REVIEW OF PUBLIC EXPENDITURE BY THE CABINET COMMITTEE
56. The Cabinet Committee on Public Services and
Public Expenditure (PSX) has the responsibility to monitor progress
against public service agreements, to review public expenditure
allocations and make recommendations to the Cabinet.
The Government will report to Parliament annually on progress
towards the targets. The Treasury told us that the Committee will
consider departments' management of their environmental impacts
as part of scrutinising their resource efficiency and elsewhere,
where this aspect of their work has been judged significant enough
to warrant coverage in their Public Service Agreements.
Given the concerns we have expressed above about the limitations
on the coverage of environmental impacts in departments' aims
and objectives and targets this indicates that the subject will
not be a major focus for the Committee. The Chief Secretary assured
us that the Committee would monitor Public Service Agreements
taking into account all of the issues which have been touched
on by the Government, one of which is sustainable development.
57. We have learned that there is no provision for
the Committee to include anyone with a particular interest in
environmental and sustainable development issues. The Treasury
told us that the membership of the Committee is drawn from among
non-departmental Ministers or Ministers in charge of departments
with relatively small levels of expenditure.
The Chief Secretary said that, as head of the Department of the
Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Deputy Prime Minister
could not be a member of the Committee.
He thought there were many other Ministers who see environment
as being a key issue.
The Treasury said that there would be other channels open to the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to assist
other departments and that the Treasury would where necessary
draw on the expertise of the Sustainable Development Unit when
supporting the Committee in its review of environmental aspects.
58. This gap in PSX points once again to the difficulty
for the Government in pursuing its Sustainable Development Strategy
under the leadership of the Deputy Prime Minister from his position
as Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions. We urge the Public Services and Public Expenditure
Committee not to forget 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 and sustainable development within
the Committee we recommend that the Government should require
departments to identify their contribution to sustainable development
and all their main environmental impacts and report progress in
addressing significant ones in their performance reports to the
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Cabinet Office November 1998 Back
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Cabinet Committee Business shows the Committee to be chaired by
the Chancellor of the Exchequer and with the Lord Chancellor,
the President of the Council, the Minister for the Cabinet Office
and Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, the Chief Whip, the
Leader of the House of Lords, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
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