Tokenism, climate change, King’s Lynn incinerator, farming and food: Q&A with Environment Secretary and Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss.

Friday, July 25, 2014
10:00 AM

Q: We were due to speak last week, but then there was a Cobra meeting following the Malaysian air crash. Has it been a hectic start?

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LT: In the last week I have had two cabinet meetings and one set of oral questions in the House. In the past 48 hours in the job I’ve been to the Country Game Fair and the Royal Welsh Show. It’s been pretty full on.

Clearly with the Norfok constituency I represent a lot of the issues are pertinent to Defra, whether that’s flood defences or protecting our natural environment. These things are key to South-West Norfolk.

My predecessor Owen Patterson did some terrific work in promoting exports and opening up new markets and encouraging more Buy Local.

What I want to do is continue with that work in terms of promoting food and farming. Food and farming is the number one manufacturing industry in our country, responsible for a lot of skilled jobs.

Q: The prime minister is known for keeping ministers in post and not reshuffling. Is this a long term post should you win the general election?

LT: You absolutely never know. I was obviously delighted to get this job. It’s an area I am extremely interested in, to be responsible for things from air quality to the natural environment, and food and farming, and water supply. These are all the essentials of life.

You never go into a meeting with the prime minister expecting something. I think there is more work to do, particularly in changing perceptions of food and farming.

We have got some of the most advanced technology here in Norfolk – look at the work the John Innes does. And I am delighted that George Freeman has been promoted to minister for Life Sciences.

Q: Do you think we need to encourage greater take up of GM foods in this country?

LT: I do think we should look at that and follow the science on GM. We know some of these technologies can mean fewer pesticides are required.

Q: Were you suprised that both you and Michael Gove were given different jobs? Would you have liked to have stepped up in education?

LT: I am extremely happy here. Education was a fantastic department to work in, and it was something I was passionate about.

Actually there is a lot of crossover – the first thing I did was how schools can source their food differently.

Making sure children understand where food comes from is something I put in place as an education minister. I think Nicky Morgan [the new education secretary] has already made a fantastic start to the job.

Q: There were suggestions that the reshuffle, and particularly the promotion of women to the cabinet, was more about tokenism ahead of the next election. How do you respond to that?

LT: There are all kinds of things that get written in the media. The way I see it is that I am doing a job that I am passionate about.

Q: Do you believe in climate change or are you a sceptic?

LT: I believe that climate change is happening and I think human beings have contributed to that.

My role in Defra is to make sure we adapt as necessary climate change, to make sure we protect people and wildlife.

Q; You previously worked for Shell. Some people may view that negatively given your new role?

LT: Having worked for Shell it has given me a lot of good experience in terms of making things happen. I worked in natural gas. But I always understood that fossil fuels will not last forever and we need to find alternative sources of energy.

Corporations have a view. My views are informed by what I think, and also representations made to me by scientists and organisations.

Q: You campaigned heavily against the King’s Lynn incinerator. Now you are a minister likely to make decisions on this are you still opposed to incineration?

LT: Clearly it was Owen Patterson that took the decision to withdraw the PFI credits. Any decision I would obviously have to take on its own merits. I have always said I was never against incineration. I felt the (King’s Lynn) decision didn’t stack up (economically) and it was too big given the amount of waste Norfolk needed to deal with.

Q: Can you still fight for Norfolk now that you have your new job?

LT: I remain a constituency MP, and it’s really important working with my Norfolk colleagues on pan-Norfolk issues such as dualling the A47 and improving infrastructure. With RAF Marham there are huge opportunities to expand the engineering facilities there and I will carry on working on that.

Norfolk has huge potential and the case is extremely strong. The county has been hard done by in the past.

Q: What of your own ambitions? Did you see yourself making it to this level when you started out?

LT: Not really. I was interested in politics. I have had a business career but have found politics interesting.

I have always focussed on what I can do to make things happen and to change things.

12 comments

  • Citizen - I think poor old Gunderam's a bit confused. Brandon is in West Suffolk, and Matthew Hancock is the local MP. This may be why Ms Truss "did nothing about the Brandon railway gates"! (doesn't explain why Hancock's done nothing about it though!!)

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    Norfolk and Good

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • @gunderam - ET was endorsing doubling the train service on the Kings Lynn line. How does that affect Brandon level crossing?

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    Citizen of EUSSR

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Very funny D - you tried that old chestnut a few months back. Eating scraps from another dog's bowl is very different to enjoying steak in the company of good friends. Keep dreaming!

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    Fenscape 2

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • Mixed reaction to our MP. Great job on Marham - a high profile coup like that is only going to get you promoted! Failed south west Norfolk by not only doing nothing about the Brandon railway gates but instead endorsing a doubling of the railway traffic, making life even worse for everyone in that area. Don't think there will be many votes from South West Norfolk come the general election.

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    gunderam

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • If I don`t know `anything` then I must know `something`. Just for you and Trigger. I must get out more!

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    democrat

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • Well of course not. You don't know anything.

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    Del Boy

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • Wow, I didn`t know you were THAT important D!

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    democrat

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • Nice to see care in the community handing out laptops to pensioners. Wrong again. I have never been a councillor. A lot closer to campaign HQ than that. Where do you get your info ? Off a cereal box ?

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    Del Boy

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • Nice to see that the Turnip Taliban is still alive and well...... thing is old chap, she's in Government and you're just a washed up old ex-councillor with a chip on your shoulder. Pip pip!

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    Fenscape 2

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

  • Oh yes Sandy and too big which suggests a slightly smaller one would be fine to a person that was never against it in the first place. Why she is called LT and not ET in this article is an amusing aside.

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    Del Boy

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

  • When quoting, it's always best to quote the whole comment, not just the piece you like Del.!! Quote LT "I felt the (King’s Lynn) decision DIDN'T stack up (economically) and it was too big given the amount of waste Norfolk needed to deal with."

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    Sandy.L

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

  • Quote E. Truss MP on King's Lynn Incinerator; "Any decision I would obviously have to take on its own merits. I have always said I was never against incineration."....................Correct Elizabeth now try explaining that to the campaigners........I have but they wont listen.

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    Del Boy

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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