Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence




  The Round Table is a non-executive NDPB sponsored by DETR. It is UK-wide in scope.

  The Round Table was established in January 1995. It aims to encourage discussion on major issues of sustainable development and to build consensus between people who have different perspectives and different responsibilities. Its full objectives are:

    —  to help identify the agenda and priorities for sustainable development;

    —  to develop new areas of consensus on difficult issues of sustainable development and, where this is not possible, to clarify and reduce differences;

    —  to provide advice and recommendations on actions to achieve sustainable development;

    —  to help evaluate progress towards objectives; and

    —  to inform and involve others, building wider support for emerging consensus.

  In its review of the first four years, the Round Table reviewed these objectives. It concluded that four were appropriate and relevant to its work. One—to help evaluate progress towards sustainable development—was a role which the Round Table had not pursued directly, and did not consider entirely appropriate as it was then constituted and functioning. It had, rather, considered how such progress should be evaluated; and it had followed up its own recommendations.


  The Round Table has a Chairman and currently 30 other members, of whom four (previously five) are appointed ex officio and the rest in a private capacity. They are drawn from all parts of the UK and from a wide range of sectors. Appointments are made by DETR Ministers. The Deputy Prime Minister is President of the Round Table and he and other ministers seek to take part in plenary meetings as appropriate, but this does not imply Government endorsement of the Round Table's recommendations.


  The Round Table carries out studies into topics of its choosing. It pursues these by appointing a subgroup, chaired by a member and consisting partly of members and partly of others with expertise in the topic. Over its first four years it carried out 17 studies, leading to published reports. In addition, it responds to some major consultation documents and offers ad hoc advice to ministers.

  Its recommendations are directed principally to the Government, but also to local government, business and others. The Government responds to each report, aiming to do so within three months of, and only exceptionally more than six months from, its publication. The Round Table sends copies of its reports to other relevant bodies.

  The review of the first four years concluded that the Round Table should strengthen its advocacy role, each report having an associated communication and dissemination plan; and that the "back agenda" should be periodically reviewed and updated so that the cumulative influence of all the Round Table's recommendations are continually placed before Government.

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Prepared 15 December 1999