44. We were pleased to see that some key environmental
targets have been included for the main government departments,
but disappointed by the procedural nature of some and the absence
of others. For example we welcome inclusion of the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' targets to make
1 million more buildings cheaper to keep warm through the installation
of energy efficiency measures and to increase the number of passenger
miles travelled by rail.
But we are disappointed at the lack of a complementary target
for reducing the number of passenger miles travelled by road.
On climate change we note that the provision of a new programme
is included in the Department of the Environment, Transport and
the Regions' targets but neither the Department for Education
and Employment nor the Department of Health are to be held accountable
for achieving energy savings in the education and health sectors.
We also note the importance of targets being properly framed
for example for the purposes of measuring the Department of the
Environment, Transport and the Regions' target to ensure that
60 per cent of new homes are built on previously developed land
we note that previously developed urban land, which had turned
into a green lung for the city, would still count as "previously
45. We were also pleased to see that Public Services
Agreements, including targets, had been agreed for the Forestry
Commission and key Agencies, such as the Exports Credits Guarantee
Department and National Savings, although there was no explanation
for the selection of the ones which were included. Fortuitously,
this allowed us to consider the commitments of the Forestry Commission.
46. We found that concerns about the possibly narrowly
constructed aims and targets for the Forestry Commission as foreshadowed
in the earlier Comprehensive Spending Review were, as the Chief
Secretary had indicated to us that they might be,
to some degree allayed. The Comprehensive Spending Review indicated
that the Forestry Commission should deliver an improvement in
the return to the taxpayer over the next 10 - 20 years and better
accountability of decisions on environmental outputs, in return
for continuing investment by the taxpayer.
This gave the impression that its return could be measured purely
in monetary terms, not reflecting the wider social and environmental
benefits from its maturing forest and the proposed target of "providing
better accountability of decisions on environmental outputs"
as the Woodland Trust put it, implied that "environmentally
based decisions could be squeezed on cost grounds". We note
that the Agreement now commits the Forestry Commission only to
developing methods to benchmark its return and thereafter to set
an increased rate of return.
In the context of the Forestry Commission's aims and objectives
and commitment to sustainable development we trust that this will
give it the opportunity to ensure that its core measure of return
to the taxpayer places sufficient value on non-timber benefits
such as the benefits to biodiversity of broadleaved woodland.
47. Clearly any quantified attempt to analyse whether
environmental considerations and the Government's commitment to
sustainable development had been adequately addressed in the Public
Service Agreements could be dismissed as meaningless and any other
assessment is likely to be seen as judgemental. Be that as it
may, our overall view is that the flavour of the Agreements is
that they are to address two concerns and two concerns only
to achieve departmental outputs and to reduce the costs of doing
so. Environmental impacts and the meshing together of policy considerations
in relation to their impact on sustainable development do not
present themselves as priorities for the Government. As a result
the Public Service Agreements do not provide a strong foundation
for us to take up the challenge offered to us by the Chief Secretary,
to hold departments to account on their impacts on the environment
and sustainable development. 
48. In addition to output and outcome targets related
to departments' policy objectives the Public Service Agreements
address departments' targets for the efficiency of their operations
and for improving the quality of their work, but they do not address
the environmental impact of departments' operations. We noted
that the Comprehensive Spending Review showed no sign that the
Public Service Agreements would tie departments to delivering
against the Government's commitment to the greening of its operations.
We received no explanations in the memoranda we received from
departments as to why their Public Service Agreements were not
expected to address this government commitment. And we note that
this omission remains in the Public Service Agreements as now
published. One particularly striking example of this is in relation
to the Ministry of Defence, who have set targets for asset sales
and stockholdings but not for addressing their contaminated land.
49. 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. It could of course be argued
that not all government policy can be reduced to incorporate within
these targets and that where there are already other means for
reviewing performance, for example in this case through the annual
reports of the Green Ministers Committee, it would represent unnecessary
duplication. However, we do not accept those arguments on the
grounds that to exclude this policy is to show it as being of
a lower importance.
60 Q5 Back
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Op.Cit p28 and Land Use Change in England, DETR. Back
Op.Cit. pp94&95 Back
Op.Cit. pp104&105 Back
Op.Cit. p72 Back