Former Transport Minister Trudy Harrison has been appointed as a junior Minister at Defra, following the reported of Zac Goldsmith.
Ms Harrison has been appointed a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department, as part of a junior Ministerial reshuffle that had been on hold during the period of mourning.
She was previously a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and then a Minister of State at the Department for Transport from September 2021 to July 2022, having been elected Conservative MP for Copeland in 2017.
Lord Goldsmith, a close friend of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and wife Carrie, is still listed as a Minister on the Defra website, with responsibilities including animal welfare, international environment and forestry.
However, the Guardian reports that, in a farewell letter to staff at Defra, Lord Goldsmith said he was ‘very sad’ to be leaving after a ‘whirlwind’ three years, before listing his achievements, including in forestry, plastic pollution and the oceans.
He also issued what appeared to be a warning to the Prime Minister “We have so much more to do to turn the tide here,” he said. “The UK is, after all, one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries. But if Defra continues to get the backing you need and deserve across government, you can and you will turn the tide.”
Lord Goldsmith’s position at the Department appeared to be tenuous, after the appointment of Mark Spencer as a Defra Minister. During the Conservative leadership campaign, Lord Goldsmith had tweeted his concern over a possible role at Defra for the former Chief Whip.
“Rishi Sunak has evidently agreed to make Mark Spencer the next DEFRA Sec of State,” he wrote. “Mark was the biggest blocker of measures to protect nature, biodiversity, animal welfare. He will be our very own little Bolsonaro. Grim news for nature. But great news for political opponents.”
The Guardian reported that the departure of Lord Goldsmith, a vocal animal welfare and environmental campaigner, had raised fears among some Tory MPs and campaigners that animal welfare will be downgraded in Mrs Truss’s government.
The Tory MP Henry Smith said: “Zac has been a fantastic champion of animal welfare issues in government and, despite all the other distractions, he’s been instrumental in delivering quite a few pieces of legislation that have made it on to the statute books. I would expect the government to fulfil all its manifesto commitments and pledges on animal welfare, regardless of which individuals occupy roles in various departments.”
Lorraine Platt, co-founder of the influential Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, of which Carrie Johnson is a patron, said Lord Goldsmith had been a champion of animal welfare.
“The UK is behind certain countries on ending cages and crates – that is something Zac wanted to do if he had stayed on. There is still a lot we could do on trade agreements. It is important to the public that animal welfare is advanced, and we hope the government recognises this and continues to uphold and improve our high standards,” she said.
However, Lord Goldsmith is expected to keep his role at the Foreign Office, which he previously shared with his Defra post.