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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdommarker. Concordats set out agreed frameworks for co-operation between it and the Scottish Government, the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales and with representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly, which have devolved responsibilities for these matters in their respective nations. Defra also leads for the UK at the EU on agricultural, fisheries and environment matters and in other international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change, although a new Department of Energy and Climate Change was created on 3 October 2008 to take over the last responsibility.


It was formed in June 2001 under the leadership of Margaret Beckett, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) was merged with part of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and with a small part of the Home Office. The department was created after the perceived failure of MAFF to deal adequately with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The department had about 9 000 core personnel, . The department's main building is Nobel House in Smith Squaremarker, SW1.

In October 2008, the climate team at Defra was merged with the energy team from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to create the Department of Energy and Climate Change, headed by Ed Miliband.


The current make-up of the department's ministers is:

Shadow Secretaries

The Conservative Party's Shadow Secretary of State is Nick Herbert MP. The Liberal Democrat spokesman is Tim Farron MP.

Permanent Secretary

Helen Ghosh is the current Permanent Secretary. The Permanent Secretary is Head of the Department and also Principal Accounting Officer. She has personal responsibility for the overall organisation, management and staffing of the Department and for Department-wide procedures in financial and other matters.

Executive agencies

The executive agencies are:

Key delivery partners

The key delivery partners are:

A full list of departmental delivery and public bodies may be found on the Defra website.

Defra in the English regions

Policies for environment, food and rural affairs are delivered in the regions by Defra's executive agencies and delivery bodies, in particular Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency, Animal Health, the Marine and Fisheries Agency and the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate. Increasingly, a range of policies are communicated locally by Government Offices for English Regions.

Defra provides grant aid to the following flood and coastal erosion risk management operating authorities:

Aim and strategic priorities

Defra's overarching aim is sustainable development, which is defined as "development which enables all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations." The Secretary of State wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister that he saw Defra’s mission as enabling a move toward what the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called "one planet living".

Under this overarching aim, Defra has five strategic priorities:
  • Climate change and energy.
  • Sustainable consumption and production, including responsibility for the National Waste Strategy.
  • Protecting the countryside and natural resource protection.
  • Sustainable rural communities.
  • A sustainable farming and food sector including animal health and welfare.

See also


  1. Ministerial Team
  2. "Defra's Executive Agencies", Chapter 5, Departmental Report 2006 (from the Defra website)
  3. "Launch of Animal Health", news release by Animal Health, 2 April 2007 (from the Defra website)
  4. "Working with others: Defra's delivery partners", Chapter 6, Departmental Report 2006 (from the Defra website)
  5. "New champion for the environment launches", press release by Natural England, 11 October 2006 (from the Natural England website)
  6. Government Offices for the English Regions (from the Government Offices website)
  7. "My priorities for Defra", David Miliband's letter to the Prime Minister, 11 July 2006
  8. "Delivering the Essentials of Life: Defra’s Five Year Strategy", Annex B

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