Natural England’s Longest-Serving Chair Retires

Andrew Sells retires today as Chair of Natural England after five years

Andrew Sells

Andrew Sells

Reflecting on his time with the government’s adviser on the natural environment, Andrew paid tribute to colleagues and partners.

He said:

It has been a huge privilege to serve as Chair of Natural England. Protecting and enhancing the natural environment has been a considerable challenge, especially in a difficult financial climate, but I am very proud to have given it my best.

I have nothing but admiration for our knowledgeable and inspirational staff, and I have been fortunate to have the constant support of a high-calibre board. It has also been my great pleasure to work so closely with such a diverse range of partners.

Appointed in January 2014, Andrew is the third Chair of Natural England and the longest serving in its 12-year history. Sir Martin Doughty was Chair from 2006 to 2009 and Poul Christensen from 2009 to 2013.

During the last five years Natural England has:

  • Moved to a structure of area teams to ensure it takes decisions in collaboration with those closest to the environment
  • Adopted a conservation strategy – Conservation 21 – to guide its work in creating resilient landscapes and seas, growing natural capital and putting people at the heart of nature
  • Shaped the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly in areas such as Nature Recovery Networks and Net Gain, and is now leading on delivery
  • Introduced a more strategic approach to providing licences for developers, aimed at enhancing and linking the habitat of legally-protected species such as great crested newts while making it easier for developers to obtain and comply with licences
  • Provided the science and evidence that underpins a “Blue Belt” of marine conservation zones around our coast
  • Progressed the 2,700-mile England Coast Path to the point where every stretch is now open or being worked on
  • Designated the largest Site of Special Scientific Interest in the last 14 years – the 76 sq km West Pennine Moors – and defended others from development, notably Lodge Hill in Kent and Rampisham Down in Dorset
  • Licensed the trial release of beavers – the first to live wild in England for 300 years
  • Coordinated vital conservation work across a range of organisations such as the Back from the Brink project to save 20 species from imminent extinction.

Andrew said:

Natural England is a great force for good and it’s been an honour to have led the organisation for five years. I believe Natural England is well-equipped to provide the environmental leadership needed to help fulfil the government’s aim of leaving the natural world in a better state.

Farming Minister George Eustice said:

I would like to pay tribute to Andrew’s excellent work and leadership as Natural England’s chair.

He has been a tireless champion of the nation’s environment, helping Natural England, its staff and partners across the country to protect and enhance our shared natural heritage for generations to come.

Natural England’s Deputy Chair, Lord Blencathra, said:

Natural England has achieved some notable successes for the environment in the last five years, due in large part to Andrew’s drive and leadership. He has also reformed the way the organisation works, driven forward vital innovations such as in licensing and pressed hard for the introduction of net gain and conservation covenants.

I would like to thank him for all he has done, both for the organisation and for the natural environment, and wish him the very best for his retirement.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is leading the recruitment of a new Chair and an announcement is expected shortly. Lord Blencathra will chair the Board in the interim.

Congratulatory Statement On Madagascar’s Presidential Election

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The United States commends the Malagasy government and its citizens for the peaceful presidential election, which further strengthens Madagascar’s democracy. Since Madagascar’s independence in 1960, the United States has supported the development of the country’s democratic processes and institutions. We will continue to promote a prosperous, secure, and democratic future for the people of Madagascar.

We congratulate President Andry Rajoelina on his election and inauguration. The United States looks forward to working with President Rajoelina and the new Malagasy government to strengthen the rule of law and democratic institutions, combat corruption, promote trade and investment, and safeguard regional and global security.

Defence Secretary Commissions New Report To Step Up Support For Service Families

The new study will examine the support available to the different members of military families, including spouses and partners, and children

Ministry of Defence

Ministry of Defence

A new study that will assess the support available to military families has been commissioned by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The report will be authored by Andrew Selous MP, who has previously served in the Honourable Artillery Company and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It will analyse the different experiences of service family members, focussing on;

  • Spouses and civil partners
  • Long term partners
  • Children and dependents

The report’s findings, which will be completed by summer 2019, will consider the diverse needs of service families and assess whether the current support on offer is meeting these needs. The study will also allow the MOD to further enhance the delivery of vital support for military families.

The MOD supports service families in many aspects of their lives, including housing, education, and spousal employment.

As part of the study, Mr Selous will engage with key stakeholders, including the three single service families federations, service charities, and the Covenant Fund Trust, which makes grants to support the armed forces community.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The success of our armed forces would not be possible without the constant support of the service families, who are often the unsung heroes of the military community.

I’m always inspired by their unfaltering fortitude, and the pride they take in in their loved ones’ service. I’m delighted that Andrew will be considering how we can best support them, as they support those who are keeping this country safe.

Andrew Selous MP said:

I have been a long-term champion of the importance of healthy and respectful couple and family relationships across society. As a nation, we rely on the strength of our Armed Forces to keep us safe. The nation in turn, has a duty to support and strengthen service families to help them perform a challenging role to the best of their ability.

I look forward to leading this critically important study, at the request of the Secretary of State, to assess the current needs of military families and to advise on the support they need.

The MOD has continued to bolster its funding for service families, allocating £5 million to the Education Support Fund, which supports the children of military personnel, and investing £68 million into the improvement of family accommodation.

Last year saw the launch of the Armed Forces Flexible Working Act, which enhances serving personnel’s ability to serve part-time, should their circumstances change, and the announcement of a new scheme to support spouses’ employment, providing vocational training.

£2.5 Million To Boost International Exchanges For Schools

Funding will ensure more disadvantaged pupils can experience other cultures

Secondary Pupils

Secondary Pupils

Thousands more young people will have the chance to take part in international exchanges and visits thanks to a new £2.5 million programme, the Education Secretary announced today (19 January).

Schools in England will be able to apply for grants to take pupils aged 11 and above to visit partner schools around the world, giving them the chance to experience different cultures, improve language skills and build independence, character and resilience.

The programme, which will be principally focused on supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds, will be run in partnership with the British Council – whose own research has found that only 39% of secondary schools run international exchanges. For independent schools, the figure is 77%.

As education ministers from around the world prepare to gather in London for the Education World Forum, Damian Hinds has stressed the importance of ensuring disadvantaged young people don’t miss out on the life-changing experiences and academic opportunities offered by overseas visits.

Evidence shows that businesses are increasingly looking for employees with international experience and language skills – and, according to a British Council survey, almost two-thirds of university language students said that an international exchange helped inspire them to choose their degree course.

The programme will build on the government’s work to encourage more pupils to study a foreign language, including their inclusion in the English Baccalaureate. Since 2010 we have seen 45% more entries in GCSE Chinese and 51% more entries in GCSE Spanish.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

I want every child to have a world-class education, and that includes the opportunity to experience other cultures and go to places they wouldn’t normally visit – whether that’s practising their Mandarin in China or learning about American history in the US.

School exchanges are so valuable, bringing subjects such as modern languages and international history to life as well as helping pupils develop into confident, independent and well-rounded young people.

As Britain leaves the European Union, it’s more important than ever to show how much we value international opportunities, language-learning, and ensuring our young people have a global outlook – something I’ll be discussing with education ministers from around the world at Education World Forum.

This investment will help schools who may not have much experience organising trips abroad to ensure their pupils don’t miss out on all the fantastic benefits these experiences can bring, encouraging children to broaden their horizons and aim high throughout their education and beyond.

Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council, said:

Pupils keep the memory of a school trip abroad for the rest of their lives – it is an important first step in understanding the world. It encourages children to think about working and studying overseas and sows the seeds of international co-operation that we encourage in young people all around the world.

The programme’s focus on disadvantaged pupils was also welcomed by schools.

Geoff Lumsdon, headteacher at Seaham High School in County Durham, said:

This programme will expand students’ international horizons and experience, delivering on our school’s vision to help the young people of Seaham to achieve the highest possible outcomes and to make a valuable contribution to the global society in which we all now live.

Many of our students receive the Pupil Premium and we do our utmost to ensure equality of opportunity so that all of our pupils feel safe, secure, and are free from prejudice and able to develop a mutual respect for others. This is an exciting opportunity to ensure every young person can access international and multicultural experiences so they are ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century – and we would be delighted to participate.

Funding will be targeted at schools with above-average numbers of pupil-premium students. Over the course of the programme, it is estimated that trips could be funded for 2,900 pupils. Young people will be encouraged to stay with host families abroad where possible, maximising their opportunity to practise language skills and be fully immersed in another culture.

To make the scheme as easy as possible for schools to take part in, there will be a simple application process, grants to cover the administrative cost of organising trips, and seminars to help schools without much experience of international visits find partner institutions abroad – in Europe or further afield.

Schools will be able to register their interest on the British Council website from Monday.

Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting With DPRK Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The following is attributable to Robert Palladino, Deputy Spokesperson:

Secretary Pompeo and Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun met with DPRK Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol in Washington January 18. The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level. Special Representative Biegun will travel to Sweden January 19-22 to participate in an international conference hosted by the Swedish foreign ministry.

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