7 minutes ago
About sharing

By Chris Mason & Henry Zeffman
BBC News

Officials have raised concerns about the environment secretary’s role in a proposed waste incinerator in his constituency, the BBC can reveal.

Steve Barclay will not have any say over the planned project in his Cambridgeshire seat, which he opposes.

Officials escalated the matter to the Cabinet Office’s ethics unit, which has discussed it with him.

His department says Mark Spencer, a junior minister, will make the decision.

The BBC has learnt that officials raised concerns about a possible, or perceived, conflict between his constituency and ministerial roles.

MVV Environment, a German energy company, wants to build the plant in Wisbech, which is in Mr Barclay’s North East Cambridgeshire constituency.

It would be one of Europe’s biggest waste-to-energy incinerators, burning non-recyclable waste in order to generate energy for local industrial use.

The scheme is opposed by several local MPs, including former prime minister Liz Truss, and five nearby councils, with campaigners raising concerns about increased lorry traffic, air pollution, the visual impact and the smell.

Initial proposals for the scheme were first submitted to the government in December 2019.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero gave the plant the go-ahead last month, following a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate.

But to move ahead, the scheme also requires a permit from the Environment Agency, a public body sponsored by Mr Barclay’s environment department.

Concerns about Mr Barclay’s relationship to the case were raised by civil servants, the BBC understands, prompting the discussions with the propriety and ethics unit.

‘Terrible news’

As the local MP, Mr Barclay has long been a vocal opponent of the incinerator.

After the energy security department gave its approval, Mr Barclay told his local newspaper the decision was “terrible news for our area”.

He vowed to “continue to do everything possible to fight” against the incinerator being built.

Mr Barclay is one of the government’s most experienced ministers. He has only been environment secretary since November, but has also held cabinet positions under Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Labour has written to Mr Barclay, saying the story “raises serious issues, potentially involving a breach of the ministerial code”.

In the letter, shadow environment secretary Steve Reed asked Mr Barclay to publish any correspondence he has had with the Environment Agency about the incinerator.

A government spokesman said: “The secretary of state is recused from the decision.

“No decision has been taken. Mark Spencer is the minister responsible and would take any decision on this issue.”

Related Topics

More on this story

22 February