‘This is a historic occasion’, announced Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at the Defra drinks party on 7 December. ‘It is the last time that the Defra group will meet here [in Nobel House in Smith Square]. We are due to move early next year to new offices’.
And where are these? In Marsham Street, where the Department of the Environment was housed from 1971 to 1997 (but in a different building, the notorious Marsham Towers). It felt more like history turning a circle than a historic occasion.
But the speech got better. Mr Gove told us that ‘we are responsible for things on which you cannot place a price. Defra unites a recognition that the things for which we are responsible—land, sea, air, the beauty of the countryside are presents which have no price tag.’
Absolutely right. Please tell that to the treasury, Mr Gove.