Labour and Lib Dems back Office for Resource Management

MPs from two of Britain's principal parties have pledged to make strong commitments towards establishing an Office for Resource Management (ORM), while the Conservatives' position remains unclear.

At the launch of the Material Security Working Group’s report – An Office for Resource Management – on Thursday, Labour and Lib Dem MP’s suggested that the creation of a dedicated body to oversee the UK’s waste policy would be part of their manifestos for the upcoming General Election. 

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Barry Gardiner – the only front-bench politician present at the event – said: “Resource security and the circular economy are vitally important to the UK. I want to thank everybody involved with this paper – it points the way ahead, and a Labour Government will put resource security at the heart of its total economic vision. That’s my promise to you today.

“Those of far greater eminence than me in the Labour Party will soon make a full and comprehensive announcement about the approach the next Labour Government will take to confront the challenge of resource security.”

Much-needed support

Duncan Brack, the vice chair of the Liberal Democrats Federal Policy Committee, was equally optimistic about the creation of an office which would oversee key waste policy areas such as the development of a circular economy. Brack said that his party would be voting whether to commit to an ORM, at its Spring Conference this weekend.

“I have every confidence that motion will pass and it will be reflected in our manifesto,” said Brack. “There are good records of joint units like this – the Office for Climate Change for example, was integral in the 2008 Climate Change Act.”

At present, at least nine departments have resource-related policy and progress is therefore stymied by a lack of overarching vision, according to the report. The proposed ORM would set policy direction on resource security and efficiency as well as providing the relevant data and support required by industry. 

Tory uncertainty

The Conservative representative – South Thanet backbench MP Laura Sandys – made no such commitment to an ORM on behalf of her party, commenting: “This is a great document. I have nothing to say about this document other than I think it’s excellent in every way.”

Susanne Baker, chair of the Material Security Working Group (which authored the report), welcomed Labour’s announcement in particular. “That’s the first we’ve heard of that in such strong terms,” she said. The Liberal Democrat commitment to an ORM was first mentioned by Ed Davey two weeks ago, albeit without any specifics.

Ultimately, the Material Security Working Group – whose membership also includes the Resource Association and Friends of the Earth – was left with uncertainty about Tory plans. “We don’t have any idea what the Conservatives will do,” Baker added. “We suspect it will be looked at a very high level in the Cabinet Office, but nothing to the extent that we’re calling for. We are none the wiser.”

Brad Allen

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