Ranil Jayawardena, of Sri Lankan origin, has been named as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the first cabinet of the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Leaving his post as Under-Secretary for International Trade, Jayawardena will take over from George Eustice MP, who held the post for over two years following Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle in February 2020.
In a statement on Twitter, Jayawardena shared: “It is a privilege to be appointed the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra). From food security and backing British farmers, to water security and growing our rural economy, I know that there is much to do. It is so important to recognise where our food comes from.”
Kemi Badenoch, who went up against Truss in the Conservative leadership race, will take over from Jayawardena at the Department for International Trade.
His appointment is accompanied by those of Alok Sharma, as new president of COP26, and Graham Stuart, as Minister for Climate in the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
First elected in May 2015, Jayawardena is not shy of high-profile cabinet positions, having been named as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party by Boris Johnson in February 2020. He was also a member of the International Trade, Home Affairs, Procedure, and Arms Export Controls Committees.
It was just three months later that he was moved to the Department of International Trade, following the resignation of Conor Burns.
Prior to his career in Westminster, Jayawardena worked for Lloyds Banking Group while working his way up in Local Government. In 2008, he was appointed Deputy Leader of the Borough of Basingstoke and Dean, an area in his current constituency, before running for Parliament in 2015.
Alongside a continued interest in policing, crime, and railway networks, Jayawardena has often voted on environmental legislation. He has voted against a number of clauses in the Environment Bill, including one permitting landowners to install CCTV cameras where fly-tipping has occurred in the past, and one prohibiting the burning of peat in upland areas.
The MP expressed a deeper interest in the importance of land sustainability and its connections to farming, with the formation of the Agriculture Bill 2020.
In a 2018 debate with then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Jayawardena asked: “Is it not true that the high standards we have in this country and some of the niche products we produce are what make our exports so attractive, so the Bill, by creating a greener agricultural system and rewarding farmers for doing the right thing in managing our environment for the long run, is good not only for our economy, our environment and our people, but for trade?”