Farm minister Jim Paice is the latest high profile casualty in David Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle, Farmers Weekly can reveal.
Mr Paice has lost his job as farm minister and will be replaced by David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome.
The shock news will be a devastating blow for Mr Paice, who was speaking at the Livestock 2012 show where he announced details of the new voluntary code of practice for the dairy industry.
“Mr Paice was informed of his sacking at the Livestock 2012 show in Birmingham. He received a call on his mobile phone from David Cameron to be told he was being axed,” said a farming industry source.
NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “It is a disappointment as Jim [Paice] has been a good friend to the industry.
“He has understood farming and farmers and fought hard on behalf of the industry over the past few years. He understands how European institutions function and I do know he was very effective in negotiations around Europe.”
Mr Raymond added: “We are now looking forward to working with the new minister David Heath.
“With bovine TB eradication top of the agenda and the debate around Common Agricultural Policy reform, it is so important that UK farmers are not disadvantaged as CAP decisions are finalised.”
Gwyn Jones, Sussex dairy farmer: “This is a real loss because Jim has great knowledge of the industry, is well-respected and is as good a friend as we ever had. He worked tirelessly to give the very best he could in difficult circumstances. Jim had his feet really on the ground – he was an anchorman. The departure of both Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice is a blow to the industry – too much change at once.”
Martin Redfearn, national head of agriculture at Barclays: “Jim is my MP. He has been a great servant to industry in many guises. As a minister, he has a balanced understanding of agriculture and also of political priority. He has done a difficult job very well and with empathy.”
John Geldard, chairman of the National Sheep Association: “The news that Jim Paice has gone will send a serious shockwave around the agricultural industry. He was a person who demonstrated a clear understanding of the industry and had our trust. I wish the new DEFRA team well but you don’t build these working relationships overnight. Whoever replaces Jim needs a good ear and a clear understanding of all aspects and challenges facing the industry here and globally.”
Mr Paice’s career
Mr Paice’s parliamentary career has seen him immersed in agricultural policy-making.
His parliamentary links with agriculture stretch back to 1989 when he briefly held a farming post in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
From September 2004 until his return to government, Mr Paice served as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, a post he later took up in government.
In May 2010, he was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Agriculture and Food Minister) in the coalition government.
Mr Heath, the incoming farm minister, represents a rural constituency.
In 2009 he slammed the bovine TB situation as “absolutely scandalous and unacceptable” and demanded urgent government action to stop the spread of the disease. His comments followed the slaughter of 8,000 cattle in the West Country during 2009.
David Heath Biography
- David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome
- 58 years old
- Studied at St John’s College Oxford, (MA Physiological Sciences) and the City University, London
- An optician by trade Mr Heath also used to breed pigs
- He became a CBE in 1989
- Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman on foreign affairs and then spokesman for agriculture and rural affairs in 1989
- Worked as parliamentary consultant to the World Wide Fund for Nature
- Mr Heath ran for the deputy leadership of the Lib Dems in 2006 Came third in the first round of the Lib
- Resigned his post as shadow cabinet in early 2008 as he did not feel able to vote with the Liberal Democrat party whip on the European Constitution referendum
- After six months on the back benches, David was invited to lead a Liberal Democrat commission on privacy in autumn 2008
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Caroline Spelman ousted as DEFRA secretary