|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Fisheries|
6 June 2010 - 7 October 2013
|Member of Parliament |
5 May 2005 - 6 November 2019
|Born||21 October 1960|
Reading, Berkshire, England
|Spouse(s)||Emma Villiers, (Div)|
|Alma mater||Royal Agricultural College|
|Net worth||GB£130 million (Sunday Times Rich List, 2019)|
|Years of service||1981-85|
|Unit||Royal Green Jackets|
Richard Henry Ronald Benyon (born 21 October 1960) is a British politician. He was first elected as the MP for Newbury in 2005 and was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. First elected as a Conservative, Benyon had the Conservative whip removed on 3 September 2019 by prime minister Boris Johnson, after voting against the government, and sat as an independent MP until he had the whip restored by the prime minister on 28 October.
Benyon studied at the Royal Agricultural College and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before serving in the British Army, being posted to Northern Ireland and the Far East with the Royal Green Jackets. He was elected to Newbury Council in 1991 and became Conservative group leader in 1994.
He became Member of Parliament (MP) for Newbury at the 2005 general election. In opposition, he served on the Home Affairs Select Committee, as an Opposition Whip and Shadow Minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In government under David Cameron, he worked as Wildlife Minister at DEFRA from May 2010 to October 2013.
Benyon was born on 21 October 1960 in Reading. He is the son of Sir William Richard Benyon, a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1992, and is the great-great grandson of former Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. He was educated at nearby Bradfield College and the Royal Agricultural College.
Having attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets, British Army, as a second lieutenant on 8 August 1981. He was promoted to lieutenant on 8 August 1983.
During his four years' service, he was posted to Northern Ireland, the UK and the Far East. He transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers on 8 August 1984, thereby ending his military career but maintaining call-up liability.
He was elected in 1991 to Newbury District Council, and became Conservative group leader in 1994, in opposition to the then-ruling Liberal Democrats. He lost his council seat in 1995. He contested Newbury at the 1997 general election but lost heavily to the 1993 by-election incumbent Liberal Democrat David Rendel. Benyon and Rendel contested Newbury again at the 2001 general election, and Rendel came out again as the victor with a reduced majority. He and Rendel again contested Newbury at the 2005 UK general election and Benyon was elected with a majority of 3,460, replacing Rendel.
Benyon made his maiden speech on 20 May 2005 and served on the Home Affairs Select Committee from 2005 to 2007, when he became an Opposition Whip. He was the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2009 until the 2010 general election when he entered government. He was also one of the first 15 MPs to support David Cameron's Conservative Party leadership bid.
He was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the first Cameron Ministry. and remained in post until the junior and middle ranking Cameron reshuffle of October 2013.
In 2012, while Wildlife Minister he refused a request from other MPs that possession of carbofuran, a deadly poison used to kill raptors that is banned in Canada and the European Union, should be made a criminal offence. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was quoted as saying: "The minister's shocking refusal to outlaw the possession of a poison used only by rogue gamekeepers to illegally kill birds of prey would be inexplicable were it not for his own cosy links to the shooting lobby".
Also in 2012, Benyon's neighbours complained when Hanson Aggregates were given permission to extract 200,000 tonnes of sand and gravel a year from woodlands on Benyon's family estate, leading it to be described as a bombsite. Benyon said that the estate was controlled by a family trust.
In 2013, Benyon succeeded in preventing any cuts in fishing quotas. He said that if British fishermen had their quotas cut they would dump even more fish overboard, and the more fish they are allowed to catch, the better it will be for "the health of our seas". Back in 2004, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution proposed that 30% of the United Kingdom's waters should become reserves preventing fishing or any other kind of extraction.
Also in 2013, Benyon's policy relating to access to rivers and his role as an owner of fishing rights was criticised. Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot wrote that Benyon "repeatedly wields his power in ways that promote his own interests" and being "so enmeshed in potential conflicts of interest that were he to recuse himself from all the issues in which he has a personal stake, he would have nothing to do but order the departmental paperclips".
In 2014, Benyon's family firm was part of a property consortium that purchased New Era estate, one of the last affordable housing estates for working-class Londoners. The consortium increased the rents and announced plans to increase them further to match the rest of the market, effectively displacing its current residents. Following negative publicity and protests by the tenants, Benyon Estate announced that it would sell its stake in the consortium back to the landlord, Westbrook Partners, a New York-based property investment company.
In 2017, Benyon was accused of nepotism by Private Eye after he hired his sister as a part-time senior researcher in his office just before a parliamentary ban on such practices came into force. In 2019 he was one of 21 Conservative MPs who lost the whip for supporting the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019.
He married his first wife, Emma Helen Villiers in 1988; the couple had three children before divorcing in 2003. He presently lives in the family estate of Englefield House, with his second wife Zoe (née Robinson) and their two sons.
According to The Register of Members' Financial Interests, as at 21 January 2019, he is paid £15,000 per annum by the UK Water Partnership, a not-for-profit company set up to promote the interests of the UK water sector; and employs his sister, Catherine Haig, as a part time Senior Researcher. He received donations amounting to £8,250 in 2018, from Philip Lavallin Wroughton (3 payments amounting to £7,000) and from Chris Gent (a single payment of £1,250).
In December 2017, Benyon was banned from driving after admitting to using a mobile phone while driving. Benyon had previously spoken out against that practice.
|Ancestors of Richard Benyon|