Resource Use

MSWG calls on party leaders to commit to an ORM

Organisations from the resource, manufacturing, infrastructure and environmental industries have today (8 April) written an open letter to party leaders calling on them to commit to establishing an Office for Resource Management (ORM) and review UK material supply risks.

MSWG calls on party leaders to commit to an ORM
The signatories of the MSWG letter to party leaders

The letter, signed by members of the Material Security Working Group (MSWG), follows on from the group’s ‘An Office for Resource Management’ paper that states an ORM for England should be established within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to help protect the UK from resource supply risks, set the direction on policy relating to resource security, efficiency and husbandry, and provide evidence and support to policy makers and industry.

This is said to be needed as, currently, responsibility for resource management is divided between a number of governmental departments (including BIS, the Treasury, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Cabinet Office), which the group argues leads to an ‘inefficient, fragmented approach’ to resource management, which ‘runs the risk of failing to build long-term resilience’.

As such, it argues that the new government needs to ‘establish mechanisms to ensure departments work together to develop coherent policies that span lifecycles from raw material inputs to reprocessed secondary products’.

‘We cannot afford to continue with the piecemeal approach to resource efficiency’

The letter reads: ‘We cannot afford to continue with the piecemeal and contradictory approach to resource efficiency exhibited to date.

‘This is not a subject to play party politics with: we need to see true cross-party support. Though the Coalition record on UK resources policy has been poor, the Liberal Democrats recently voted to establish an ORM and run the raw material supply review. Labour have announced that they would run the raw material supply review and made warm noises about the ORM, but have failed to convert that into a meaningful commitment.

‘To have a credible mid-to-long term approach to running the economy all parties need to publicly commit to the ORM and the review of UK material supply risks. We look to you during these final weeks of campaigning to voice your support for these important initiatives.’

MSWG seeking endorsement from political leads for ‘important reform’

Julian Kirby, Resource Use Campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE) – a member of the MSWG – told Resource: “Resource security and efficiency is perhaps the best example of how economy and the environment are increasingly seen as two sides of the same coin. This letter is a clear example of this, as the signatories include big business groups, who not usually associated with environmental campaigning, alongside Friends of the Earth. This letter shows that across different industries, there is considerable concern that government has not done enough on resource efficiency and there really needs to be a step change for the next sitting.”

While Kirby commended the Liberal Democrats and Labour for committing to better resource management, he noted that there has been no mention on resources from the Conservative party, which have been “vacating this space”. (In 2013, former Resource Minister Dan Rogerson said in that Defra would be ‘stepping back’ from some areas of waste policy).

Kirby added: “It’s not possible to have a considered and sensible position on sustainability  – and that’s not just the environment, but economy as a whole – unless you take the issue of resource security and efficiency seriously.”

Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the Resource Association (also an MSWG member) added: "Resource Association joins environmental groups, industry colleagues and professional bodies in a renewed call for all political parties to commit to an Office for Resource Management (ORM) and the early need to conduct a review of the UK’s exposure to raw material supply risks. 

“We called for these policy changes in our own Manifesto for Resources 2015 and today have joined with FoE, ICE, ADS Group, Packaging Federation, IEMA and MPA in writing to the leaders of the political parties seeking their endorsement of this important reform to resources policy co-ordination and urgent research."

Increasing calls for governmental reform

This is just the latest of a series of calls for government to take action against the increasing risks to the UK’s supply of essential raw materials.

In its 2014 ‘State of the Nation’ report, ICE suggested an ORM could help tackle a ‘lack of government coordination’ regarding resource management, and in July last year, EEF produced a report detailing the need for strategy and improved regulation to maximise the productivity of raw materials.

These were then echoed by a group of senior Conservative MPs in September when the environmental think tank Green Alliance’s Green Conservatism advisory group released a pamphlet warning that without greater resource efficiency, Britain would lose its ‘status and competitiveness in the global economy’.

Further, just last month the Circular Economy Task Force (CETF) called for government to set up a national resources council to combat the threat of dwindling resource supply, while the Resource Association called for an ORM in its recent Manifesto for Resources 2015.

Read the full MSWG letter to party leaders.

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