Spending Review 2002
20. We expect to receive copies of the sustainable
development reports (SDR) submitted by departments as part of
Spending Review 2002, so as to be able to audit them in line with
our remit from the House.
SDRs are internal documents, which will be closely
associated with departments' proposals to the Spending Review.
If the Treasury announced its intention to let other bodies audit
them, departments would limit their analysis to what they are
prepared to make public. This would restrict the validity and
worth of the reports by reducing them to a tick-boxing exercise.
21. If the Treasury continues to insist on keeping
secret the sustainable development reports (SDR) submitted by
departments, then it mustat the very leastagree
to allow the National Audit Office to audit these reports and
report the results to this Committee.
The outputs and outcomes of the review will be the
subject of scrutiny by the NAO and other bodies, not the internal
inputs to it. The decision to divulge the content of their SDR
after the spending review to the EAC is at the discretion of each
department. The NAO has a role to play in auditing policies, but
their remit does not cover departmental policy plans. NAO and
others can only audit the impact of policies after those policies
have been implemented and therefore the NAO auditing the SDRs
would be of little use.
22. If the Sustainable Development Unit is indeed
a cross-governmental resource (as the Government have previously
argued) then it should be involved in evaluating the sustainable
development reports submitted by departments as part of their
Spending Review bid. Otherwise, there is a clear need for a central
Sustainable Development Unit to provide just such expertise.
The Sustainable Development Unit within DEFRA will
not be involved in evaluating the Sustainable Development Reports;
they have however played an important role throughout the review,
offering expertise to departments preparing their reports.
The Sustainable Development Unit have provided assistance
in the production and preparation of the reports but the evaluation
of departmental proposals (including SDRs) is the responsibility
of the Treasury.
23. We recommend that the Treasury should establish
an internal unit which is adequately resourced and staffed so
as to evaluate the sustainable development reports submitted by
departments as part of Spending Review 2002. Such a unit could
also encompass other responsibilitiesin line with earlier
recommendations in this reportsuch as the responsibility
for environmental taxes, for developing resource productivity
indicators, for monitoring the adequacy of environmental appraisal
in new policy proposals, and for coordinating a more strategic
approach to research and development in all these areas.
The Treasury has resources to deal with its policy
responsibilities. Staff are distributed across a number of teams
and carry out this work in relation to many different Government
commitments, not just the spending review. The Treasury also has
close working relations with other Government departments, such
as DEFRA, DTLR and DTI, which have a greater capacity to undertake
research and development in many of these areas.
24. We are deeply perturbed at the negative approach
adopted in the environmental guidance for Spending Review 2002
to sustainable development targets. This conflicts directly with
evidence given to us by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
who told us that she expected to see a lot more targets relating
to sustainable development as a result of this Spending Review.
This is not environmental guidance, it is sustainable
development guidance. We have very good reasons for not requiring
PSA targets on sustainable development. Public Service Agreements
(PSAs) are designed to ensure that the Government delivers effective
results and focuses effort clearly on its priorities for action.
PSAs are a means of demonstrating measurable progress against
specific detailed targets within the Government's priorities.
Many detailed departmental PSA targets contribute directly to
the achievement of sustainable development, as measured by the
Governments' sustainable development headline indicators.
For example, the DEFRA PSA includes a target to "care
for our living heritage and preserve natural diversity by reversing
the long term decline in the number of farmland birds by 2020,
as measured annually against underlying trends." This target
is directly related to a UK SDS headline indicator. The Government
believes that PSA targets have an important part to play in delivering
the Government's quality of life and sustainable development objectives,
by ensuring that progress is made across the social, economic
and environmental dimensions. It does not believe, as the SR2002
sustainable development guidance points out, that sustainable
development will be achieved merely by adding those words to departmental
25. We strongly regret the refusal of the Treasury
to provide us with the Spending Review main guidance. This contrasts
markedly with its readiness to make public the environmental guidance,
and vividly demonstrates that the Treasury will only share what
it does not value or consider important. (Paragraph 57)
This is not simply environmental guidance, it is
sustainable development guidance. The main guidance is an internal
document to help officials produce advice to Ministers on their
conduct for an internal decision-making process. It is not of
interest to a wider audience: the outcomes of the Review will
properly be the subject of scrutiny, not the inputs to it.
The Treasury published this guidance because it takes
sustainable development seriously and this demonstrates its commitment
to sustainable development. The Treasury's readiness to make this
Guidance public is a mark of the increasing transparency with
which HMT treats environmental policies.
Transparency of figures in Budgets and spending
26. The difficulties we have had in tracing monies
demonstrate in our view a desperate need for greater clarity in
the presentation of figures. We therefore recommend that the Treasury
develops and includes in future PBRs, Budgets, and Spending White
Papers, a consistent and comprehensive table which sets out in
an easily intelligible form funding sources for environmentally
related policies, and the manner in which monies are recycled.
Budget 2002, as with previous Budget and Pre-Budget
documentation, contains tables setting out the spending implications
of all policy decisions. These documents will continue to describe
levels of funding for environmental policies and the Government
does not see a need for a separate table.
1 The consultant's
report-"The Potential Cost and Effectiveness of Voluntary
Measures in Reducing the Environmental Impact of Pesticides",
by EFTEC for DEFRA-has now been published on the DEFRA website.