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Comment & Reaction: the impact of the election

The two Government ministers currently responsible for the waste sector would have been able to take comfort after their party’s poor showing in the general election from the results in their constituencies.

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom claimed 62.5% in Northamptonshire South and resource minister Therese Coffey 58.1% on Suffolk Coastal as they comfortably held their seats. It remains to be seen whether they keep their posts under the new Conservative Government.

There seems to be some consensus that the overall result was a slap on the wrists for Theresa May’s apparent acquiescence with a ‘hard’ Brexit. Certainly, an absence of direction in this area during the campaign cannot have helped the cause.

If it does mean that the strategy for the forthcoming negotiations is reviewed and a softer approach is ultimately adopted then, to me at least, that would chime more with the 52-48 split in the Brexit referendum. 

The ‘ifs’ are building up enough without wondering how all this will affect the resources and waste sector.

I cannot imagine the PM will risk annoying even more of her MPs with the major reshuffle expected had she got a thumping majority – which is why the election was called in the first place. That means more ministers are likely to remain in post.

We are prepared to work with a Government of any colour or coalition to ensure waste is treated as a resource for both secondary raw materials and energy

David Palmer-Jones, Suez

If Leadsom stays then it is not a very appealing status quo because I cannot recall any serious direct intervention by her in our sector. At a time when electricity delivered by renewable sources of energy is breaking all records in the UK, her historic opposition to wind farm subsidies and Labour’s targets was never encouraging.

Similarly, Coffey’s lukewarm reaction to the circular economy (CE) concept behind the current batch of proposed EU directives has been dispiriting. On the plus side, if she is kept on, the sector might benefit from a new minister not having to set off from a standing start every 12 months. Who knows, she might even see through the work with WRAP on harmonising household bin collections?

But in the wider picture, we need much more insight on how Defra views the CE proposals along with publication of the 25-year environment plan which has been nestling – aptly – in the political long grass. We also desperately need more joined-up thinking on waste crime.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez in the UK and a doughty advocate of the sector, was one of several commentators who agreed the election had failed to deliver political stability, which was the ask from most sectors.

He also pointed out that the last Conservative Government promised a joined-up industrial strategy for Britain “in which the recycling and resource management sector played a key role in ensuring British industry is resource-efficient and resource-secure”.

The clock is ticking on Brexit negotiations so this latest political turmoil will need to be resolved as quickly as possible

Jacob Hayler, ESA

He added; “This was a positive step forward in policy terms after years of inactivity. The last Government also promised a 25-year environment plan, which unfortunately failed to materialise before the election.

“We are prepared to work with a Government of any colour or coalition to ensure waste is treated as a resource for both secondary raw materials and energy. But for the UK economy to prosper, we must quickly continue in the same positive direction started earlier this year, and not leave to languish the policies that could unlock the investment and support the resource management industry has to offer.”

The sentiment was repeated by the Environmental Services Association in a statement from executive director Jacob Hayler: “The outcome of the general election is yet another result that no-one saw coming. The danger for everyone is the additional uncertainty that it will bring just when we need the opposite.

“The clock is ticking on Brexit negotiations so this latest political turmoil will need to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

An obvious key element of that is how much of our environmental legislation, largely initiated by the EU, will be adopted in a Brexit UK. The presumption is that they will be incorporated en masse and subsequently modified as and when.

The result of the election that keeps Theresa May in Number 10 can only be a short-term residency. It would be some political rising from the dead if she led the party into another election. Who knows where we will all be by the time the longer-term environmental issues are dealt with?

Other reaction: 

Confederation of Paper Industries director-general Andrew Large: “The strong and dynamic UK paper-based industry, which operates in all regions of the country, stands ready and able to engage with the next Government, which needs to facilitate economic growth. An industrial strategy, which helps to create a sure-footed UK economy with a level playing field for UK manufacturing is essential, enabling businesses to have confidence in creating jobs and continuing to trade successfully with Europe and beyond.”

Renewable Energy Association chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska: “In uncertain times, one thing all the main parties agree on is meeting our carbon budgets, the need for jobs and cheaper bills.The renewable and clean tech industry has been waiting for nearly a year for the release of the Clean Growth Plan, and it i’s now critical for us that we have a clear commitment and direction, no matter what shade of government.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Good to see that we've kept Theresa Coffey, but how long is Mr Gove likely to stay at Defra? Look like more uncertainty for the sector at a crucial time.

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