STEVE Barclay has been appointed as the UK's tenth environment secretary in a little over 13 years. 

The former health secretary was confirmed in the key role on Monday, replacing Thérèse Coffey who had only been in the post since October 2022. Mr Barclay, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire, has held a number of senior and junior ministerial jobs in recent years, but none in relation to forestry or the wider environment. 

At the time of writing, Trudy Harrison, the current forestry minister for England, remains in her position, with little indication that will change. Ms Harrison has been praised by many forestry leaders for her efforts since assuming the key role last year. 

Reacting to the change, Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, said: "Defra has been supportive of the industry under Therese Coffey’s time as Secretary of State and Confor hopes that this will continue under Steve Barclay.

"In particular, we would hope that the new Secretary of State will support the upcoming National Wood Strategy for England and work with Confor to develop a  sector deal for the forestry and wood processing industry." 

Having served as a junior minister in the department under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson – when her remit included forestry – it was hoped that Ms Coffey would bring some "much-needed" focus at a time of mounting pressure on Defra. 

Forestry Journal: Thérèse Coffey last a little over a year in the role Thérèse Coffey last a little over a year in the role (Image: PA)

As well as the UK's continued failure to hit its manifesto commitment on tree-planting targets, Ms Coffey's short reign also saw the "watering down" of tree cover goals in England and accusations paperwork delays were hindering efforts to create more woodland. 

However, recent changes to the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Countryside Stewardship schemes were widely praised by the industry

In a letter announcing her resignation, Ms Coffey did not mention forestry directly, but wrote: "Unleashing rural opportunity and championing the countryside is a core Conservative principle that will endure." 

The Conservative MP added: “I look forward to supporting you from the backbenches and working together for a Conservative majority at the next election, which I believe to be profoundly in the national interest.”

On a day of great upheaval in Westminster, David Cameron made a dramatic return to Government as Foreign Secretary in a reshuffle triggered by Rishi Sunak’s decision to sack Suella Braverman from the Home Office.

Forestry Journal: Trudy Harrison remains the forestry minister Trudy Harrison remains the forestry minister (Image: FJ/Stock)

The former prime minister replaced James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and will be given a peerage.

Mr Cleverly took on the job of Home Secretary after Mr Sunak ended Mrs Braverman’s controversial tenure in the job.

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