Owen Paterson

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The Right Honourable
Owen Paterson
Official portrait of Mr Owen Paterson crop 2.jpg
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
4 September 2012 – 14 July 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Caroline Spelman
Succeeded by Liz Truss
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Shaun Woodward
Succeeded by Theresa Villiers
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
2 July 2007 – 11 May 2010
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by David Lidington
Succeeded by Shaun Woodward
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition
In office
13 September 2001 – 6 November 2003
Alongside Alistair Burt (2002-03)
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by John Whittingdale
Succeeded by Alistair Burt
Member of Parliament
for North Shropshire
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by John Biffen
Majority 15,828 (30.5%)
Personal details
Born Owen William Paterson
(1956-06-24) 24 June 1956 (age 61)
Whitchurch, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Rose Ridley
Children Felix
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
University of Northampton
Website owenpaterson.org

Owen William Paterson (born 24 June 1956) is a British Conservative Party politician who was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 until 2014. He was first elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Shropshire in 1997.

Paterson was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet of David Cameron in 2007 as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. During the formation of the Coalition Government in 2010, he was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, where he remained until being moved to DEFRA in 2012.

In 2014, he established and became the Chairman of UK 2020, a centre-right think tank based in Westminster.

Early life and career[edit]

Paterson was born in Whitchurch, Shropshire. He attended Abberley Hall School and Radley College, before beginning studies at Cambridge University, where he read History at Corpus Christi College. He then went on to the National Leathersellers College (now the British School of Leather Technology at the University of Northampton).[1]

He joined the British Leather Company in 1979, becoming Sales Director in 1983 and managing director from 1993 to 1999. He was President of COTANCE (the Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community),[2] the European Tanners Confederation from 1996–98. He was a Director of Parsons and Sons[3] leather company in Halesowen in the 1990s. Paterson is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Leathersellers' Company.

At the 1992 general election, Paterson contested Wrexham, but the incumbent Labour MP extended his lead with a 2.4% swing.

Parliamentary career[edit]

Paterson was first elected as the Member of Parliament for North Shropshire at the 1997 general election with a majority of 2,195 and has increased his majority at each subsequent election, up to 16,584 in 2015.[4]

He served on several committees, including the Welsh Affairs Committee (1997–2001), the European Standing Committee (1998–2001), and the Agriculture Committee (2000–01).[5] Paterson is a supporter of the Royal Irish Regiment, which has been based in his constituency at Tern Hill.[6]

Early front bench posts[edit]

Paterson was Shadow Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister from 2003 to 2005. As agriculture spokesman he campaigned for the dairy industry. He visited Michigan, Maryland and Washington to discuss Bovine TB policy, writing extensively on the issue facing the UK.[7] He travelled all over the North Atlantic to produce a Green paper on Fisheries.[8] Paterson joined the crew of the Kiroan, one of the few remaining trawlers out of Fleetwood, Lancashire, to view the fishing practices that have been created by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.[9] He wrote the Green paper "Consultation on a National Policy on Fisheries Management in U.K. Waters"[10] which was used by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight Campaign.[citation needed]

Paterson served as Shadow Minister for Transport from 2005 to 2007. Whilst he was Shadow Minister for Roads, Paterson researched relevant best practice and the latest ideas from Europe and North America.[8]

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland[edit]

He was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 2 July 2007.

Paterson negotiated an agreement with the Ulster Unionist Party to re-establish the traditional links between the two parties, which was broken in 1972.[11] This included running joint Conservative/UUP candidates for the 2009 European and 2010 general elections.

News of this alliance was praised by several Conservatives, including Iain Dale and ConservativeHome.[12][13] However, the alliance caused the UUP's only MP, Sylvia Hermon, to resign from the UUP. Lady Hermon retained her seat successfully against the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists in the 2010 Westminster election. The UUP lost seats at the assembly elections the following year.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland[edit]

Paterson was appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Coalition Government on 12 May 2010.[14] He was created a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.[15]

One of his first tasks was overseeing the publication and delivery of the Saville Report on the events of Bloody Sunday in January 1972, which led to an apology by the Prime Minister David Cameron.[16] He worked with the Treasury to deliver his promise of a consultation on the devolution of the power to reduce the rate of Corporation Tax[17] to Stormont. Paterson stated that "Rebalancing and rebuilding the economy is critical to the future prosperity of Northern Ireland and it is one of the Government's key priorities for Northern Ireland."[18] He has been outspoken on the issue of integrated education in Northern Ireland. Currently 95% of Northern Ireland pupils attend a segregated school. Paterson believes segregated education is not working; in October 2010 he said: “there's a school in Belfast with no pupils and there's a school in Belfast with more staff than pupils. That's just a criminal waste of public money. We cannot go on bearing the cost of segregation and I don't see why the British taxpayer should continue to subsidise segregation."[19]

Paterson was the first cabinet member to publicly oppose the Coalition Government's Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill,[20] defying David Cameron and ministerial convention.[21]

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

Paterson speaking in 2013

Paterson was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in September 2012.[22]

Despite his voting record "moderately for" laws to stop climate change,[23] he is a climate change sceptic,[22] and has not accepted David MacKay's offer of a briefing on climate change science.[24] During his time in office, Paterson cut funding for climate change adaptation by approximately 40%. In 2014 the outgoing Environment Agency chair Chris Smith said that flood defence budget cuts had left the agency underfunded and hampered its ability to prevent and respond to flooding in the UK.[25][26][27] When asked in a 2013 BBC interview about the alleged failure of a badger cull he had been responsible for, Paterson famously replied that "the badgers have moved the goalposts."[28]

Paterson voted and spoke strongly against the fox hunting ban, in one speech likening supporters of the bill to Nazis.[22][29][30] Coming as Justine Greening was removed as Transport Secretary, Paterson's appointment was widely considered to be part of a move back towards the expansion of Heathrow Airport, given his support for aviation.[31][32] Paterson stated on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? in June 2013 that "the temperature has not changed in the last 17 years ...".[33]

Paterson is known as a strong supporter of GMO food technology. Even before he acceded to DEFRA in September 2012, he spoke at length in June of the same year at the Rothamsted Research facility and invited GMO innovators to take root in the UK.[34] In December 2012, he labelled consumer opposition to the technology as a “complete nonsense”.[35] In October 2013, he branded opponents to the development of a type of GMO rice enriched with vitamin A "wicked".[36]

Paterson was mentioned by journalist Benedict Brogan as a possible replacement on the European Commission when the term of Baroness Ashton expires.[37] Paterson was one of three MPs to leave the cabinet as part of the re-shuffle on 15 July 2014, and was succeeded by Elizabeth Truss as Environment Secretary.[38][39] His departure was widely attributed to his handling of the summer floods and the badger cull.[40][41][42] In a blog for The Guardian, George Monbiot ascribed to Paterson "the worst environment secretary this country has ever suffered".[43] Paterson praises Britain’s shale gas reserves as “one unexpected and potentially huge windfall.”[22] The Guardian reported in December 2014 that Paterson had spoken the previous October at a meeting of the London Swinton Group, which opposes non-white immigration and calls for the return of capital punishment.[44]

Paterson as Brexiteer[edit]

Retiring to the backbenches Paterson, long known for his Eurosceptic views, supported the successful Leave.EU campaign. On Sunday 26 June 2016, he spoke about his long friendship with colleague Sir Bill Cash MP, who has shared his career ambitions for Brexit. Earlier in the year, he spoke at an international forum outlining his vision for Britain outside the Union.[45] Throughout the campaign he was an active voice, setting out the reasons in his constituency for a decision to go it alone.[46] In 2015, he joined John Redwood to found an internal pressure group Conservatives in Britain which took pride of place at the party conference in Manchester pledging on the fringe to strive for independence from European interventionism; it formed the backbone of the Conservative effort for Leave: "if there are individuals in the cabinet who are not happy with the deal, they should be allowed to campaign,” he told The Daily Telegraph, alluding perhaps to the real reason for his own resignation the previous year.[47] He continued to be critical of Prime Minister Cameron's attempts to negotiate a settlement with European Union over net migration figures, an issue that featured highly in the referendum campaign.[48]

In 2014, Owen Paterson established UK 2020, an independent centre-right think tank, to develop policies to address challenging and complex public policy areas.[49] In his role as Chairman, Paterson has delivered a number of speeches and written Op-Eds in favour of GM crops,[50][51] and against the European Union and "exaggerated" climate change forecasts.[52] [53][54]

Personal life[edit]

Paterson married Rose Ridley, the daughter of Matthew Ridley, 4th Viscount Ridley and sister of Matt Ridley in 1980.[55] They have two sons and a daughter. They are Felix, Ned and Evie.[56] Paterson speaks fluent French and German. His wealth is estimated at £1.5m.[57]

Paterson is a keen horse rider and racer. He has ridden across Turkmenistan and most recently Mongolia.[58] His daughter, Evie, is a successful eventer who won the British Junior Eventing Championships in 2008, aged 16.[59]

In February 2014, he suffered from a detached retina and required urgent surgery to prevent loss of sight in that eye.[60][61]


  1. ^ "British School of Leather Technology". Archived from the original on 30 April 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2007. 
  2. ^ "COTANCE". Euroleather. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  3. ^ www.parsonsandsons.co.uk Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "BBC – Shropshire's MPs hold onto their seats". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "Rt Hon Owen Paterson". Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Politicians clash in wristband row". Shropshire Star. 9 October 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Paterson, Owen (6 December 2005). "Owen Paterson MP visits the USA to discuss Bovine TB Policy". Farmers Weekly. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "The Conservative Party|People|Members of Parliament|Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP". Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Charles Clover, Richard North (18 October 2004). "Fishermen call for end to slaughter caused by EU net laws". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Paterson MP, Owen (January 2005), Consultation on a National Policy on Fisheries Management in UK Waters (PDF), Conservative Party, retrieved 16 September 2011 
  11. ^ Andrew Porter (23 July 2008). "David Cameron launches biggest Conservative shake-up for decades". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  12. ^ Iain Dale (24 July 2008). "A Landmark Day for Northern Ireland Politics". Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Jonathan Isaby (21 November 2008). "In praise of Owen Paterson and the Tory/UUP deal". ConservativeHome. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Owen Paterson new NI Secretary of State". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 13 May 2010". Privy Council. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Bloody Sunday: PM David Cameron's full statement". BBC News. 15 June 2010. 
  17. ^ "NI corporation tax cut 'benefits all' – Owen Paterson". BBC News. 30 March 2011. 
  18. ^ [1] Archived 20 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Paterson sparks segregation row - UTV Live News". U.tv. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  20. ^ Watt, Nicholas (22 May 2012). "Tory minister Owen Paterson opposes gay marriage". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "Owen Paterson to defy Cameron on gay marriage vote". The Shropshire Star. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c d Watt, Holly (4 September 2012). "Owen Paterson becomes new Environment Secretary". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  23. ^ "Owen Paterson's Voting Record". They Work For You. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Webster, Ben (28 September 2013). "Climate expert David MacKay plants artificial tree idea for reducing warming". The Australian. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  25. ^ Carrington, Damian (8 July 2014). "Flooding: documents reveal UK government’s spin on protection cuts" – via The Guardian. 
  26. ^ Carrington, Damian (27 January 2014). "UK climate change spend almost halved under Owen Paterson, figures reveal" – via The Guardian. 
  27. ^ Carrington, Damian (26 June 2014). "Lord Smith: flooding budget cuts put UK at the mercy of extreme weather" – via The Guardian. 
  28. ^ "Badgers 'moved goalposts' says minister Owen Paterson". BBC. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  29. ^ Davern, Fin. "MPs ban foxhunting". London: The Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  30. ^ "Owen Paterson faces choice between ideology and evidence". Business Green. September 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  31. ^ Groves, Jason; Robinson, Martin (September 2012). "'It's a fudgearama!' Boris hammers Cameron over third runway for Heathrow and pledges to lead campaign against it". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  32. ^ "Green groups' concern over Owen Paterson record". BBC. September 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  33. ^ Cusick, James (29 November 2013). "Owen Paterson, his sceptic brother-in-law, and how Defra went cold on climate change". London: The Independent. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP speech to Rothamsted Research - Speeches - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  35. ^ Kirkup, By Robert Winnett and James. "Food minister Owen Paterson backs GM crops". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  36. ^ "GM 'golden rice' opponents wicked, says minister Owen Paterson". BBC News. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  37. ^ "Opinion". 
  38. ^ Phipps, Claire (15 July 2014). "Reshuffle at a glance: who's in and who's out". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  39. ^ "LIVE: Who's in and who's out - the full reshuffle list". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  40. ^ "Cabinet reshuffle: A new-look team that David Cameron hopes will keep him in Downing Street". The Independent. London. 15 July 2014. 
  41. ^ "Seven Priorities for Liz Truss, the New Environment Secretary". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  42. ^ "Badger cull protesters crow as Owen Paterson sacked in Cabinet reshuffle". Somerset Live. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  43. ^ Monbiot, George (15 July 2014). "Ban neonicotinoids now – to avert another silent spring". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  44. ^ Mason, Rowena (17 December 2014). "Senior Conservatives in spotlight over speeches to 'vile' rightwing fringe group". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  45. ^ Paterson, Owen (25 April 2016). "The Future of Europe". Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  46. ^ "North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson emerges as key figure for Brexit". Shropshire Star. 20 February 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  47. ^ "50 Conservative MPs ready to lead campaign for EU exit". The Guardian. Press Association. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  48. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (30 November 2014). "Owen Paterson: immigration issue cannot wait for EU renegotiation". Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  49. ^ UK 2020. "UK 2020 About". Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  50. ^ Paterson, Owen (29 November 2014). "Frankenfine". The Economist. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  51. ^ Webster, Ben (24 February 2015). "GM protesters 'condemning millions to hunger'". The Times. Retrieved 14 May 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  52. ^ "Ex-Conservative minister Owen Paterson urges UK's EU exit". BBC News. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  53. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (15 October 2014). "Former Environment Secretary: climate change forecasts are 'wildly exaggerated'". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  54. ^ Driver, Alistair (5 August 2015). "Owen Paterson - still battling the 'green blob' one year on". FG Insight. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  55. ^ "www.burkespeerage.com". www.burkespeerage.com. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  56. ^ "About Owen". Owen Paterson. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  57. ^ Glen Owen The coalition of millionaires: 23 of the 29 member of the new cabinet are worth more than £1m... and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories Mail on Sunday 23 May 2010
  58. ^ Cassandra Jardine (5 August 2011). "Owen Paterson on the Mongol Derby". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  59. ^ "MP's daughter scoops title". 21 May 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2008. 
  60. ^ "MP Owen Paterson to have urgent operation on detached retina". BBC News. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  61. ^ "Owen Paterson to miss Cobra meeting for eye surgery". ITV. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Biffen
Member of Parliament
for North Shropshire

Political offices
Preceded by
David Lidington
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Shaun Woodward
Preceded by
Shaun Woodward
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Theresa Villiers
Preceded by
Caroline Spelman
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Succeeded by
Liz Truss