Secretary of State for the Environment

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Department of the Environment
Department overview
Formed 15 October 1970
Preceding agencies
Dissolved 1997
Superseding agency
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Headquarters London, England, UK

The Secretary of State for the Environment was a UK cabinet position, responsible for the Department of the Environment (DoE). This was created by Edward Heath as a combination of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Public Building and Works on 15 October 1970. Thus it managed a mixed portfolio of issues: housing and planning, local government, public buildings, environmental protection and, initially, transport - James Callaghan gave transport its own department again in 1976. It has been asserted that during the Thatcher government the DoE led the drive towards centralism, and the undermining of local government.[1] Particularly, the concept of 'inner cities policy', often involving centrally negotiated public-private partnerships and centrally appointed development corporations, which moved control of many urban areas to the centre, and away from their, often left-wing, local authorities.[1]

In 1997, when Labour came to power, the DoE was merged with the Department of Transport to form the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), thus, essentially, restoring the DoE to its initial 1970 portfolio. The titular mention of 'the Regions' referred to the government's pledge to create regional government. In the wake of the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, the environmental protection elements of the DETR were split of and merged with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), to form the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Meanwhile, the transport, housing and planning, and local and regional government aspects went to a new Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). A year later the DTLR also split, with transport getting its own department and the rest going to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Secretaries of State for the Environment[edit]

Name Term of office Political party Prime Minister
Peter Walker 15 October 1970 5 November 1972 Conservative Edward Heath
Geoffrey Rippon 5 November 1972 4 March 1974 Conservative
Anthony Crosland 5 March 1974 8 April 1976 Labour Harold Wilson
Peter Shore 8 April 1976 4 May 1979 Labour James Callaghan
Michael Heseltine 5 May 1979 6 January 1983 Conservative Margaret Thatcher
Tom King 6 January 1983 11 June 1983 Conservative
Patrick Jenkin 11 June 1983 2 September 1985 Conservative
Kenneth Baker 2 September 1985 21 May 1986 Conservative
Nicholas Ridley 21 May 1986 24 July 1989 Conservative
Chris Patten 24 July 1989 28 November 1990 Conservative
Michael Heseltine 28 November 1990 11 April 1992 Conservative John Major
Michael Howard 11 April 1992 27 May 1993 Conservative
John Gummer 27 May 1993 2 May 1997 Conservative


  1. ^ a b Peter Hennessy, Whitehall p.439