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Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs
Department overview
Formed 2001
Preceding agencies Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Department for the Environment
Jurisdiction United Kingdom

Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London
51°29′44″N 0°07′34″W / 51.49556°N 0.12611°W / 51.49556; -0.12611

Annual budget £2.2 billion (current) & £400 million (capital) for 2011-12 [1]
Minister responsible Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department executive Bronwyn Hill, Permanent Secretary
Child agencies Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Food and Environment Research Agency
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Rural Payments Agency
Veterinary Medicines Directorate

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom. Concordats set out agreed frameworks for co-operation between it and the Scottish Government,[2] Welsh Government[3] and Northern Ireland Executive,[4] which have devolved responsibilities for these matters in their respective nations. Defra also leads for Britain at the EU on agricultural, fisheries and environment matters and in other international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change, although a new Department of Energy and Climate Change was created on 3 October 2008 to take over the last responsibility. DEFRA has recently been involved in trial badger culls in two areas of England, North Somerset and Gloucestershire. There has been vociferous opposition to this, including the largest ever e-petition, with over 300,000 signatures. DEFRA's own scientific report, following a Randomised Badger Culling Trial in 2007 came to the conclusion that "After careful consideration of all the RBCT and other data presented in this report, including an economic assessment, we conclude that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain." Nevertheless, DEFRA and Natural England have gone ahead with the cull, attempting to kill over 70% of the badger population, by free shooting, at night. This approach has not been successful, yet they have extended the cull period in both areas. DEFRA also came to the conclusion in the RBCT that "culling should be for no more than six consecutive weeks" and yet they have extended the period to over twice that. There has been great concern that the official figures are not accurate. Recently, the environment minister Owen Paterson has been ridiculed for suggesting that, when the numbers killed did not meet expectations, the badgers had "moved the goalposts".


It was formed in June 2001 under the leadership of Margaret Beckett, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) was merged with part of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and with a small part of the Home Office. The department was created after the perceived failure of MAFF to deal adequately with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The Department had about 9 000 core personnel, as of January 2008.[5] The Department's main building is Nobel House on Smith Square, SW1.

In October 2008, the climate team at Defra was merged with the energy team from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to create the Department of Energy and Climate Change, then headed by Ed Miliband.[6]


The Defra Ministers are as follows:[7]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP Secretary of State Strategy and overall responsibility for departmental policy; Budget and finances; Legislative programme; Emergencies; EU and international relations; Environment Agency and Natural England
David Heath CBE MP Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Farming and Food; Animal health; Forestry;
Richard Benyon MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs
Minister for Flooding
Natural Environment; Water and Marine (inc Fisheries); Rural Affairs; Departmental administration
Lord de Mauley[8] Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Resource Management, the Local Environment and Environmental Science All departmental business in the House of Lords; Resource Management; Local Environment; Science and research
Key Conservative
Liberal Democrat

The Permanent Secretary is Bronwyn Hill.[9]


Defra is responsible for British Government policy in the following areas[10]

Some policies apply to England alone due to devolution, while others are not devolved and therefore apply Britain as a whole.

Executive agencies

The department's executive agencies are:[11]

Key delivery partners

The department's key delivery partners are:[14]

A full list of departmental delivery and public bodies may be found on the Defra website.[17]

Defra in the English regions

Policies for environment, food and rural affairs are delivered in the regions by Defra's executive agencies and delivery bodies, in particular Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency, Animal Health and the Marine Management Organisation.

Defra provides grant aid to the following flood and coastal erosion risk management operating authorities:

Aim and strategic priorities

Defra's overarching aim is sustainable development, which is defined as "development which enables all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations." The Secretary of State wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister that he saw Defra’s mission as enabling a move toward what the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called "one planet living".[18]

Under this overarching aim, Defra has five strategic priorities:[19]

  • Climate change and energy.
  • Sustainable consumption and production, including responsibility for the National Waste Strategy.
  • Protecting the countryside and natural resource protection.
  • Sustainable rural communities.
  • A sustainable farming and food sector including animal health and welfare.

See also


External links

  • Defra's official website
  • Fera - Executive agency of DEFRA
  • National Collection of PLant Pathogenic Bacteria - Fera
  • English Nature's website
  • JNCC's website
  • Defra's wiki for formulating an environmental contract

Video clips

  • DEFRA YouTube channel
Template:Agriculture in the United Kingdom

Template:Energy in the United Kingdom

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