Shock election outcome provides more uncertainty for waste sector

The UK’s waste and resources industry doesn’t seem any closer to receiving a stable vision for the sector following the tight outcome of the UK’s snap general election yesterday (8 June).

With one seat left to declare, the Conservative Party has taken 318 seats, short of the 326 needed to form a majority government, although the Theresa May is expected to announce an arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that will allow her to form a government.

Labour, reinvigorated over the course of the campaign, is expected to finish on 261, 29 greater than the party managed in 2015, but given the SNP’s retreat in Scotland and the failure of the Lib Dem surge to materialise that will not be enough to obstruct May with a ‘progressive’ bloc.

On a night of shocks, with a handful of government ministers and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg losing their seats, all of the current environmental ministers at the Department for Food, Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra) kept their seats: Andrea Leadsom in Northamptonshire South, Therese Coffey in Suffolk Coastal and George Eustice in Camborne and Redruth.

Outside of government, Labour’s Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environment Audit Committee and last year’s winner of the Resource Hot 100 narrowly held onto her seat in Wakefield. Sue Hayman, who was made Shadow Environment Secretary in February following a string of resignations from Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, maintained a strong majority in Workington. The Green Party also continues to be represented in Parliament after Caroline Lucas retained her seat in Brighton Pavilion on what was an otherwise difficult night for her party.

With the prospect of Brexit negotiations promising to create a turbulent few years for many industries, including that of waste and resources, May promised that a Conservative administration would provide a ‘strong and stable’ government, with the election designed to strengthen the party’s mandate for negotiating Brexit.

However, the surprise result of the election appears to show that the British public has failed to hand the Conservatives a blank check on Brexit, with talks due to begin in 10 days, although it appears May has moved quickly to secure a deal with the DUP in the face of the prospect of a Labour minority government, rather fancifully mooted by some high in the party.

It is not yet clear whether the Conservatives and the DUP will enter into a formal coalition or if the arrangement will be based on a ‘confidence and supply’ relationship, with the DUP voting with the government on certain policies in exchange for enacting some of their policies, but news of a deal to form a government will nevertheless serve to calm the nerves of some within the Conservatives ahead of 13 June when parliament returns.

Results fail to deliver political stability businesses ‘crave’

Prior to the election, the waste industry was clear in its desire for a long-term policy for waste and resource management, with the Trade Associations Group, comprising seven of the biggest industry groups in resources, stating last week that the next government must incorporate the sector as a key theme in its industrial and environmental polices.

However, with the election offering little immediate direction of travel, and the possibility of a weak government in terms of passing legislation, there doesn’t seem to be any stability on the horizon. And with a summer recess due to follow the opening of the new Parliament on Tuesday by just over a month, it is unlikely any significant business will be conducted at Westminster before September.

This morning, David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: "Britain's businesses crave political stability, but the election result has unfortunately failed to deliver this. 

“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. 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 Environmental Services Association’s Executive Director, Jacob  Hayler, said: “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. We look forward to working with the new government when it is in place.”

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, one of the members of TAG, also commented, saying: "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's now critical for us that we have a clear commitment and direction, no matter what shade of government.”

Confederation of Paper Industries Director-General Andrew Large said: “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.”


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