The Environmental Audit Committee has agreed to
the following Report:
THE COMPREHENSIVE SPENDING REVIEW AND PUBLIC SERVICE AGREEMENTS
Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations
1. The Committee's conclusions and recommendations
are listed below:
(a) We remain concerned
that the Comprehensive Spending Review White Paper and the formal
processes for preparing it did not put enough weight on the Government's
commitment to sustainable development (paragraph 16).
(b) We believe that in
the Comprehensive Spending Review departments should have been
provided with guidance and assistance. They should not have been
relied upon to take account of sustainable development with neither
the Treasury nor the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions having a clear responsibility to check that they
had done so (paragraph 17).
stress the importance of reflecting the Government's commitment
to sustainable development in the words of its key reports. We
believe that to turn the ship of Government onto a sustainable
course still requires some changes in hearts and minds and that
the summarising of the proposed actions in published documents
reinforces the message (paragraph 18).
(d) We conclude that
although the Government did not formally use the Comprehensive
Spending Review to tackle subsidies which have an adverse environmental
impact it is none-the-less considering action to address many
of them. We welcome this and look forward to being able to see
real progress on removing these distortions (paragraph 23).
(e) The balance of spending
between roads and rail does not appear to have been addressed
in the Comprehensive Spending Review (paragraph 26).
(f) On balance we would
say that whilst the increases in funding for environmental protection
programmes should be welcomed, they are marginal by comparison
to what could be achieved through integration of environmental
considerations into the Government's more mainstream programmes
for health, education, competitiveness etc (paragraph 27).
(g) Overall we have found
that some consideration has been given to environmental impacts
in the Comprehensive Spending Review. However, we have been disappointed
by the answers to our questions on the environmental appraisal
of policies and we conclude that the Government has not been meeting
its commitments in this regard (paragraph 38).
(h) The Committee urges
the Government to persist until all departments explicitly adopt
the Government's policy on sustainable development in their aims
and objectives (paragraph 41).
(i) The Chief Secretary
challenged the Committee to hold departments to account on their
impacts on the environment and sustainable development. We consider
the Public Service Agreements do not provide a strong foundation
for this (paragraph 47).
(j) We consider that
the omission of commitments for greening government operations
from the Public Service Agreements demonstrates the Government's
lack of real concern for that agenda. This is the central mechanism
for holding departments to account and the only one which has
the force of being linked to consideration of departments' future
budgets (paragraph 49).
(k) We welcome the Treasury's
decision to incorporate consideration of environmental impacts
in their consideration of bids for capital funding. We urge them
to take this further opportunity to ensure that in their Departmental
Investment Strategies departments sign up to and have plans to
deliver targets for energy efficiency and dealing with contaminated
land (paragraph 51).
(l) We are very concerned
about the constraint the fixed three year spending limits place
on key policies which are due to be finalised within the next
year or so. We ask the Government again to tell us what provision
they it has made to enable forthcoming policies to be taken forward,
in particular the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Renewable
Energy Policy. We ask particularly whether there will be scope
to address the need for any new spending on these for the year
2001 - 02 which, although it is the third year of the
current Comprehensive Spending Review period, is also to be the
first year of the second Comprehensive Spending Review (paragraphs
54 & 55).
(m) We urge the Cabinet
Committee on Public Services and Public Expenditure Committee
(PSX), to remember the importance of sustainable development issues
even though they have perhaps not always been fully spelled out
in the Public Service Agreements. In the absence of an obvious
champion for the environment within PSX we recommend that the
Government should require departments to identify their contribution
to sustainable development in their annual performance reports
to that Committee (paragraph 58).
(n) In the second Comprehensive
Spending Review and its report the Government should more fully
reflect its commitment to sustainable development and the approach
it is adopting, so that it is clear that its spending proposals
and performance targets are fully consistent with its strategic
policy intention (paragraph 59).
(o) For the benefit of
openness and to enable an audit trail, key guidance on matters
to be addressed in the second Comprehensive Spending Review should
be publicly available. This guidance should spell out clearly
that departments should take into account their contribution to
sustainable development in their reviews, proposals, targets and
investment strategies and that they should report their overall
approach in the resulting documents (paragraph 60).
(p) To ensure that sustainable
development considerations are taken into account and given sufficient
weight the second Comprehensive Spending Review should involve
a checking mechanism, drawing on the expertise of the staff of
the Sustainable Development Unit and, if possible, Ministers with
a special interest in the overall sustainable development policy
(q) The next Public Service
Agreements should include performance targets related to key aspects
of the Government's sustainable development strategy and its commitment
to greening government operations (paragraph 62).
(r) The next Comprehensive
Spending Review should make clear the funding position regarding
important policy developments which are already known to be under
review for completion within the expenditure period (paragraph