Richard Benyon

Richard Henry Ronald Benyon[3] (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.

Richard Benyon
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Fisheries
In office
6 June 2010  7 October 2013
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byHuw Irranca-Davies
Succeeded byDan Rogerson
Member of Parliament
for Newbury
In office
5 May 2005  6 November 2019
Preceded byDavid Rendel
Succeeded byLaura Farris
Personal details
Born (1960-10-21) 21 October 1960[2]
Reading, Berkshire, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Emma Villiers, (Div)
Zoe Robinson
Children5 sons
ResidenceEnglefield House
EducationBradfield College
Alma materRoyal Agricultural College
Net worth GB£130 million (Sunday Times Rich List, 2019)
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1981–85
UnitRoyal Green Jackets

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.

Early life

Benyon was born on 21 October 1960 in Reading.[2] He is the son of Sir William Richard Benyon, a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1992,[4] and is the great-great grandson of former Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury.[5] He was educated at nearby Bradfield College and the Royal Agricultural College.

Military service

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.[6] He was promoted to lieutenant on 8 August 1983.[7]

During his four years' service, he was posted to Northern Ireland, the UK and the Far East.[8] He transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers on 8 August 1984, thereby ending his military career but maintaining call-up liability.[9]

Political career

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.

In May 2009, he was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "saints" in the expenses scandal exposed by that newspaper.[10]

He was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the first Cameron Ministry.[11] and remained in post until the junior and middle ranking Cameron reshuffle of October 2013.[12]

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.[13] 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".[13]

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.[14] Benyon said that the estate was controlled by a family trust.[14]

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.[15]

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".[16]

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.[17] 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.[18][19]

Benyon was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 European Union membership referendum.[20]

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.[21] In 2019 he was one of 21 Conservative MPs who lost the whip for supporting the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019.[22]

Personal life

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.[23]

Benyon is a director of the family controlled Englefield Charitable Trust, the largest private landowner in West Berkshire.[24] He is one of nine Vice-Presidents of Berkshire County Scout Council.

According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2019, Benyon is worth £130 million.[25]

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).[26]

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.[27]



  1. "Privy Council appointments: Diane Abbott, Richard Benyon and Emily Thornberry - GOV.UK". Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  2. "Democracy Live: Your representatives: Richard Benyon". BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  3. "Ministers' interests" (PDF). Cabinet Office. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  4. "Keeping it in the Family". Scribd. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  5. "General Election 2005 Research Paper" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009.
  6. "No. 48770". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1981. pp. 13269–13270.
  7. "No. 49455". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 August 1983. p. 11159.
  8. "Richard Benyon". Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  9. "No. 49844". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 August 1984. p. 11401.
  10. "MPs' Expenses: the saints". The Daily Telegraph. London. 18 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  11. "Fuller list of junior appointments". Conservative Home. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  12. "Coalition government reshuffle". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  13. Michael McCarthy, "Fury at minister Richard Benyon's 'astounding' refusal to ban deadly bird poison" Archived 17 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  14. Tom Rowley (9 December 2012). "Environment Minister Richard Benyon's family estate to destroy 218 acres of woodland". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 9 December 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  15. Monbiot, George. "Ship-Wrecked". Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  16. Monbiot, George (4 April 2013). "We have no right to our rivers while Richard Benyon's interests are served". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  17. Chakrabortty, Aditya (10 November 2014). "The story of the millionaire Tory MP and the tenants facing homelessness". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  18. Hill, Amelia; Walker, Peter (14 November 2014). "New Era tenants take rent battle to US after Tory MP's firm sells stake". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  19. Booth, Robert (18 December 2014). "US investors set to sell New Era estate in London after protests". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  20. Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  21. "Nepotism update". Private Eye. London: Pressdram Ltd. 11 August 2017.
  22. "Who were the Conservative Brexit rebels?". 5 September 2019. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  23. Robert Verkaik (27 February 2011). "Wealthy minister earns £2m subsidies in EU farm subsidies which his department tried to cover up". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  24. "The thirty landowners who own half a county". Who owns England?. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  25. Times, The Sunday (12 May 2019). "Rich List 2019: profiles 864-900=, featuring Rory McIlroy, Phil Collins and John Deacon". ISSN 0140-0460. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  26. "The Register of Members' Financial Interests as at 21 January 2019 - Benyon, Richard (Newbury)". Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  27. MP Richard Benyon banned for texting while driving Archived 14 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine BBC
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Rendel
Member of Parliament for Newbury
Succeeded by
Laura Farris
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