Former Chief Whip Mark Spencer, MP for Sherwood since 2010, has been appointed as a Defra Minister, replacing Victoria Prentis, who has been moved to a Ministerial role at the Department of Work and Pensions.
Mr Spencer comes to the post with a strong farming background, having studied at Shuttleworth Agricultural College in Bedfordshire, before joining the family farm business. A former member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, he has often spoken out in support of farmers during his time as an MP.
He served as Chief Whip from 2019 to 2022 and as Leader of the House of Commons and from February to September 2022.
Mr Spencer said he was ‘delighted’ to be joining the Defra team, and was ‘looking forward to supporting food production and the environment and our rural communities’.
While the pig sector will welcome a Minister go to the role with a background in and knowledge of farming, but there will be some regret at the loss of Mrs Prentis, who became a strong ally, as she brought together the supply chain to seek answers to the pig backlog and launched a review into the pig supply chain, aiming, possibly with the help of legislation, to bring about fairer trading relations.
Mrs Prentis said: It has been a great privilege to serve in Defra. Farming and the environment will always be a major part of my life. I am very proud to have taken through the Agriculture Act & Fisheries Act, and to have launched the first ever Government Food Strategy.
“I am confident that our agricultural transition will put UK food security on a new sustainable footing. I’d like to thank my dedicated officials and colleagues at Defra for their support over the past two and a half years, and wish them well.”
Commenting on Twitter, NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said: “So sorry to lose you minister, as you have been so understanding and supportive. Your attention and urgency throughout this very challenging period has really been appreciated by our pig producer members. Good luck with the new position!”
The association’s senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst added: “Thank you for all the support you have given to the British pig industry during these last two years. It has been an enormously challenging period but we were always grateful for your determination to help us through the crisis. Very best of luck in the new role!”