A consequence of Theresa May’s new cabinet is that the waste sector now looks to three rather than four departments of state.
Andrea Leadsom, who was Theresa’s final opponent to replace David Cameron as Conservative leader but withdrew before the final vote, is the new environment secretary at Defra.
She became energy minister after the 2015 election and in the referendum campaign was a prominent supporter of the leave campaign. Interest within the waste sector will be on her attitude to regulatory regimes and reaction to the European Commission’s Circular Economy proposals which are likely to be codified before the UK leaves the EU.
She replaces Liz Truss who moves to the Justice department after exactly two years at Defra - in which time she barely spoke on matters of resource efficiency. Indeed, when she appeared before the Efra select committee at the start of the year, she did not mention - nor was she asked about - the industry.
Leadsom supported a long-running campaign in her South Northamptonshire constituency against plans for on-shore wind farms. She told constituents she was not convinced by the efficacy of the particular energy but said: “I am confident that by using a mix of energy sources including many types of renewable energy, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage facilities as well as installing ‘smart metering’ and helping consumers manage their own demand, we can not only avoid disaster but we can keep energy bill prices stable”.
“I think it would be far more sensible to invest in efficient renewable energy infrastructure to provide greater energy security for the long term.”
Leadsom’s former department Decc has disappeared into a newly-created ministry of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) – with climate change no longer part of the departmental name. Environmentalists have expressed concern that the reshaping indicates the government is downgrading climate change as a priority.
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In charge at BEIS is Greg Clark, who has moved from the communities department DCLG.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said Clark’s move was “an excellent appointment”, saying he “understands climate change, and has written influential papers on the benefits of Britain developing a low-carbon economy”.
In something of a swap, he is replaced at DCLG by the former business secretary Sajid Javid.
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Javid, a former banker, was elected Conservative MP for Bromsgrove in 2010 and later served as a Treasury minister. He had a brief stint as culture, media and sport secretary in the coalition government’s final year.
The new communities secretary has been described by the Financial Times as a “deregulatory Conservative who is a passionate believer in free enterprise”.