities include animal welfare and hunting, in addition to the farming portfolio held by former agriculture minister Nick Brown.

Her new department will also be responsible for green issues previously covered the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Mrs Beckett brings a high profile to the new department. She was appointed Leader of the House of Commons, a job she has held until now.

But the MP for Derby South has had little to do with rural affairs since she was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Lincoln in 1974.

She describes her main political interest as industry and became New Labours first Trade and Industry Secretary in 1997.

After just over a year in the job, she left the Department of Trade and Industry in 1998 to make way for Peter Mandelson.

A permanent member of the shadow cabinet during Labours 18 years in opposition, she was party leader Neil Kinnocks deputy from 1992-1994.

She is a member of the left-leaning Fabian Society think tank, and has been a member of CND, Amnesty International and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Mr Brown has been demoted to Minister for Work under Alistair Darling, who has been named as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

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