Concerns raised over Environment Secretary’s ‘role in waste plant project’

Concerns about a possible or perceived conflict of interest have reportedly been raised over the Environment Secretary’s role in a proposed waste plant in his constituency.

Officials have escalated the matter to the Cabinet Office’s ethics unit, which has discussed it with Steve Barclay, according to the BBC.

MVV Environment, a German-based energy company, has proposed to build a large incinerator in Wisbech, which is in the minister’s North East Cambridgeshire seat.

The plan has faced opposition from local MPs including Mr Barclay and former prime minister Liz Truss, and nearby councils have warned of a potential negative impact on traffic conditions and the wider community.

Mr Barclay has been recused from the proposed project and Mark Spencer, a junior minister, will make a decision on the matter, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) gave the plant the green light last month after an examination by the planning inspectorate.

But to move forward, the scheme must also be granted a permit by the Environment Agency (EA), a public body sponsored by Defra.

The BBC reported that officials raised concerns about a possible, or perceived, conflict between Mr Barclay’s constituency and ministerial roles in relation to the plant.

Labour has written to Mr Barclay demanding “urgent answers” following the report and saying the matter raises “serious issues, potentially involving a breach of the ministerial code”.

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said: “It would be an outrage if, as a Government minister, you have abused your position as Secretary of State to prop up your constituency vote.

“It is absolutely vital that ministers keep their duty to act in the national interest separate from their role as a constituency MP.”

Mr Barclay’s opposite number also called on him to publish correspondence from any dealings he may have had with the EA regarding the incinerator.

A Defra 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.”