Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
THURSDAY 21 OCTOBER 1999
80. And my final question; we know that the
public are interested in the environment but how can we re-awaken
their interest in the European Union as the prime vehicle for
making progress on environmental matters that really count?
(Ms Willis) I think that both environment and sustainable
development can really contribute to making the EU more popular,
for two reasons. Firstly, because the EU does have a good record
on creation, if not necessarily implementation, of environmental
policy, and it is a well-respected field. Secondly, because, as
is often said, environmental policy requires action at more than
a national level; the EU did very well at Kyoto, for example.
And, also, it is a popular issue, and I think there is a real
chance now for the European Union to really take sustainable development
as a way of involving the public, of really driving home the message
of what European integration is for. So I think that we should
offer it to them as a great way of repopularising the EU.
81. At the end of your paper, you gave a list
of recommendations, things that you suggested this Committee ought
to be saying to the Government. Can I just ask you about one of
those, I think we have covered all of them except one, which is
the one which says: "Make explicit the linkages between our
national strategy...and the European process." I was not
quite clear what you meant by that; first, what linkages you thought
should be highlighted, but, in particular, what that means in
terms of a negotiating position?
(Mr Madden) This stemmed from our worry, in reading
our UK sustainable development strategy, that, given the importance
of the EU in setting environmental policy but also the impact
of a range of other EU policies on agriculture, transport, and
so on, there was very, very little mention in our national strategy
of the European dimension and the interaction, the interplay between
the UK and European levels. And we think that these linkages need
to be made explicit, when we come to revise that strategy, we
make those linkages explicit. And we also need to set up elements
of what our strategy is for Europe and what we are trying to get
out of it and what we would like to see there. So when we do come
to rewrite or revise the strategy we would like to see a lot more
attention paid to that interplay.
82. I can understand that point, I was not quite
sure what you meant by using this as a negotiating position at
Helsinki. I can understand the point that you are making, that
within our strategy we ought to be clear about what the linkages
are; which are the particular points that need attention?
(Mr Madden) I think, the Helsinki point, we feel this
Committee will be making recommendations to the UK Government
as to what it can do, and that is one thing that we think it needs
to do. We would also, obviously, like to see sustainable development
strategies developed by all other European countries; most of
them have environment plans, of one sort or another, but if we
are going to have an EU-level sustainable development strategy
we are going to need to develop more of those at the national
(Ms Willis) A wider point here is that the UK is actually
a good example of structures for environmental integration; we
have got your Committee, we have got the Sustainable Development
Unit and we have got the strategy and the headline indicators,
which a lot of other countries in Europe are looking at as an
interesting set of indicators also to promote sustainable development
to the wider public. So when our Government goes to Helsinki they
can go there with this quite strong backing of what we have achieved
at a national level. So I think that is something positive that
the Government can play on.
83. We obviously have that going for us, namely
this sensible strategy which is emerging, as you say, but I wonder
what you could say about the reputation of the United Kingdom
in environmental matters, what reputation does it have at the
moment, inside Europe, on environmental matters; are we still
a baddie, or are we improving?
(Mr Madden) Our feeling, I think, in general, is that
there has been a marked improvement, and through, as we have listed,
our greening government machinery and our strategy and probably
more of a sense of engagement by the UK in the development of
the European policy, and, as we have heard before, our better
record, probably, on enforcement than many other countries, I
think that people are now seeing the UK as a country that can
provide leadership in Europe.
84. So, amongst the European nations, what role
would you expect us to play, as it were, by comparison with, let
us say, The Netherlands, or Denmark, or other countries which
traditionally have been rather more effective?
(Mr Madden) I think thatwe are in danger of
repeating ourselveswe have a set of domestic policies and
initiatives that have some lessons for Europe in horizontal integration
of environment, and that means that we can go into Europe and
offer some real examples.
85. You have no particular thoughts about the
negotiating tactics that Mr Prescott should employ?
(Mr Madden) No.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
That was extremely helpful, and we are grateful for your attendance
and what you have said. Thank you very much.