Environment Secretary Under Scrutiny Over Incinerator Controversy

The environment secretary has faced criticism for his involvement in opposing an incinerator project in his own constituency without properly disclosing his interests. Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, has been vocal in his opposition to a proposed waste-to-energy incinerator in Wisbech, which would convert non-recyclable waste into energy for local industrial purposes.

While Barclay did not confirm whether he intervened directly with the Energy Department or Number 10 Downing Street, he acknowledged the need for proper recusal and apologized for not declaring his interest sooner. Reports suggest that civil servants raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest, leading to discussions with Whitehall’s propriety and ethics unit. Eventually, Barclay delegated the decision-making process to another minister, Mark Spencer.

During a session with the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee, Barclay emphasized the importance of balancing his constituency responsibilities with his ministerial duties. He clarified that he never intervened with the Environment Agency regarding the incinerator project. However, questions remain about internal communications and Barclay’s involvement in the decision-making process.

Tamara Finkelstein, permanent secretary to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, indicated that internal communications about the incinerator project would not be disclosed.

The opposition has raised concerns about potential misuse of ministerial power for electoral gain, emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability in government actions.

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