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Stephen Barclay welcomed as Defra Secretary

The Countryside Alliance is pleased to welcome Rt Hon. Stephen Barclay MP on his appointment as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, little more than a month after he spoke at an Alliance co-sponsored reception at the Conservative Party Conference. 

Following a career as an Army officer and in finance law, Mr Barclay has served as MP for the rural seat of North East Cambridgeshire since 2010. In more recent years he has held an array of high-profile ministerial roles. Career highlights include his first appointment to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU in 2018, a year as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2020 and his most recent post as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Following Dr Thérèse Coffey he becomes the second successive Secretary of State to move to the Defra portfolio from Health. 

On Monday 2 October, Mr Barclay joined an invited audience as guest of honour at a Conservative Party Conference reception that the Countryside Alliance ran in conjunction with the Conservative Rural Forum. In a barnstorming address he told delegates:

"I’m the MP for Fenland in North East Cambridgeshire, one of the most important farming areas of the country… And I know, in rural communities, that farming is at the heart of our community. Our food security matters. The entrepreneurship, the innovation. But I also know that rural life is about other things as well: about housing, about access to health services, about how we deliver better care to people. How we bring arts funding to our communities rather, in my part of the world, than expecting everyone to travel to Cambridge, an hour and a half each way in a car, and you can’t get back on the train late at night. 

 “So representing rural communities and all their issues is deep within our tradition, and I think having the forum to raise that agenda, the work the Countryside Alliance does to put that at the heart, I think reflects our values. Our values of freedom of choice and opportunity. That’s what motivates me. I think that’s at the heart of rural life; I think that’s what unites us in this room.” 

He went on to describe Labour as a party… that is in hock to the NGOs… a whole host of NGOs that will shape Labour’s approach to rural issues.” 

Mr Barclay takes charge at Defra at a tumultuous time for the Government but also a pivotal one for rural Britain, with the rollout of the new post-Brexit agricultural subsidies regime in England fully under way. We wish him every success and look forward to maintaining and building on our strong relationship. 

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