Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is a ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the entire 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.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department overview
Formed2001; 23 years ago (2001)
Preceding agencies
JurisdictionGovernment of the United Kingdom
Headquarters2 Marsham Street, London
Annual budget£2.2 billion (current) & £400 million (capital) for 2011-12[1]
Secretary of State responsible
Department executive
Child agencies

Defra also leads for the United Kingdom on agricultural, fisheries and environmental matters in 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; later transferred to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy following Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister in July 2016.



The department 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.

It 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]

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]



Defra ministers are as follows, with cabinet members in bold:[7]

Minister Portrait Office Portfolio
The Rt Hon. Steve Barclay MP   Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Strategy and overall responsibility for departmental policy; water quality and security; food production and security; economic growth; international relations; senior appointments.
The Rt Hon. Mark Spencer MP   Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries Farming; food; fisheries; agri-science and innovation; trade; lead for Rural Payments Agency (RPA), Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA)
The Rt Hon. Lord Benyon PC   Minister of State for Climate, Environment and Energy Held jointly with the FCDO. The Minister's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responsibilities include:

International nature and wildlife; oceans, domestic and international marine; green finance; Defra official development assistance (ODA) programme; lead for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Rebecca Pow MP   Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Nature Floods; water; resources and waste; air quality and noise; environment regulation, including chemicals; lead for Environment Agency (EA)
Robbie Moore MP   Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Water and Rural Growth Domestic natural environment, wildlife and land use; climate change adaptation; tree planting and forestry; landscapes, including National Parks and AONBs; access including rights of way and coastal paths; lead for Natural England, Forestry Commission and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
The Rt Hon. Lord Douglas-Miller   Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Biosecurity, Animal Health and Welfare Biosecurity and borders; Northern Ireland; animal welfare[8]

The Permanent Secretary is Tamara Finkelstein, who replaced Clare Moriarty in 2019.[9][10]



Defra is responsible for British Government policy in the following areas[11]

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

Executive agencies


The department's executive agencies are:[12]

Key delivery partners


The department's key delivery partners are:[15]

A full list of departmental delivery and public bodies may be found on the Defra website.[18]

Defra in the English regions

A Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign near a new stile a Cratfield, Suffolk

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".[19]

Under this overarching aim, Defra has five strategic priorities:[20]

Defra Headquarters are at 2, Marsham Street, London.[21] It is also located at Nobel House, 17, Smith Square, London.[22]

See also



  1. ^ Budget 2011 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2011. p. 48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Devolution - Main Concordat between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Executive". Defra. 11 November 1999. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009.
  3. ^ "Concordat between MAFF and the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales". Defra. 24 October 2000. Archived from the original on 23 February 2006.
  4. ^ "Devolution: Subject specific Concordat between MAFF and the Scottish Executive on fisheries". Defra. 11 November 1999. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Defra departmental report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2008.[dead link]
  6. ^ Harrabin, Roger (3 October 2008). "Marrying energy demand and supply". BBC News. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  7. ^   This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence: "Our ministers". GOV.UK. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  8. ^ "Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Biosecurity, Animal Health and Welfare) - GOV.UK". Retrieved 7 December 2023.
  9. ^ [1], Defra
  10. ^ "Appointment of new Permanent Secretary at Defra". GOV.UK. 19 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Cabinet Office List of Ministerial Responsibilities, July 2010". 16 September 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  12. ^ "List of ministerial responsibilities (including Executive Agencies and Non-Ministerial Departments)" (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  13. ^ "DEFRA Agencies shake-up", news release by Defra, 29 June 2010 (from the Defra website)
  14. ^ "Launch of Animal Health" Archived 22 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine, news release by Animal Health, 2 April 2007 (from the Defra website)
  15. ^ "Working with others: Defra's delivery partners" Archived 5 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Chapter 6, Departmental Report 2006 (from the Defra website)
  16. ^ "Marine Management Organisation established" Archived 2 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, press release by Defra, 1 April 2010 (from the Defra website.
  17. ^ "New champion for the environment launches". Natural England. 11 October 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007.
  18. ^ "Delivery Landscape Map". Defra. 20 April 2007. Archived from the original on 29 April 2007.
  19. ^ Miliband, David (11 July 2006). "My priorities for Defra" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2007.
  20. ^ "Delivering the Essentials of Life: Defra's Five Year Strategy" (PDF). Defra. December 2004. "Annex B". Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2007.
  21. ^ "Defra staff set for Marsham Street move as leases expire". Civil Service World. 24 June 2020.

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