Baroness Kate Rock appointed to Defra board

Defra has announced the appointment of Baroness Kate Rock, who chaired the Rock Review into the tenanted sector, as a non-executive board member.

Non-executive board members are senior figures from outside government that are appointed directly by the secretary of state to provide a challenge to government departments.

Baroness Rock will be joined on the Defra board by policy adviser Julian Glover, who led the independent Landscapes Review, and Nick Folland, general counsel and company secretary at the Marks & Spencer Group.

See also: Rock Review sets out improved support for tenant farmers

The new members will each serve a three-year term on the board, which provides strategic, corporate leadership to Defra and has particular responsibility for monitoring performance and delivery. 

The appointment of Baroness Rock has been widely praised by figures across the industry.

As former chair of The Tenancy Working Group, Baroness Rock was commissioned by the Defra secretary to look at the future of agricultural tenancies in 2022. The Rock Review, with recommendations to government, was published in October 2022.

Speaking of her new appointment, Baroness Rock told Farmers Weekly she was was “delighted” to be appointed a non-executive director at Defra.

“I am committed to championing our important farming and rural communities, and this role will enable me to continue to do so.”

Farm to Fork Summit

One key recommendation from the Rock Review was that the government should appoint an independent tenant farming commissioner. 

At the Farm to Fork Summit on Tuesday (14 May), prime minister Rishi Sunak announced that the government would be following this recommendation and introducing a new commissioner in the autumn. 

NFU deputy president David Exwood welcomed this announcement.

“In principle, the NFU supports this move which we hope will change the culture within the tenanted sector and provide much-needed scrutiny of bad practice and conduct, and lead to improved landlord-tenant relationships.

“It will be important that clear guidelines are in place to define exactly what the tenant farming commissioner can or cannot do and at what stage they should become involved in disputes. The role must be completely independent and without bias to landlords or tenants.”

Baroness Rock said the announcement demonstrated a government commitment to the “vital” tenant farming sector.

“I hear too often about the difficulties facing tenant farmers, and the commissioner will play a critical role in ensuring fairness across the sector,” she said. 

See more