2. The Environmental Audit Committee is appointed
to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government
departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental
protection and sustainable development. In 1998, in its inquiry
into the Greening Government Initiative,
the Committee learned that all departments had been reminded to
address sustainable development in their reviews which made up
the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review. The Committee
reported its disappointment that this reminder was issued after
the Review had started and departments had established the terms
of reference for their reviews. However the Committee considered
that the Comprehensive Spending Review, being a fundamental review
of spending, was an excellent starting point for reorienting government
towards a sustainable development agenda.
This report looks at the evidence of how far the Government took
up this opportunity.
3. The Comprehensive Spending Review was launched
on 24 July 1997 as a review "to allow the Government to bring
public spending programmes into line with its priorities and objectives".
It would be "truly comprehensive, embracing all items of
public expenditure" and would be focussed on the long-term.
The Review encompassed reviews by all government departments of
their spending programmes and several crossdepartmental
reviews. Its conclusions were to form the basis for the Government's
spending plans for the future.
4. Modern Public Services for Britain, Investing
set out the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review and public
spending plans for the three years 1999-2002. It set out three
key new elements to the public expenditure process:
firm three year public spending plans, involving
separate limited current and capital budgets for each department
and some crossdepartmental budgets, with the provision that
budgetholders could reinvest any money saved from within these
a focus on the principle of "money for
modernisation", with the requirement for departments to set
and deliver against output and efficiency targets, to be set in
new Public Service Agreements, which were published in December
1998; and to produce
Departmental Investment Strategies, which are expected to be completed
in the Spring of 1999. Performance would be monitored by a Cabinet
Committee, known as the Committee on Public Services and Public
new central funds to be allocated on a competitive
basis: the Capital Modernisation Fund which would provide for
"additional innovative projects" and the Invest to Save
Budget, to help develop projects which would deliver innovative
services bringing together two or more public service bodies.
5. This report examines how far the Government pursued
its commitment to environmental protection and sustainable development
within the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Public Service
Agreements. In particular it addresses:
the procedures employed to ensure that
environmental and sustainable development considerations were
taken into account in the Review;
progress in tackling subsidies which
have a detrimental impact on the environment;
support for environmental programmes;
environmental appraisal of new spending
the new public expenditure framework.
The report then sets out recommendations for the
next Comprehensive Review of public expenditure which the Government
expects to launch in 2000 to roll forward the spending limits
for the three year period 2001 - 04.
6. The Committee received memoranda from HM Treasury
on the Comprehensive Spending Review process, from the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on its role in the
overall Review and its own review of its housing activities, and
from two other departments, the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food and the Department for Education and Employment, to provide
further examples of how the reviews were carried out in practice.
The Committee also received memoranda from the Council for the
Protection of Rural England, the Council for the National Parks,
Friends of the Earth, the Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds, and the Woodland Trust providing their views of the Review
and its results. A full list of memoranda received is published
at the end of this report. The Committee completed its inquiry
by taking oral evidence from the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP. His evidence is published on
pages 7 to 21.
7. We are grateful to everyone who provided written
or oral evidence to our inquiry and to Mr Derek Osborn, CB,
Chairman of the European Environment Agency, for his advice.
1 Environmental Audit Committee, Second Report 1997-98,
HC 517 Back
Op. Cit. paragraphs 77 & 78 Back
HMTreasury News Release 89/97 Back
Modern Public Services for Britain, Investing in reform Cm 4011 Back
Public Services for the future: modernisation, reform, accountability
Cm 4181 Back