Former Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has been appointed as Farming Minister, following the shock resignation of George Eustice last week.
Mr Goodwill, who is from a farming background, was elected Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby in 2005. He will take over at a critical time for agriculture on the eve of the UK’s departure from the EU and with the Agriculture Bill to steer through Parliament.
His most recent role in Government was as an Education Minister from June 2017 to January 2018. Prior to that, he held the important post of Immigration Minister at the Home Office and was one of the focal points for farming industry efforts to persuade the Government about the importance of retaining access to EU labour after we leave the EU. He was at times a source of frustration as he appeared unwilling to acknowledge or understand these concerns.
His Defra biography notes that Mr Goodwill has been a farmer since 1979, with 250 acres of land near Malton, which has been in his family since 1850. He has also been the managing director of Mowthorpe since 1995, a company offering environmentally friendly burials in the North Yorkshire countryside.
NPA chairman Richard Lister said: “We welcome Robert Goodwill to Defra at a critical time as we face up to the realities for agriculture of operating outside the EU.
“We are pleased that he comes to the role with first-hand experience of farming in Yorkshire, a major pig producing part of the country. With his experience at the Home Office, he also arrives with knowledge of some of our concerns over Brexit, particularly in relation to the need to retain access to EU labour, including so-called low-skilled permanent workers.”
The NPA has written to Mr Goodwill welcoming him to the post. “We look forward to meeting with him and building a constructive working relationship,” Richard added.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said he was delighted to welcome Robert Goodwill to the Defra team. “Robert’s hands on knowledge of farming at the sharp end, experience in European politics, great ministerial record and shrewd judgment are an asset to Government,” he said.
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer welcomed Mr Goodwill to the role, which he said comes at a critical time for farming. “We know from previous ministerial roles that Robert is willing to listen and engage on the issues that matter and we are looking forward to him continuing the good work of his predecessor and working together to deliver a bright future for the rural economy,” he said.