Theresa Villier has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
Villiers (MP since 2005) will be replacing Michael Gove, who gained a reputation for transforming the role of the Environment department into one that lead the Conservative domestic agenda, and made the plastic issue a big focus of his tenure. Interventionist policies such as banning plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton buds in England were coupled with progress on a deposit return scheme and research into biodegradable plastic alternatives.
In his leadership campaign, Boris Johnson suggested his government would be far less interventionist. Although the plastic topic wasn’t specifically highlighted, it is possible that a less zealous Environment Secretary could signal a cooling off on government legislation on the issue (although this is unlikely to change the initiatives of retailers and other third parties).
Of course, policy affecting the food and drink sector is far wider than just plastic, and doesn’t just come from DEFRA. Both the sugar and plastics taxes were initiatives driven by HM Treasury (now lead by Tory leadership candidate Sajid Javid). The new Prime Minister has already commented that he may repeal or reduce the current sugar tax, and the new Chancellor is known as less keen on interventionism than his predecessors.
With Brexit looming and a tiny parliamentary majority, even a pro-legislation administration may struggle to enact any major new laws in the next few years. But as with the previous government, industry should be live to the risks of increased regulation and be prepared to get on the front foot.