A month after the referendum result, MPs retreated from Westminster to their constituencies, party meetings and holiday destinations.
The quieter August weeks were followed by an eventful season of party conferences. These set out a clearer, albeit still uncertain, picture of the Brexit timelines and conditions the Government will be working towards, and which shadow ministerial teams and select committee chairs will play a key role in scrutinising.
Since most UK regulation and legislation on the environment and waste are EU-driven, these new appointments will play key roles in shaping the post-Brexit policy developments.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chair Mary Creagh has been particularly vocal in her concerns about when and how EU environment, resource and energy policies will be incorporated into UK law following Brexit. Under her chairmanship, the EAC is currently undertaking an inquiry on the future of the natural environment after the EU referendum.
It has already questioned resource minister Therese Coffey and Robin Walke of the Department for Exiting the European Union on how the Government intends to approach the environment in its negotiations.
Creagh spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) panel at RWM when she said: “The message I took from our evidence session is that there is no process. They can’t say if they are going to repeal the European Communities Act and then reverse engineer back in the stuff they want.” EAC was due to have its next oral evidence session as MRW went to press.
The creation of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), following the merging of the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also raised many questions beyond the pronouncement of its acronym. Will climate change take a back seat? Will circular economy (CE) and resource policy be included in this new ‘industrial strategy’?
Industry and parliamentarians have responded to this merger with varying degrees of scepticism. It could be a great thing for energy and resource policy, but only if these areas are incorporated into the Government’s wider business and industrial strategy in an holistic way.
The newly formed Beis Committee, chaired by Labour’s Ian Wright, will form the backbone of scrutiny of this department, so our industry is on the alert for relevant inquiries to submit evidence to. Climate change and industry minister Nick Hurd has historically been active in climate and resource policy, so this appointment bodes well for the industry if he can fit this around the COP22 schedule.
The six House of Lords EU select committees will play a key role in informing Brexit decision-making. Their inquiries will focus on examining the role of Parliament in the scrutiny of negotiations on the UK’s new relationship with the EU.
The EU energy and environment sub-committee, chaired by Lord Teverson, will next inquire about Brexit and general environment and climate change policy, which may include resource and CE policy. With its cross-party nature, the House of Lords has great potential to inform and shape what environmental policy will look like in a few years’ time.
Several new shadow ministerial announcements have been made, many of whom are Parliamentarians with substantial interest and expertise in energy, resource and environment policy.
Clive Lewis, shadow secretary of state for Beis, will be supported by Alan Whitehead, long term co-chair of the APSRG, who returns to the front bench as shadow minister for energy and climate change. Chi Onwurah will take on the shadow industrial strategy brief, which is promising because she was chair of the Manufacturing Commissions’ report Industrial Evolution, which highlighted alternative business models, circular thinking, remanufacturing and resource efficiency as key factors needed in any future industrial strategy.
Matthew Pennycook is shadow minister for exiting the EU. He was member of the energy and climate change committee. With a strong interest in energy and climate change issues, Pennycook may be a promising shadow minister in raising environmental policy issues related to exiting the EU.
Many parliamentarians will be chairing events and seminars on Brexit in the coming months to collect evidence and answer the many questions posed by our current political environment.
Policy Connect is organising a series of events looking at the impact Brexit will have on environment, resource, energy, climate change and built environment policy in the UK.
Anne-Marie Benoy is Manager of sustainable resources at Policy Connect