Interim Defra perm sec Finkelstein gets role permanently

Former director general for EU exit has been interim permanent secretary since April

Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Tamara Finkelstein, the interim permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will stay in the post permanently, the department has announced.

Finkelstein took over as head of Defra in April, after her predecessor Clare Moriarty was appointed permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

In a job advert posted for the Defra perm sec job in May, the department said it was seeking a candidate who would be able to “respond to the outcome of EU exit negotiations, ensuring that the department and its people are equipped to operate differently as required”.


Moriarty’s successor would need to have international experience, including knowledge of “the special case of the island of Ireland”, the job ad said.

Defra has one of Whitehall’s biggest Brexit-related workloads, with the UK’s exit from the EU affecting 80% of its work.

Finkelstein has been heavily involved in this work to date, having been the department’s director general for EU exit since April 2018.

Commenting on the announcement, Finkelstein made no mention of Brexit, instead saying she was “truly thrilled” to be taking on a brief that included “the challenges and opportunities ahead to improve our environment, support our biodiversity with thriving rural communities and food, farming and fisheries sectors”.

She added: “I look forward to building on Defra’s culture of community and inclusion, and to working with permanent secretaries across government and public service leaders to deliver for government and the public together.”

Announcing that her position had been made permanent, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said Finkelstein’s appointment “reflects not only the significant contribution she has made to the department to date, but also the knowledge and experience she brings with her from an array of other important roles in government”.

Before joining Defra last year, Finkelstein spent five years at the Department of Health, first as chief operating officer and then director general for community care. Her previous roles include director of public services at the Treasury and director of the Border Agency’s change programme.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said Finkelstein was “an outstanding public servant I have very much enjoyed working with”.

“I know she will provide superb leadership to a great department and I am very much looking forward to working with her on our exciting agenda.”

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