Examination of witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 25 MAY 1999
and DR TERENCE
40. Can we move on then to outside central ministries
and the Government and in several points in the Strategy you refer
to local government and the voluntary sector. How have they been
signed up officially to this Strategy or have they not? What is
(Mr Adams) I do not think they can all be signed up
officially in the sense of acceding to every word of it. The nature
of the consultation process which led to its production was our
attempt to get as much agreement as we could to the approach we
were taking and to the action that was identified not just for
Government but as needed by other people. That was why we drew
a great deal of comfort from the wide measure of acceptance that
we got for Opportunities for Change. We did not stop consulting
at the end of the formal consultation period, we had lots of discussions
through the autumn and into the early part of this year with all
sorts of groups outside. We have close contacts with local government
over Local Agenda 21 and other things, for example. So I cannot
claim to you that everybody with an interest outside central government
subscribes to every last bit of it. Essentially it is a Government
document but drawing in material from everywhere else. Clearly
a key part of the next stage is then to go out and discuss with
those people the Strategy as it has emerged, what they can make
of it, if there are any things they disagree with, how they can
help deliver it and also how they can be bound into the future
monitoring and reporting arrangements.
41. That is what I would like to know really,
your plans for taking it up to the regions, to assess their problems.
With all these plans, the success or failure of it relies on whether
Mrs Miggens of Number 2 Arcacia Avenue is actually going to do
it and it is the local service providers, primarily through local
authorities, incentivising and providing facilities for Mrs Miggens
to be able to take advantage of these warm words that is going
to be the test to it or not. You tell us you have had discussions
with local authorities but is there going to be a road show working
on it to sell it to local authorities, sell it in the regions,
the new regional development set up that we now have, to make
sure this is properly taken on board by the people who make a
(Mr Adams) Our firm plans include at least one seminar
or road show in each English region over the next few months.
We shall also be discussing with other bodies, and it is easier
actually in terms of our relations with people like Regional Development
Agencies which are to some degree under the influence of DETR
and therefore we shall talk to them. I have already last week
been to a regional discussion in Cambridge to try and explain
the Strategy and underline the importance of local buy-in and
local action to undertake it. We will have to tailor events to
different groups and different circumstances. Of course, you mention
the public, there is a rather different route for getting to the
public, or a series of different routes. This is, however accessible
we have attempted to make it, largely a document for interested
people and alas for bureaucrats. We will have to convert some
of these messages into what should members of the public do differently
and that is, of course, one of the things that the "Are you
doing your bit" campaign is designed to do and one of the
reasons why the Strategy the "Are you doing your bit"
were launched on the same day.
(Ms Hillier) Can I just add a comment here as well.
I have been talking to local authorities and to the LGA and the
LGMB about developing a suite of indicators which they can use
for reporting on sustainable development at local level. We have
produced a draft menu of indicators. We held a conference in October
which was attended by about 100 local authority representatives
from local authorities around the country. We had a very lively
and interesting day and we have had a lot of favourable feedback
from that event and from our subsequent written consultation on
the package of indicators that is being developed. I think a lot
of authorities are signed up to this initiative and working to
develop indicators themselves. Some of them are looking for guidance
from the centre to help them with that. I think there is a lot
of awareness out there with local authorities and a lot of action
42. If I can just follow up two points which
Mr Loughton just raised. I am getting an enormous sense of frustration
because I can see a sense of deja vu in the same way that
there was with the National Lottery funding arrangements. If you
look to page 68 of the document, it recognises that "In the
most deprived areas, levels of voluntary activity tend to be very
lowaround 7 per cent. compared with around 20 per cent.
in more affluent communities". I have just got a horrible
feeling that where you have got the 100 or so local authorities
who attended this wonderful debate day that you had, you are going
to end up with those who have got the resources and those who
have got perhaps a very eager local community wanting to take
this agenda on board, able to do it, but that there will be many
more who just do not have that capacity at this stage to be able
to get the resources, make the bids in the New Opportunity Fund
or wherever it might be to actually get the funding. So are you
going to have, if you like, a few examples all around the country,
trail blazers, wonderful best practice, but huge deserts of sustainability
because you have not got the resources to do it. What resources
are going into all of this?
(Mr Adams) I think, if I may say so, your premise
43. I hope you are right.
(Mr Adams) In terms of the local authorities which
are most active in this areawhich are trail blazing, to
some extent, which have provided a model from which we have attempted
to build the national Strategythe ones which are really
doing the integrated thinking include places like Bradford and
Leicester, many of the big cities, many areas with ethnic minority
populations. I think there is a very good story to tell. We and
the Local Government Association and the IDA are intent on delivering
100 per cent. of local authorities having Local Agenda 21 Strategies
by next year. And, where authorities already produce strategies,
improving those, building on them, taking them forward. There
will always be a problem of specific resources for specific purposes
but actually a lot of this is about getting people to see the
scope for redirecting their existing activities to achieve these
sorts of outcomes by more integrated thinking. That is a message
that we and the Local Government Association have been putting
out together for a couple of years or more.
44. I do not disagree with that at all but it
would be very helpful, for example, if we could perhaps as a Committee
have details of the number of schools which are now taking part
in the environment parliament which I understand was an outcome
of this initiative. I have written to every single one of the
schools in my constituency. I assume other Members may have done
so as well. It will be very interesting to see just what the take
up of that particular initiative is. I think that will give us
some indication of what resources and potential there is on the
ground within the initiative to actually get take up. I fear it
because we are starting off at such a level in some areas that
with the best will in the world unless we actually develop the
kind of resources that the Lottery Fund has put in to 90 per cent.
funding at this level, if we concentrate on the capacity building
we are just not going to get the take up that we want.
(Mr Adams) Capacity building is very important and
perhaps I could put in a note, Chairman, if that would help the
Committee. I think there is an increasing number of funding schemes.
Not just the Lottery, the Environmental Action Fund, also private
sector sourcesthe Shell Best Better Britain campaign and
othersand Going for Green who are doing good work in this
area. Whether those together yet cover 100 per cent. of the population
must be doubtful but they have increased enormously in recent
years and perhaps we can help the Committee see that.
Chairman: That would be helpful.
45. In your section on devolution in Chapter
2 you say that the "... Government looks forward to forging
new partnerships on sustainable development with the devolved
administrations..." in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I wonder if you would just like to expand a little bit on how
you think those partnerships might work?
(Mr Adams) Could I first say, of course, that in terms
of the timing this document came out before the devolved institutions
took over their powers so this is written, as it were, in the
old style under the old regime. The whole emphasis we have attempted
to give this morning has been one of partnership in producing
this Strategy and following it up. Clearly the existence of those
important devolved institutions adds a new layer of complexity
to the partnerships we shall have to run and we will look forward
to doing that. A great deal of the work anyway has to be done
with regional institutions in England, local authorities as we
have just been discussing, private sector organisations and others.
The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the institutions
in Northern Ireland will now also play a large part. Hopefully,
the timing is good in that we will be looking over the next few
months at how we carry this forward, and in particular how we
design a UK reporting and monitoring system, which is what we
shall want, how can the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish
participate, not just contribute to that but participate fully
in it, and how can we then also take account of their interests
and their wishes. So, yes, we will do that. I think we are conscious
it adds a slight further burden of administrative complexity but
it is something we will do.
46. You referred earlier to the "Are you
doing your bit" campaign. This is a £7 million every
year publicity campaign. I wonder if you can tell us, is any of
this money available to local and voluntary organisations?
(Mr Adams) There are two elements to the relaunched
"Are you doing your bit". One is the television, radio
and poster adverts, which Members of the Committee may have already
begun to see. But recognising the importance, the crucial nature,
of collaboration in this area a second element called "Campaign
Extension" has deliberately been designed into this so that
the company which is looking after the campaign for the Department
has a team which and is both going out and talking to partners
but also looking to have people approach it to see how the benefits
can be multiplied by working with local authorities who are already
running Travelwise campaigns, for example, or voluntary local
community groups and others who have particular messages at particular
times of the year.
47. So collaboration rather than giving local
(Mr Adams) Collaboration rather than giving the local
authority cash but giving them material which hopefully is of
value in itself and enabling them to link into some of these other
messages which will have a high profile.
48. Have you been able to make any assessment
yet of the impact of the campaign side?
(Mr Adams) I have not seen any assessment yet of the
impact but there certainly will be monitoring of its successes,
Mr Shaw: When you are considering the
campaign, do you consider matters of infrastructure? You are spending
£7 million every year, hopefully you are going to engage
Mrs Potts of Arcacia Avenue
Mr Loughton: Miggens.
49.and her neighbour in energy saving
or recycling. I mean there are some local authorities packing
up recycling because there is not the infrastructure there. It
is all very well putting paper at the door step but if there is
not the recycling paper mill to recycle it then it just goes to
the landfill and, one, it is expensive and, two, it defeats the
object. I wondered if you had looked at the infrastructure indicators?
(Mr Adams) Absolutely. Obviously there is no point
in having an advertising campaign floating free without the policy
(Mr Adams) Some of the issues you talk about
51. That is happening now, is it not? Local
authorities are packing up recycling and we are doing this. There
is nothing worse than the public trying to take it on board and
you hear it on the television on one hand and they say "The
local authority has just told me they cannot afford this practice".
(Mr Adams) Certainly one or two local authorities
have cut back on the extent of recycling they are accepting, others
still are doing it hopefully. These are very much matters which
the Draft Waste Strategy, which will appear shortly, is designed
to address and therefore provide the policy underpinning to see
whether markets can be secured so that the peaks and troughs of
prices which local authorities can get for their recycled materials,
for example, are not so great and therefore provide a great deal
of assurance for local authorities who want to do this.
52. The Strategy talks about your desire to
spread best practice and the results of scientific research in
this area. I wonder if you can tell us how you are co-ordinating
the various bits of research being undertaken in the sustainable
development field across the Government departments and perhaps
tell us whether you are bringing the research funding together
in one pot in this area?
(Mr Adams) Certainly we have not reached the stage
of bringing research funding together in one pot. There is an
awful lot of relevant research which is going on. As one of the
elements of the preparation of the Strategy, the Sustainable Development
Unit held a seminar for interested Government departments and
the research councils last autumn where we talked to them about
what we thought the role of research was and they said some things
about what they were doing in this area. The nature of the research
effort which is needed to support sustainable development it seems
to me is very broad and some of it is going to be done by businesses
because hopefully they will see opportunities to make profits
by selling better products which include products which have a
lower environmental impact. There is a lot of environmental research,
research on climate change, for example, which helps define some
of the environmental limits which we were talking about earlier.
I think some of the work that Government departments need to do
is research in bringing together the elements of sustainable development.
I have been talking, for example, in the last week or so to DTI
who are commissioning research about sustainability management
systems, essentially one step on from environmental management.
53. Forgive me for interrupting. Surely you
accept that there is a need to co-ordinate this work or for one
person at least to be aware of what is going on in the field or
do you just leave it?
(Mr Adams) No, I accept entirely that we need to be
as aware as we can be of what is going on in the field. Whether
we can capture everything, I do not know. Nor do I agree that
it needs to be brought together to have one set of priorities
imposed on it, provided all those, particularly in the public
sector but also in the private sector too who are commissioning
research, understand the contribution they can be making to sustainable
development and are maximising their contribution. I see that
as our role.
54. How do you ensure sufficient research is
being done in the areas that Government see as being a key priority
if there is no person or if your unit is not centrally co-ordinating?
(Mr Adams) I think we do need to concentrate on those
areas where it seems least likely to happen particularly those
areas where there is not a commercial driver for research.
55. Okay, so who is doing that within the Government?
Who is doing that within the Civil Service?
(Mr Adams) Who is looking for those areas?
(Mr Adams) We are, the Sustainable Development Unit.
57. Can you tell us about the scale of the ESRC's
new programme on Delivering Sustainability which is talked about
in the document?
(Mr Adams) I understand that ESRC has not, after all,
decided to construct a new programme for Delivering Sustainability.
I apologise to the Committee and I have apologised to the ESRC
that that part of the Strategy is incorrect. There is full scope,
I understand, for ESRC to fund relevant research on economic and
social matters on sustainable development but at this stage they
do not propose to mount a continuation of global environmental
change which is their programme which is about to come to an end.
58. Why not?
(Mr Adams) I think you would have to ask them that
question, if I may say so. I was very disappointed and somewhat
surprised to hear their decision. It does seem to me that economic
and social researchhow you get best practice rolled out,
what are some of the economic factors underlying sustainable developmentis
one of the most important areas of research and it is vital that
it should be done by somebody.
59. I entirely agree with that, your comment
there, but does that not reinforce the need for a central pot
(Mr Adams) There is a strong tradition in this country
that the research councils have a great deal of independence in
what they do and how they allocate their funding. DTI, the Office
of Science and Technology and DETR were made aware a few months
ago, earlier this year, of proposals by ESRC to develop a follow
up to global environmental change and at that stage we all said:
"Excellent, this looks exactly what is needed" and gave
it as fair a wind as we could. Therefore it came as a complete
surprise to us that they had decided not to do it.
1 List of sources of grant for environmental projects
available from DETR. Back