Defra confirms Rory Stewart to oversee air quality

Defra has confirmed that responsibility for air quality at the Department will fall under the remit of Rory Stewart, almost a month after the new UK government was elected.

Rory Stewart MP takes over the air quality brief at Defra

Rory Stewart MP takes over the air quality brief at Defra

The MP for Penrith and the Border was newly appointed to Defra following the General Election last month (see story), but the Department only last night (June 2) confirmed which responsibilities each of the three politicians in the Department will oversee.

This was despite ministerial briefs within many other government departments being confirmed weeks ago.

And, although not specifically mentioned in Mr Stewart’s job description, a spokeswoman for Defra said today (June 3) that air quality was included in the Conservative MP’s ‘resource and environmental management’ remit.

As a result, it is now highly likely that Eton-educated Mr Stewart will oversee the production of a new UK air quality plan to meet nitrogen dioxide limits, for which the Supreme Court has set a deadline of 31 December 2015 to be submitted to the EU. (see story).

In total, Rory Stewart’s responsibilities, as parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment and rural affairs, are:

  • natural environment
  • floods and water
  • resource and environmental management
  • rural affairs
  • lead responsibility for the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission
  • deputy for the Secretary of State on Environment Council

The Conservative Party won its first parliamentary majority in more than two decades after the General Election on May 7, while previous air quality minister Dan Rogerson was one of more than 40 Liberal Democrat MPs to lose their seats.

Following the election, it was announced that Liz Truss will continue as secretary of state for the environment, while George Eustice was promoted within Defra to minister of state.

However, Lord de Mauley left the Department last month, effectively cutting the number of Defra ministers from the previous four to just three, although Lord Gardiner of Kimble will now act as Defra’s spokesman in the House of Lords (see story).

Rory Stewart

Originally elected to parliament in 2010, Mr Stewart returned the largest ever majority at his Penrith and The Border constituency in 2015, nearly doubling his majority from 11,241 to 19,894.

The 42-year-old MP served as the chair of the Defence Select Committee during the last Parliament, and his appointment to Defra may come as something of a surprise to those in the field, who had widely expected that he would pick up a post within the Ministry of Defence.

His parliamentary career has also seen him join the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, chair the All Party Parliamentary group on Local Democracy, chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mountain Rescue, and serve as treasurer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Upland Farming.

According to his personal website he tours his Northern Lakeland constituency on foot whenever possible, and has focused on issues including broadband and mobile technology; on defence and military intervention internationally; on rural and upland farming policy; and on devolving power to local communities across Britain.

Mr Stewart, who was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004 for his military service in Iraq, is also an award-winning author of three books — largely detailing his time in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Related Links:

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


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