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Countryside and farming groups have welcomed the appointment of Conservative MP Caroline Spelman as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mrs Spelman, 52, is the MP for Meriden in the West Midlands. Before becoming an MP in 1997, the new Defra minister spent 15 years working in the agricultural industry.

H&H contacted her constituency office, but they were unable to say whether Mrs Spelman has any equestrian interests.

A spokesman for Defra told H&H that the minister for the horse has not yet been appointed.

During her career, Mrs Spelman was deputy director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers, and a research fellow for the Centre of European Agricultural Studies.

“I am delighted to have been appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,” she said.

“The department is responsible for many of the things that are vital to our quality of life — the food we eat, the air we breathe and how we manage the land we live on and the seas that surround our shores.”

On her website, Mrs Spelman says she enjoys gardening and tending her vegetable patch.

Countryside Alliance director of campaigns Rob Gray said: “Caroline Spelman could not be better qualified to take on this demanding role.

“She has a long connection to agricultural issues and could not be better qualified to take on this demanding role and has been consistently supportive on a wide range of countryside issues.”

William Worsley, president of the Country Land and Business Association said: “We know her farming background means she is well prepared for the Defra brief.”

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farming Union commented: “The Tories have promised to put the ‘f’ — farming — back into Defra and I know that message has gone down well with farmers up and down the country.”