- Ranil Jayawardena, MP for North East Hampshire since 2015, is the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Liz Truss's premiership.
- Jayawardena moves from the Department of International Trade where he was an international trade minister since 2020, covering future trade agreements, export controls and tackling barriers to market access.
- A Truss supporter from the start of the campaign, Jayawardena was previously a councillor in his native Hampshire.
- Jayawardena has tended to toe the line whilst in government, only resigning as a PPS over the proposed Brexit deal in 2018.
Jayawardena has had exposure to the rural economy as a constituency MP and has run a constituency campaign calling for better broadband for North East Hampshire, arguing that ‘unreliable broadband disproportionately affects those living in rural areas’. Though he is an MP for a constituency with rural pockets, North East Hampshire is an affluent constituency located in the London commuter belt. One of the tests for Jayawardena will be stepping over the hurdle that befalls many politicians – that rural = farming. As a parliamentary patron of the Rural Fair Share Campaign, Jayawardena should at the very least have a rudimentary understanding of the specific inequalities facing rural areas, and in his first tweet as Environment Secretary has pledged to grow the rural economy.
Jayawardena has been more outspoken on climate change and supports protecting the environment. He also sees the link between economic growth and respect for the planet – or is savvy enough to understand that is the way to bring around sceptical colleagues. In his speech at the 2022 World Trade Organisation, Jayawardena mentioned the ‘pressing need to protect the environment at the heart of [trade]’, and that ‘green trade has a powerful role to play in countering climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, while securing and generating economic growth’. We hope Jayawardena uses this voice at the Cabinet table to ensure that tackling the impacts of climate change remains at the forefront of government policy. In his first tweet as Secretarty of State, Jayawardena cited water security as among his priorities
Jayawardena has approached farming from two angles – firstly visiting farms in his constituency, and secondly as international trade minister. In the latter role, Jayawardena has made ministerial visits to a number of places including Yeo Valley following the signing of the UK’s trade deal with Australia, commenting that ‘we have delivered significant benefits already for the British economy and to British farmers, and the rest of the world. And we are very confident of [farmers’] ability to adapt and prosper as demand for their food grows’. It looks like food security and the provenance of food will feature in his tenure.