12 February 2019 by Will Date

‘Delay strategy consultations’, says food sector

32 trade bodies representing the UK’s food and farming sectors have written to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove calling for him to ‘pause’ imminent consultations on the Resources and Waste Strategy.

Consultation is expected on a series of components of the Strategy, which includes the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles, overhaul of the packaging producer responsibility system and consistency of collections from households.

Michael Gove has been asked to delay consultations around the resources and waste strategy and other policy areas

However, organisations including the Food and Drink Federation, National Farmers’ Union, Dairy UK and the Packaging Federation have appealed to Mr Gove to call a halt to any ongoing or impending ‘non-Brexit’ policy work.

This includes the Strategy consultations which had been anticipated shortly, as well as further consultations around woodland, water and floods, clean air, chemicals and pesticides.

In the joint letter to Mr Gove sent on Friday (8 February), the 32 trade organisations have claimed that due to preparations for a potential Exit from the EU without a deal, their capacity to respond to consultations on new policy is limited.

Response

The organisations may decline to respond if any potential consultation takes place during this time, the letter suggests.

The letter stated: “Businesses throughout the UK food chain – and their trade associations – are now totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end.

“At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within government. Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time. Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot.

“We very strongly urge you therefore to require of your Cabinet colleagues that a range of current and planned consultations that will impact food and drink, some of which are expected shortly, are firmly and clearly placed on “pause” until this uncertainty is over.”

‘Bad faith’

Plans to press ahead with the consultations could be seen as a ‘sign of bad faith’, the letter has suggested.

The letter has come from 32 trade bodies representing food and farming businesses

Timetables set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, an outline of which was published in December, indicated that a series of consultations would shape the detail of the Strategy in a number of areas (see letsrecycle.com story). These were expected in early February.

The timing of the consultations is seen as being important as any legal changes needed to bring about a number of policy areas included within the Strategy are likely to be laid within the government’s Environment Bill which is currently in its early stages.

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