Rooker and Benn departure rumours denied

Reports of change at Defra leading to the departure of minister Lord Rooker have been quashed by a special advisor to the Secretary of State.

A source told Farmers Weekly that sustainable food, farming and animal health minister Lord Rooker had "had enough" over Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn's "indecision" on food and farming issues. He was rumoured to have handed in his resignation after Benn announced in July that there would be no badger cull to tackle the spread of TB.

It was thought that Lord Rooker - who served as an agriculture, fisheries and food minister in 1997 and became a minister at Defra in 2006 - would leave his post in a cabinet reshuffle expected on Friday. Rumour had it that Benn would also leave Defra during the reshuffle, which follows Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly's resignation last week.

When asked if the rumours were true, however, special adviser to Benn, Beatrice Stern, said: "Absolutely not. It is only a rumour and I don't have a comment to make."

The National Farmers' Union (NFU), who work closely with Benn and Lord Rooker, were unable to comment on any possible departures.

Current Cabinet Office minister, Ed Miliband was rumoured as a possible replacement to lead the Defra team, in what could be the third person to head the department in less than three years.

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