The Labour Party will put “resource security” at the heart of its economic plan if it wins the General Election in May, Barry Gardiner MP has assured the waste industry in a scathing appraisal of the current government.
And, Mr Gardiner confirmed that a Labour government would be committed to giving the Green Investment Bank the “borrowing powers it needs”.
The Member of Parliament for Brent North was speaking at an All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) reception in Westminster yesterday (March 12) alongside Conservative MP Laura Sandys, and Duncan Brack, vice chair of the Liberal Democrats Federal Policy Committee.
The meeting promoted the launch of a paper calling for an Office for Resource Management within government – a separate watchdog to advise on waste policy across departments (see letsrecycle.com story).
The politicians were also joined by the ORM paper partners; EEF’s Paul Raynes, Nigel Mattravers from the Institution of Civil Engineers and Elaine Gilligan of Friends of the Earth.
Taking to the podium first, Ms Sandys welcomed the launch paper but gave little indication whether the Conservative Party would support a new policy unit within government.
The South Thanet MP, who has been vocal in her desire to see the waste brief transferred to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), will step down as a member of parliament in May.
In his presentation to delegates, Mr Gardiner – who also serves as shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs – gave a damning appraisal of the coalition government’s record in office.
He argued the coalition had ‘patronised’ the waste industry over the five years and had put an estimated £180 billion investment in green infrastructure ‘at risk’ this decade through indecision.
Mr Gardiner went on to criticise current Defra resource minister Dan Rogerson for ‘undermining’ green investment in his 2013 letter to industry members declaring Defra would be “stepping back” from waste (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Gardiner said: “This government has failed to build a circular economy in the UK but the worst thing is they don’t even recognise that they have failed. A Labour government will put resource security at the heart of its economic vision.”
Asked whether this would mean a Labour government would establish an Office for Resource Management, Mr Gardiner was more circumspect.
He added: “I was very clear at the end of my speech, there will an announcement coming shortly from people with more clout. I trust it won’t be an announcement that is fundamentally disappointing to you.”
In contrast, Mr Brack confirmed that a motion to incorporate the policy unit in the Lib Dem manifesto would likely be passed at the Party’s spring conference in Liverpool tomorrow (March 14).
Mr Brack conceded the coalition government had ‘failed’ to think of the long-term benefits of treating waste as a resource, and said he agreed with ‘a lot’ of what Mr Gardiner had suggested in his speech.
The Lib Dem advisor was also critical of the role the Treasury had played in neglecting the economic benefits of secondary resources, and agreed with Friends of the Earth that a ‘Stern style’ review should be launched on the issue.
Mr Brack added: “There is a strong case for examining the tax system, such as raising the lower rate of landfill tax and it’s exactly the kind of thing our Natural Capital committee could look at. At the moment my view is not the Party’s view but we will wait to see the manifesto.”
In response, Mr Gardiner said that government needed to think of landfill tax as a “behaviour change incentive” rather than relying on it as a revenue stream.