Examination of witnesses
(Questions 80 - 86)
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1998
and MS PATRICIA
80. One of your pledges was to put environment
at the heart of government so you could have had a sustainable
development strategy ahead of your new CSR document which would
have allowed you to keep that particular election pledge and that
of putting environment at the heart of government.
(Mr Byers) We want to get the sustainable development
policy right which is why when it is published early next year
it will have the broad support of those people who are concerned
about these matters. These are issues that are at the heart of
government which is one of the reasons I am pleased as a Cabinet
minister to come along today and give evidence to the Committee.
81. You think you get it right by having
it follow on from the CSR document?
(Mr Byers) I think we get it right by talking
to people, by consideration, consultation, then coming forward
with a policy which has broad support and which, yes, does get
82. Finally, Minister, when we spoke to
the Green Ministers about the availability of the CSR documents,
there was a lack of clarity and as a consequence of that we have
seen some departments publish their documents and others have
not and we have received some criticism from outside organisations
that they have not been able to get their hands on vital documents.
In the aim of freedom of information do you think that all the
documents which have been part of this process should be available
to those who want to see them whether part of government or from
(Mr Byers) All the documents which have been part
of the CSR process?
(Mr Byers) I would recommend against that having
had to read through most of them myself! Seriously, we operate
within the normal rules of government and the documents are available
when it is appropriate for them to be made public. Some contain
matters which cannot be made public. For example, there is going
to be a public services agreement with the intelligence services
and that will not be made public for obvious reasons.
84. Who has ownership of the documents,
the department or the Treasury? Why have some departments published
and not other departments?
(Mr Byers) They are all government documents and
so presumably the departments will be following the normal guidelines
about publication of government documents. That is all I can say
85. Could I ask one final question about
procurement. You mentioned the review of civil procurement both
in the CSR and the Pre-Budget Report. Are issues of environment
specifically within the review's terms of reference?
(Mr Byers) Not specifically. The terms of reference
talk about reviewing civil procurement in government in the light
of the Government's objectives on efficiency, modernisation and
competitiveness in the short and medium term.
86. So it does not mention the environment?
(Mr Byers) Not specifically.
Chairman: I think
we have more or less completed our questioning on the Comprehensive
Spending Review. Thank you very much indeed for that.