Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is a department of His Majesty's Government 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.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs logo.svg
Department overview
Formed2001; 21 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]
Minister 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]


The Defra Ministers are as follows:[7]

Minister Rank Portfolio
Therese Coffey 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.
Mark Spencer MP Minister of State for Food Farming, including: farming payments and reform, farming sectors, fertilisers; Food, including: food supply, security and resilience, food production and growth, labour and skills, food strategy, including food sustainability and agri-climate, food compositional standards and food labelling, industrial strategy, food and drink sector council and F4; Fisheries; Science and innovation, including: gene editing bill, agri-tech and innovation.
Trudy Harrison MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment Emergencies; Floods and water, including: flooding and drought, coastal erosion and insurance, water quality, including sewage and water resources, inland waterways, Thames Tideway Tunnel; Domestic natural environment, including: biodiversity, net gain, land use, domestic marine, wildlife and wildlife management (including reintroduction, excluding general licenses), pollinators, domestic tree planting and forestry, Defra delivery of Net Zero and climate change adaptation, environment targets and 25 year environment plan strategy; Domestic environmental management and regulation: waste management, waste PFI projects, air quality and noise, environment regulation, chemicals, pesticides; Lead for Environment Agency (EA), Natural England (NE) and Forestry Commission; Commons Minister for landscapes and access.
Scott Mann MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Growth and Rural Affairs Trade, including: agri-food trade negotiations, standards, market access and exports, ‘Buy British’, geographical indications, Borders; Northern Ireland; International oceans - including climate, international whaling commission, marine biodiversity (including OTs), marine litter and blue finance; Support to SoS on growth agenda and deregulation; EU law review; Rural and Green Growth: rural productivity and connectivity, rural life opportunities (childcare, education, skills and health), green finance, green jobs and finance markets for nature and the environment, Animal welfare; Lead for Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE); Commons Minister for international nature.
The Lord Benyon Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Environment International nature and wildlife, including: international climate and biodiversity, conservation and Illegal wildlife trade, Official Development Assistance, international forestry, international environmental regulation including due diligence and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), international green finance;Biosecurity: biosecurity strategy, including animal health and traceability, management of endemic and exotic animal diseases, including bovine TB policy, plant and tree health including invasive non-native species, landscapes, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), access including rights of way and coastal paths; General licensing; Support the SoS to improve organisational efficiency and organisational performance, including across ALBs; Support for SoS in major commercial projects including New Covent Garden Market and Science Capability in Animal Health (SCAH); Lead for Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; All Lords Parliamentary business.

The Permanent Secretary is Tamara Finkelstein, who replaced Clare Moriarty in 2019.[8][9]

Shadow ministers portfolios can differ from government departments therefore overlap.


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 to the United Kingdom as a whole.

Executive agenciesEdit

The department's executive agencies are:[11]

Key delivery partnersEdit

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 regionsEdit

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 prioritiesEdit

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]

Defra Headquarters are at 2, Marsham Street, London.[20] It is also located at Nobel House, 17, Smith Square, London.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Budget 2011 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2011. p. 48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Concordat between MAFF and the Scottish Executive". Archived from the original on 8 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Concordat between MAFF and the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales". Archived from the original on 23 February 2006.
  4. ^ "Devolution: Subject specific Concordat between MAFF and the Scottish Executive on fisheries". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Defra departmental report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2008.
  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. ^ [1], Defra
  9. ^ "Appointment of new Permanent Secretary at Defra". GOV.UK. 19 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Cabinet Office List of Ministerial Responsibilities, July 2010". 16 September 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  11. ^ "List of ministerial responsibilities (including Executive Agencies and Non-Ministerial Departments)" (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  12. ^ "DEFRA Agencies shake-up", news release by Defra, 29 June 2010 (from the Defra website)
  13. ^ "Launch of Animal Health" Archived 22 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine, news release by Animal Health, 2 April 2007 (from the Defra website)
  14. ^ "Working with others: Defra's delivery partners" Archived 5 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Chapter 6, Departmental Report 2006 (from the Defra website)
  15. ^ "Marine Management Organisation established" Archived 2 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, press release by Defra, 1 April 2010 (from the Defra website.
  16. ^ "New champion for the environment launches" Archived 10 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, press release by Natural England, 11 October 2006 (from the Natural England website)
  17. ^ "Delivery Landscape Map". Archived from the original on 29 April 2007.
  18. ^ "My priorities for Defra" Archived 10 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, David Miliband's letter to the Prime Minister, 11 July 2006
  19. ^ "Delivering the Essentials of Life: Defra’s Five Year Strategy" Archived 6 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Annex B
  20. ^ "Defra staff set for Marsham Street move as leases expire". Civil Service World. 24 June 2020.

External linksEdit

Video clipsEdit