Oh deer! Tory donor Ben Goldsmith keeps his government job as Defra board director – despite breaking his own department’s rules over release of deer from his land
- Ben Goldsmith to keep his job despite breaking own department’s rules on deer
- Red deer had escaped from his Somerset farm because of inadequate fencing
- The evangelist for the rewilding of the countryside admitted feeding wild boar
In the clear: Jemima and Ben Goldsmith
Ben Goldsmith will retain his government job despite breaking his own department’s rules over the release of deer from his land.
Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged the 39-year-old financier had made an ‘error’ in breaching guidelines on wild animals.
But he said the ‘rewilding toff’ had apologised and still had much to offer in his role as a board director at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The decision means Mr Goldsmith, a longstanding Tory donor and brother of environment minister Zac Goldsmith, will face no consequences for behaviour that has enraged many in the farming community.
Mr Eustice had been under pressure to sack Mr Goldsmith since July, when the Mail revealed red deer had escaped from his Somerset farm because of inadequate fencing.
The deer damaged neighbours’ land and Mr Goldsmith admitted falsely claiming to nearby farmers that he was having the creatures rounded up.
Mr Goldsmith, an evangelist for the rewilding of the countryside, also admitted feeding wild boar.
At one point he appeared to admit releasing the wild boar – a criminal offence – after telling a local farmer: ‘Some of my wild boar got loose and try as I might I was unable to retrieve them.’
Mr Eustice had been under pressure to sack Mr Goldsmith since July, when the Mail revealed red deer had escaped from his Somerset farm because of inadequate fencing
But he later denied it, telling the Mail he had typed the words ‘wild boar’ in error when he had really meant to type ‘pigs’.
Defra refused to comment on Mr Goldsmith’s position as a non-executive member of its governing board while Avon and Somerset Police investigated the issue of the wild boar.
But in an interview with the Mail, Mr Eustice said the police had chosen not to take the matter any further.
He acknowledged that Mr Goldsmith had broken Defra’s guidelines on the release of deer. These require landowners to secure their boundaries with two-metre high fencing.
But he said Mr Goldsmith had apologised and should not lose his job as an adviser to the Government on the future of farming and the countryside.
He added: ‘He bought some deer and hadn’t fitted the right fencing, and right equipment in place to keep those on the holding.
‘That was a mistake. And he accepts that and has apologised for it. But I think around that there’s obviously been some disputes with his neighbours.’
Mr Eustice also revealed that Defra is poised to pour public money into Mr Goldsmith’s passion for rewilding the countryside.
He said: ‘There are other landowners that are interested in following a similar approach and so we are considering ways in which we might support that. But only for those that want to do it.’
10p deposit on plastic bottles?
Consumers could have to pay a 10p deposit on plastic bottles.
The ‘deposit return scheme’ is aimed at slashing the amount of recyclable material that is sent to landfill. Under the proposals, shops will be asked to install ‘reverse vending machines’ to allow customers to return bottles and receive their deposits back.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the initiative was part of a push against single-use plastic.
He has already put in place plans to double the 5p charge on disposable carrier bags and last week banned plastic straws, cotton buds and coffee stirrers.
He said: ‘There’s still a lot of unnecessary use of plastics, and we just need to continue on the path of reducing it where it is not necessary.’
Mr Eustice also acknowledged the pandemic had been a setback in the war against disposable plastic, with billions of single-use items such as masks now being dumped.
He said work on a deposit return scheme was under way with the aim to have it up and running by 2023.