Elizabeth Truss

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The Right Honourable
Liz Truss
Liz Truss.jpg
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Assumed office
15 July 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Owen Paterson
Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Education and Childcare
In office
4 September 2012 – 15 July 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Sarah Teather (Minister of State for Schools and Families)
Succeeded by Nick Gibb
Member of Parliament
for South West Norfolk
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Christopher Fraser
Majority 13,861 (27.7%)
Personal details
Born (1975-07-26) 26 July 1975 (age 40)
Oxford, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Children 2
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Website Official website

Elizabeth Mary "Liz" Truss[1] (born 26 July 1975) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for South West Norfolk since the 2010 general election. Since 15 July 2014, she has served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Truss grew up in a left-wing family in Paisley and Leeds, before graduating at the University of Oxford. She worked in sales and as an economist, before becoming deputy director at the think-tank Reform. She was elected in 2010 for South West Norfolk.

As a backbencher, Truss called for reform in a number of policy areas, including childcare, maths education, and the economy.[2] She founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs. She has authored and co-authored a number of papers and books, including After the Coalition (2011) and Britannia Unchained (2012).

In September 2012, she was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education and childcare in the Department for Education.[3]

Since her appointment as Environment Secretary, Truss has been subject to international criticism for being a key player in the UK's shift away from clean energy.[4]

Early life[edit]

Truss was raised in a northern, left-wing household; her father, John Truss, is a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds; her mother was a nurse, teacher, and member of the CND.[5] Truss has described both as being "to the left of Labour".[2] When Truss later ran for election to Parliament, her mother agreed to campaign for her but her father due to his politics declined to do so.[2][6]

Truss attended a state primary school in Paisley, in Scotland,[2] followed by Roundhay School, a comprehensive school in north-east Leeds. She lived in Canada for a year, and contrasts the competitive attitude in schooling there with the "trendy" education she received in Leeds.[2] Amongst her A-levels, Truss studied both Ordinary Maths and Advanced Maths.[7] She read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Merton College, Oxford.

After graduation in 1996, she worked for Shell as a commercial manager and Cable & Wireless as economics director, and became a qualified management accountant.[8] Truss became the deputy director of Reform in January 2008,[9] where she advocated more rigorous academic standards in schools, a greater focus on tackling serious and organised crime, and urgent action to deal with Britain's falling competitiveness. She co-authored The Value of Mathematics[10] and A New Level[11] amongst other reports.

Truss was President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats and expressed republican sentiments at the 1994 Liberal Democrats conference.[12][13] Truss joined the Conservative Party in 1996.[14] She served as the chairman of the Lewisham Deptford Conservative Association from 1998 to 2000.[14] She was elected as a councillor in the London Borough of Greenwich in 2006, standing down in 2010, shortly before the end of her term of office.


She had previously unsuccessfully fought the parliamentary seats of Hemsworth in 2001 and Calder Valley in 2005.[15]

In October 2009, she was selected for the South West Norfolk seat by members of the constituency Conservative Association, and won over 50% of the vote in the first round of the final against five other candidates, one of whom was local to the county.[16][17] However, shortly afterwards, some members of the constituency Association, dubbed the 'Turnip Taliban' and led by former High Sheriff of Norfolk Sir Jeremy Bagge, 7th Baronet,[18] objected to Truss's selection, claiming that information about her extramarital affair with Conservative MP Mark Field (reported to have taken place several years previously) had been withheld from the members.[19][20] A motion was proposed to terminate Truss's candidature, but this was defeated by 132 votes to 37 at a general meeting of the Association's members three weeks later.[21]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Since being elected to Parliament on 6 May 2010, she has campaigned for issues including the retention of the RAF Tornado base at RAF Marham in her constituency;[22] over seven months she asked 13 questions in the Commons about RAF Marham, secured a special debate on the subject, wrote dozens of letters to ministers and collected signatures on a petition which was delivered to Downing Street.[23] She also successfully lobbied for the dualling of the A11 west of Thetford.[24] With an eye on the Thetford Forest, in her constituency, she spoke out against the proposal to sell off forests[25] and played a leading role in thwarting a waste incinerator being built in West Norfolk.[23] Her work to campaign for design improvements to road junctions in her constituency, notably the A47, led to her being named as Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month by road safety charity Brake in January 2013.[26]

In March 2011, she wrote a paper for the liberal think-tank CentreForum in which she argued for an end to bias against serious academic subjects in the education system so that social mobility can be improved.[27] Truss wrote a further paper for the same think-tank in May 2012, in which she argued for change in the structure of the childcare market in Britain.[28]

In October 2011, she founded the Free Enterprise Group, which has been supported by over 40 other Conservative MPs.[29] In September 2011, together with four other members of the Free Enterprise Group, she had co-authored After the Coalition, a book which sought to challenge the consensus that Britain's economic decline is inevitable by arguing for the return of a more entrepreneurial and meritocratic culture.[30] A further volume by the same authors, Britannia Unchained, billed as "an insightful and critical assessment of Britain's challenges in the face of future uncertainty", was published in September 2012.[31] As part of a serialisation in the Daily Telegraph, Truss wrote an article previewing her chapter on the importance of science in education.[32] The piece was praised by the physicist Brian Cox as an "excellent article".[33]

Truss has championed Britain following Germany's lead in allowing people to have tax-free and less-heavily regulated "mini-jobs".[34] Since Truss published a paper on the policy for the Free Enterprise Group in February 2012, the policy has been examined by the Treasury as a policy to promote growth.[35][36]

Truss has campaigned for improved teaching of more rigorous school subjects, especially mathematics. She has publicised that only 20% of British students study maths to 18,[7] and called for maths classes to be compulsory for all of those in full-time education.[37] Truss herself studied double A-level maths.[7] She has argued that comprehensive school pupils are being "mis-sold" easy, low-value subjects to boost school results: with comprehensive school pupils six times as likely to take media studies at A-level as privately educated pupils are.[38] Truss has also criticised the over-reliance on calculators to the detriment of mental arithmetic.[39]

From March 2011, she was a Member of the Justice Select Committee[40] until she was appointed as a minister.

Junior Minister in the Department for Education[edit]

On 4 September 2012, Truss was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education, with responsibility for childcare and early learning, assessment, qualifications and curriculum reform, behaviour and attendance, and school food review.[41] In this role, she developed some of the policy areas that she had pursued as a backbencher.

In January 2013, she announced proposals to reform A-Levels, by concentrating examinations at the end of two-year courses.[42] She sought to improve British standards in maths for fear that children are falling behind those in Asian countries,[43] and led a fact-finding visit to visit schools and teacher-training centres in Shanghai in February 2014 to see how children there have become the best in the world at maths.[44]

Truss also outlined plans to reform childcare, intended to overhaul childcare qualifications, and provide more choice of quality education and care for parents.[45] The proposed reforms were broadly welcomed by some organisations such as the charity 4Children,[46] the Confederation of British Industry[47] and the College of West Anglia.[48] However, the proposals met opposition from others. The TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady and the then Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg were among those criticising the reforms,[49] echoed by some parents and childcare bodies, such as the charity National Day Nurseries Association.[50]

The columnist Polly Toynbee was highly critical of the minister's plans,[51] and challenged Truss to demonstrate how to care for two babies alongside four toddlers on her own. Truss responded to Toynbee's challenge by saying that being an early educator was a very demanding job, requiring great and specialist expertise, for which she was not trained.[52] In the event, aspects of the reforms relating to relaxation of childcare ratios were blocked by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.[53]

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs[edit]

On 15 July 2014, she was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replacing Owen Paterson.[54] In apparent contrast to her predecessor,[55] Truss declared that she fully believed that climate change is happening,[56] and that "human beings have contributed to that."[57]

In November 2014, Truss launched a new 10-year bee and pollinator strategy to try and reverse the trend of falling bee populations,[58] including a strategy to revive traditional meadows which provide the most fertile habitat for pollinators. In July 2015, she approved the limited temporary lifting of an EU ban on the use of two neonicotinoid pesticides, enabling their use for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oil seed rape crop to ward off the cabbage stem flea beetle;[59] campaigners have warned that pesticides have been shown to harm bees by damaging their renowned ability to navigate home.[60]

Truss cut taxpayer subsidies for solar panels on agricultural land, as her view was that the land could be better used to grow crops, food and vegetables.[61] She described farming and food as "hotbeds of innovation"[62] and promoted the production and export of British food, including cheese, pork pies and apples.[63]

Although technically a free vote, in March 2015 she was one of only two Cabinet Ministers to vote against the government's proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.[64]


Critics who have attempted to engage with her, according to one source, say that she is "indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience. She was among the first ministers to put her own department on the block in the latest spending review, volunteering massive cuts. She seems determined to dismantle the protections that secure our quality of life: the rules and agencies defending the places and wildlife we love."[65]



  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 59418. p. 8744. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e Asthana, Anushka (9 June 2012). "The lady's for turning, right from CND to Conservative". The Times. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Truss MP". Department for Education. 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  4. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34555821 UN's chief environment scientist criticises UK's recent poor environmental record
  5. ^ "Profile: Elizabeth Truss". The Sunday Times. 8 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  6. ^ Forsyth, James (23 June 2012). "Next right". The Spectator. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  7. ^ a b c McGurran, Deborah (28 March 2012). "Norfolk MP calls for cash for maths". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  8. ^ "Biography", Elizabeth Truss' official website
  9. ^ "Guardian contributor page". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  10. ^ "The value of mathematics", Reform, June 2008
  11. ^ "A new level", Reform, June 2009
  12. ^ Truss flirted with Lib Dems before embracing Tories, The Times, 17 July 2014
  13. ^ Liberal Democrat conference: the spirit of Roy Jenkins lives on, The Guardian, 4 September 2012
  14. ^ a b "Elizabeth Truss MP". BBC Democracy Live (BBC). Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  15. ^ "Electoral History and Profile", The Guardian
  16. ^ "David Cameron phones local grandee", The Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2009
  17. ^ "Iain Dale's EDP column", Eastern Daily Press, 31 October 2009
  18. ^ “Sir Jeremy Bagge reveals his thoughts about his Tory group's nicknames”, "Daily Mail" 21 November 2009
  19. ^ “Tory's affair details 'withheld at meeting'”, "Eastern Daily Press" 30 October 2009
  20. ^ "A field day for the Tory old guard", by Andy McSmith, The Independent, 16 November 2009
  21. ^ "Tory woman wins selection battle", BBC News, 17 November 2009
  22. ^ "Campaign aim to keep Tornado base at RAF Marham", BBC News, 13 November 2010
  23. ^ a b "Elizabeth Truss joins the cabinet table in reshuffle", BBC News, 18 July 2014
  24. ^ "Former minister’s regret over A11 dualling", EDP, 17 March 2011
  25. ^ "Government urged to grant heritage status to Thetford Forest", EDP, 2 February 2011
  26. ^ "Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month", Brake, January 2013
  27. ^ "Academic rigour and social mobility: how low income students are being kept out of top jobs", CentreForum, 15 March 2011
  28. ^ "Affordable quality: new approaches to childcare", CentreForum, May 2012
  29. ^ "Free Enterprise Group", FEG website
  30. ^ "After the Coalition", Biteback Publishing, 16 September 2011
  31. ^ "Britannia Unchained", Palgrave Macmillan
  32. ^ "We must shift science out of the geek ghetto", The Daily Telegraph, 4 September 2012
  33. ^ "Brian Cox tweet", Twitter, 4 September 2012
  34. ^ Jowit, Juliette (19 August 2012). "Treasury considers bid to boost employment with tax-free 'mini-jobs'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  35. ^ Cooper, Rachel (20 August 2012). "Treasury 'considers tax-free mini-jobs to spur employment'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  36. ^ Warrell, Helen; Bryant, Chris (19 August 2012). "Treasury weighs German 'mini jobs' scheme". Financial Times. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  37. ^ Coughlan, Sean (21 June 2012). "Maths should be compulsory until 18, says MP report". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  38. ^ Paton, Graeme (15 June 2011). "Comprehensive school pupils 'mis-sold' soft A-level courses". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  39. ^ McGurran, Deborah (1 December 2011). "Elizabeth Truss in a calculated move on maths". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  40. ^ "Justice committee – membership", UK Parliament, March 2011
  41. ^ "Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare", gov.uk website. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  42. ^ "A-level shake up will 'end the treadmill' of repeated exams", BBC Democracy Live, 23 January 2013
  43. ^ "Liz Truss: strong media personality with big ideas on schooling", The Guardian, 15 July 22014
  44. ^ "Shanghai visit for minister to learn maths lessons", BBC News, 18 February 2014
  45. ^ "Childcare restrictions to be relaxed, minister announces", The Guardian, 29 January 2013
  46. ^ "Parents to have more choice of high quality childcare", Department for Education, 29 January 2013
  47. ^ "Coalition promises 'More Great Childcare' amid growing anxiety in the nursery sector", daynurseries.co.uk, 29 January 2013
  48. ^ "College supports childcare changes", Lynn News, 8 February 2013
  49. ^ "Childcare plans will hit standards, Labour warns", Channel 4 News, 29 January 2013
  50. ^ "Quality of early education must not be sacrificed if we want More Great Childcare says national charity", NDNA, 29 January 2013
  51. ^ "How do you fit six toddlers into a buggy? Ask Liz Truss", The Guardian, 29 January 2013
  52. ^ "Childcare reform proposals face fierce criticism", The Guardian, 29 January 2013
  53. ^ "Childcare Ratio Shake-Up Blocked By Clegg", Sky News, 6 June 2013
  54. ^ "Biography", gov.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2014
  55. ^ "Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to deliver keynote speech at climate-sceptic organisation's lecture", Independent, 18 July 2014
  56. ^ "Environment Secretary Liz Truss says climate change 'is happening'", Western Morning News, 9 January 2015
  57. ^ "Tokenism, climate change, King’s Lynn incinerator, farming and food: Q&A with Environment Secretary and Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss", Eastern Daily Press, 25 July 2014
  58. ^ "Liz Truss: leave lawnmower in the shed to protect UK’s bees", The Guardian, 4 November 2014
  59. ^ "UK suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees", The Guardian, 23 July 2015
  60. ^ "Pesticides linked to honeybee decline", The Guardian, 29 March 2012
  61. ^ "Solar farms are a blight on the landscape, says minister", BBC News, 18 July 2014
  62. ^ "Environment Secretary Liz Truss flies the flag for British apples", Western Daily Press, 25 September 2014
  63. ^ "Elizabeth Truss at French food expo selling UK food", BBC News, 27 October 2014
  64. ^ "Cigarettes to be sold in plain packets by 2016", The Times, 12 March 2015
  65. ^ Monbiot, George (12 November 2015). "Toothless Environment Agency is allowing the living world to be wrecked with impunity". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-13. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Christopher Fraser
Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk
Political offices
Preceded by
Owen Paterson
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs