Select Committee on Environmental Audit First Report




1. The Committee has made following up its work a feature of its approach (as recognised by the Government in the sustainable development strategy).

Greening Government

2. The following table sets out the Government's response to the Committee's significant recommendations in its first report on the Greening Government Initiative.

3. For our purposes here a significant recommendation is one which we judge to have been calling for something substantially different, or additional, to the Government's existing proposals. Recommendations which have the effect of commending action announced by the Government, as well as most conclusions, have been omitted.

4. The table sets out: the Committee's recommendation; how the Government responded our comments and/or further relevant action by us or the Government. Recommendations have been abbreviated where appropriate.

Recommendation Government ResponseCommittee follow-up/further action

1. The Government should review the
operation of the ENV Cabinet Committee
and consider:-
-inclusion within ENV's remit of
sustainable development and the
environmental impact of non-environmental
-a more active role aimed at increasing
leadership and ownership of the sustainable
development agenda specifically creating the
sustainable development strategy and
revising departmental aims and objectives;
-publication of significant decisions and
requirement for action by Green Ministers;
-consideration of published reports from the
Green Ministers Committee. (Paragraph 20)


Agreed that ENV
would oversee
preparation of the

Not agreed


The Committee returned to this topic in a further report on Greening Government in Session 1998-99

2. A monitoring programme should be
instituted by DETR and the Cabinet Office
of the effectiveness of the environmental
statements accompanying Cabinet papers.
(Paragraph 21)


The conclusions of the review were published as part of the response to the Committee's further report on Greening Government and set out in the second report from Green Ministers

3. The Green Ministers Committee can do
-the Deputy Prime Minister should chair
some meetings;
-there should be a clearer statement of its
relationship to the Cabinet Committee;
-it should report to the Cabinet Committee
annually on progress and this report should
be published;

-its forthcoming programme of action
should contain concrete objectives and
targets for advancing the take-up of best
practice with regard to greening operations,
environmental appraisal and policy
-it should make full reports to Parliament on
its meetings and its progress (Paragraph 31)

Not agreed



Agreed where

Not addressed

In 1999 the DPM and the Chancellor attended a meeting of Green Ministers.

Two reports from Green Ministers have now been published and the Committee has reported on the first. An inquiry based on the second in underway.
See reports from the Green Ministers Committee, July 1999 and November 2000.

The practice of regular PQs after meetings has continued

4. Permanent Secretaries should be given
formal responsibilities for supporting Green
Ministers and delivering effective
environmental appraisal of policy and
improvements in green housekeeping.
(Paragraph 34

Already in place

Departments are now committed to having a board member or equivalent senior official with specific responsibility for sustainable development and environmental issues. Only HM Treasury has identified the Permanent Secretary in this capacity.

5. Government should consult local
authorities on a statutory duty for all local
authorities to develop local sustainable
development strategies. (Paragraph 47

Under review

An equivalent statutory duty to develop such a strategy now exists within the Local Government 2000 Act.

6. We believe that sustainability needs to be
clearly incorporated into initiatives, such as
the criteria for Best Value, so that
inconsistent expectations are not placed on
local government. (Paragraph 48)


To be followed up

7. The Government's commitment to
sustainable development should be set out in
clear and consistent language in the aims and
objectives of new bodies and new policies
and reflected in the aims and objectives of
existing government machinery and policies
when revisited and relaunched. (Paragraph

Agreed. Green
Ministers to consider
this for new bodies
and report to ENV
on existing bodies

Green Ministers are now committed to assessment of whether sustainable development needs to be included in remit of all new bodies and review progress in adding it to remits of existing bodies.

8. The approach to developing the
sustainable development strategy has been
unsatisfactory with other major policy
reviews being completed first and with no
formal link to the Comprehensive Spending

Not agreed.

Followed up with respect to the CSR in two subsequent reports from the Committee.

9. The sustainable development strategy
should be auditable and set out where
responsibility lies within government for
taking the relevant actions. (Paragraph 65)


The Committee has now taken evidence on the strategy from ministers and others. It will consider further action after the first progress report is published.

10. A new single measure of welfare could
play a very useful part in...the achievement
of sustainable development. There
are...challenges in constructing such an
index, but Government work to publish an
index of this kind by the year 2002.
(Paragraph 69)

Not agreed

To be followed up.

11. There would be advantage in giving
responsibility for maintaining the indicators
to a more free-standing and independent
body such as the Office for National
Statistics. (Paragraph 71)

Not agreed

The lack of public trust in official statistics was identified in Quality of life Counts, the Governments new sustainable development indicator set. Government proposals on the general issue is set out in Statistics: a Matter of Trust, Cm 3882, 1998

12. The sustainable development strategy
should set out Government's aims for further
changes in the allocation of public
expenditure and tax measures within the
economic and fiscal framework. (Paragraph

Agreed (in summary

To be followed up in further work on the strategy.

13. Green Ministers should ask Treasury to
review the accounting rules, incentives and
disincentives and any proposals for new
investment programmes to ensure that
positive measures in pursuit of the Greening
Government Initiative are encouraged.
(Paragraph 80)

Agreed. In part
covered by existing

The Committee addressed government procurement again in its further reports on Greening Government as well as in work on HM Treasury's pre-budget and budget reports.

14. There should be a range of separate but
complementary reports on sustainable
-a comprehensive and detailed assessment of
the state of sustainable development within
the UK once a Parliament;
-an annual report on the Government's
performance against its sustainable
development strategy and targets; and
-an annual volume of sustainable
development indicator statistics with
quarterly updates where available.
(Paragraph 85)

Under review.

The Government is committed to an annual Green Ministers report, an annual progress report on the sustainable development indicators and the publication of information on the sustainable development indicators as and when it becomes available (the norm for statistical output).

15. Departmental annual reports (DARs)
should report on progress made towards
sustainable development objectives.
(Paragraph 86)

Agreed with
reference also to the
potential for
departments to
publish separate
green reports.

The Committee followed up on the environmental content of the 1999 DARs and was critical overall. The Green Ministers report now stands as a major channel for environmental reporting by other departments.

16. There should be a major sustainable
development debate in the Commons on a
Government Motion. (Paragraph 87)

Not agreed

To be followed up.

17. Departments should make a commitment
to a programme of sustainable development
training for relevant staff. (Paragraph 95)

Under review

Departments are committed, 1999, to having strategies in place to raise staff awareness on sustainable development and environmental issues. The Green ministers report 2000 reported progress.

18. All public statements on new and
substantially amended policies and
Explanatory Memoranda on Bills should
include a summary statement on their
implications for sustainable development.
(Paragraph 100)

Agreement to the
principle but no
specific action

Departments are now committed to the publication of all free-standing environmental appraisals (unless confidentiality must be preserved). However at the same time Government is working to develop a comprehensive integrated appraisal system in support of sustainable development.

19. Departments should set out clearly what
their policy is on undertaking environmental
appraisals; publishing the results; and
ensuring that this policy is carried out.
(Paragraph 107)

Agreed in principle
with stress on the
responsibilities of
departments for

To be followed up.

20. The Green Ministers Committee should
regularly review departments' experience of
environmental appraisal - including using
independent audit of performance & report
the results. (Paragraphs 110 and 111)

The response
welcomed scrutiny
of the Green
ministers report but
stressed the
responsibilities of
departments for

The Committee reported on the first Green Ministers report (see below) and expressed disappointment over the quality and number of published environmental appraisals of policy. The Government is now committed to the publication of all free-standing appraisals.

21. Green Ministers should Committee to
agree further government-wide medium-term
targets and to commit themselves to start
benchmarking departments' performance
using standardised measures for more than
just energy efficiency by the end of the
century. (Paragraph 120)


A greater range of government-wide targets for green operations have been established, covering energy (greenhouse gas emissions), water and waste.

22. Reporting of operational matters is
unsystematic, selective and with only a
limited attempt at quantification. Reporting
of performance is a key responsibility of
public service and should be as
comprehensive. as companies' reports for
their shareholders. (Paragraph 127)

Under review

Followed up by the Committee in two further reports on Greening Government.

23. Green Ministers should agree a detailed
core reporting requirement for all
departments, covering: energy use, water
use, transport, paper use and recycling,
waste to landfill, procurement, emissions,
use of hazardous chemicals and
contaminated land. Departments should
quantify performance using standard
measures eventually and DETR should
collate and supply data for all government.
(Paragraph 128)

24. Departments should be reviewing how
their environmental policy is applied by their
Agencies and Non­Departmental Public
Bodies and the targets agreed with them.
(Paragraph 148)

Agreed in principle.

The Government is now committed to:
- the inclusion, in guidance to departments' associate bodies, of a requirement to cover environmental issues in their reporting
- departments' audit of implementation
- action plans for integrating sustainable development into the work of their associate bodies

25. Departments should have begun
introducing an environmental management
system (EMS) by the end of the Parliament.
75 per cent of departments should have one
site registered to ISO 14001 by 2001.
(Paragraph 158)

Accepted in principle
with sympathy for
the specific target

Followed up by the Committee in two further reports on greening Government. Six departments have at least part of their, or an agencies', operations covered by an accredited EMS. Full details are given in the second Green Ministers report, November 2000.

5. The further Greening Government reports were the 6th, 1998-99, The Greening Government Initiative 1999, HC 426; and the 5th, 1999-2000, The Greening Government Initiative: first annual report from the Green Ministers Committee, HC 341.

Greening the tax system and the budget

6. The Committee's work on progress in greening the tax system and budget reporting has taken the form of an on-going conversation with the Treasury Green Minister following each Pre-Budget Report and virtually all Budgets. This has resulted in the following reports

    1st, 1997-98   Pre-Budget Report, HC 547
    3rd, 1997-98   Pre-Budget Report: Government response and follow-up, HC 985
    4th, 1998-99   Pre-Budget Report 1998, HC 93
    8th, 1998-99  Budget 1999: Environmental Implications, HC 326
    4th, 1999-2000  Pre-Budget Report 1999: pesticides, aggregates & the Climate Change Levy, HC 76
    6th, 1999-2000  Budget 2000 and the environment, HC 404  

7. The Committee has looked at a mix of individual proposals and also the processes by which green tax proposals are considered and conclusions reported. The Committee has also focused upon the links drawn between economic development and pressures put on the environment in the mainstream analyses presented by the Treasury in its Pre-Budget and Budget reports. The Committee has been quite consistent in pursuing certain lines of inquiry and will continue to do so.

8. The Committee is currently looking at the Pre-Budget report, 2000 with a particular focus this year on the taxation of fuels and the environment.

Public expenditure

9. The Committee has looked at greening the allocation of public expenditure in the following reports.

    2nd, 1997-98   The Greening Government Initiative, HC 517-I (looked, inter alia, towards the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review)
    3rd, 1998-99   The Comprehensive Spending Review and Public Service Agreements, HC 92
    3rd, 1999-2000  Comprehensive Spending Review: Government response and follow-up, HC 233

10. The Committee will return to look at the conclusions of Spending Review 2000 in 2001.

Multilateral negotiations

11. The Committee has taken an interest in the interaction between the Government's commitment to sustainable development and its activities and actions in multilateral for a including the European Union.

    4th, 1997-98   Climate Change: UK Emission Reduction Targets and Audit Arrangements, HC 899
    2nd, 1998-99   Climate Change: Government response and follow-up, HC 88  
    1st, 1998-99   The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, HC 58-I
    1st, 1999-2000  EU Policy and the environment: an agenda for the Helsinki Summit,
    HC 4
    2nd, 1999-2000  World Trade and Sustainable Development: an agenda for the Seattle Summit, HC 45

12. The two reports on climate change looked at the UK's contribution to the global effort not least in terms of being able to present credible domestic policies and actions. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Environment Minister have agreed to report back to the Committee on the aftermath of the recent negotiations on implementing the Kyoto Protocol in The Hague (COP 6) as well as subsequent talks in Ottawa on a way forward.

13. The Committee reported on the EU's efforts to green its institutions and has followed this up with evidence from the European Environment Agency and Eurostat regrading relevant indicators. The Committee will visit Brussels in early 2001 for a meeting on this subject with the European Commissioner for the Environment.

14. The report on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment led to the inquiry into the WTO summit which was expected to agree to include investment, inter alia, in a new round of trade liberalisation talks.

Individual policies

15. The Committee has looked at number of individual policy areas.

    5th, 1998-99   Genetically Modified Organisms and the environment: coordination of Government policy, HC384
    7th, 1998-99   Energy Efficiency, HC 159
    7th, 1999-2000  Water Prices and the environment, HC 597

16. The Government's response to the Committee's report on energy efficiency has been followed up with an oral evidence session with the relevant ministers from the Departments of Trade and Industry (energy policy) and Environment, Transport and the Regions (energy efficiency policy and climate change). A further report has been put on hold while the Committee inquires into the prospects for the Government reaching its targets for electricity to be generated from renewable sources of energy.

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