Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  40.  This year, before the summer, after the summer?
  (Mr Leonard)  I hope it will be this year.[2]

  41.  And how many environmental appraisals of policy have been conducted by the Department?
  (Mr Leonard)  I am not aware of a number, of that; each departmental policy is required to consider the impact on the environment, and appraisal can be done in different ways. The most important approach is for it to be considered at the outset of a policy, and my Directorate is consulted frequently about that; but, formal environmental appraisals, I do not have a list of how many have been done.

  42.  But do you get them; what is the loop of accountability there?
  (Mr Leonard)  The accountability is for the part of the Department producing the policy to demonstrate that it has considered environmental issues, and the Environmental Protection Directorate is responsible for advising them when they need advice. The Green Minister for the Department has said that she wishes to have reports on all the environmental appraisals done in the Department, and that is being put into place. We are also introducing a range of other measures in relation to the decisions of Green Ministers, to help various parts of the Department understand how to do environmental appraisals, and we published a document a few weeks ago, called Policy Guidance on Policy Appraisal and the Environment. We are working on a more technical guide, at a more technical level for economists and other specialists, on how to do that, and we are introducing other measures, such as workshops and training, and we are looking at the possibility of producing strategic advice for Departments.

  43.  To other Departments?
  (Mr Leonard)  To other Departments and to our own Department.

  44.  To what extent are other Departments following you; are they really welcoming this? After all, it is a bit of a culture change, is it not, integration, cross-policy thinking?
  (Mr Leonard)  Yes, it is, and some of them have been summoned before the Environmental Audit Committee and asked to say what they are doing on this. Across Whitehall, we have a discussion group which shadows Green Ministers, and it is a major aspect of that group to share best practice, to look at how things are being done on environmental appraisals, how they can be improved. There is a lot more improvement that can be achieved.

  45.  Early in May, there was a very amusing report in The Observer about Eland House. We had descriptions there of people having to flail their arms about in order to turn the light on, problems with windows not being cleaned and systems for controlling the environment running amok. Have you any comment on that, and are the people using Eland House now completely happy working there?
  (Mr Leonard)  I do not work in it.
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  Let me answer that because Brian does not work in Eland House. He works in Ashdown House.

  46.  I think there are problems there, too, but never mind, I think most of them are at Eland?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  These were the two buildings into which the old DoE was to move, out of Marsham Street, Eland in particular is environmentally a very sophisticated building. We insisted on a high standard of environmental systems, such as Combined Heat and Power, we are using an air-conditioning system called DVCC (Displaced Ventilation Chilled Ceiling).

Mr Olner

  47.  It sounds very complicated.
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  What it is is sort of cold-water radiators in the ceiling and then the air is pushed up from below. It avoids that feature of many air-conditioning systems, where you cool all the air, make it very cold and then expend a lot of energy pumping it round the building. We also have these additional panes of glass which slide up and down on the outside in order to control the amount of solar gain. Now all this requires a lot of tweaking and tuning, and it is getting better as time goes by, but it was clear that it was not accurately tuned when we arrived. The lighting, the answer is that there are no light switches in——

Dr Whitehead

  48.  Is that another way of saying it did not work?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  No.

Christine Butler

  49.  It was not optimal anyway, was it?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  The settings were not optimally set at the time we moved in.

  50.  But what about the more serious concerns that we hear about, such as repeated flooding and the overloaded computer network?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  We had two floods.

  51.  Did they do a lot of damage?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  They did do quite a lot of damage, at least the first one did. The water got into the main rising electricity main at the back. We think it was probably due to the faulty control of water pressures, and getting surges out of the pumps. Touch wood, we have not had anything in the last year. These things are regrettable, maybe they are a commentary on the great construction industry for which we are the sponsor, but gradually I think we are sorting these problems out.

  52.  And a lot of this, the computer network system, it was overloaded, that was playing up as well, was it not, but it was the whole bit, we have to say, it was a bit of a disaster at first, and this was a much lauded and very expensive venture. Are the public getting value for money in this?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  If you put the question to me, did we move in to Eland House too early——

  53.  I did not.
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  I would say that we did move in too early, we were rather obsessed with making sure that we moved in during the Christmas/New Year recess of 1996-97, and bits of the building were not—there were some floors that were available and some floors that were not. When we came to Ashdown House, we said, "Well, we're not making this mistake again, we are not moving into Ashdown House until this building is ready." And the move into Ashdown House has gone a great deal more smoothly, as a result.

  54.  Are computer networks now working absolutely optimally at Ashdown and at Eland?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  There are always questions of reliability; they are not affected by the building, as such, computer systems go up and they go down, but they are not as a result of problems related to the building.

  55.  What are you doing about it?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  We are moving to a common system. The old Department of Transport had one system and we had another, and we are constantly upgrading it, and in about two years' time we will have to, almost certainly, scrap this system and move on to another. But, the system, I think the degree of reliability is actually not bad at all, but it was interrupted by the flood, which of course got into the electrics, and part of Eland House was affected. But, as it works now, in Great Minster, Ashdown and Eland, the problems of the IT system are the problems of IT systems everywhere, rather than problems of the buildings.

Mr Bennett

  56.  Can I just ask how much this all cost?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  The three, taken together, the Department of Transport moving into Great Minster House and the DoE's move into Ashdown and Eland, it is very nearly £100 million.

  57.  And how much did the things that went wrong cost; they are presumably not covered by insurance?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  We are still in dispute about that; it goes back, was this the fault of a component, was it the fault of the baseboard, was it the fault of a fit-out, was it the fault of the consulting engineers, was it the fault of the way we ran it.

  58.  That is really who is going to pay for it, is it not; how much did it actually cost to put it right?
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  I do not know if I have got an exact figure, but I should think it is probably close to seven figures.

Christine Butler

  59.  That is a lot.
  (Sir Andrew Turnbull)  Yes.

2   Note by witness: The model improvement programme is in the process of being implemented in all Departments and Green Ministers are currently considering how to report progress. Back

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