Select Committee on Environmental Audit First Report



Memorandum from the Cabinet Office to the Environmental Audit Committee

Sustainable Development and Departmental Responsibilities


1.  This memorandum provides information on the role of the Deputy Prime Minister on sustainable development issues.

2.  A description of the post-election roles and responsibilities of each of the then Cabinet Office Ministers and of Sir Richard Wilson (answer of 11 July 2001 to Parliamentary Question from Andrew Lansley MP) is attached at Annex A for information.

The role of the Deputy Prime Minister

3.  The Deputy Prime Minister deputises for the Prime Minister at home and abroad as required. He has an overarching responsibility for supporting the Prime Minister in the delivery of key Government priorities and programmes, and he takes on specific tasks at the request of the Prime Minister. In addition, he has a number of personal priorities and cross-departmental responsibilities, including social exclusion, regional co-ordination, regional governance and devolution and the British-Irish Council.

4.  The Deputy Prime Minister has a particular role in deputising for the Prime Minister on international matters, helping to build and maintain close relations with foreign counterparts. In addition, he also continues to play a role on international climate change discussions and negotiations on behalf of the Prime Minister. More recently, the Prime Minister has asked the Deputy Prime Minister to take on a similar role in preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg in September 2002.

5.  The cross-cutting nature of the responsibilities of the Deputy Prime Minister mean that his office works closely, on a day to day basis, with No. 10 and with other Government Departments with an interest in these issues. The lead department for both climate change and sustainable development is DEFRA, which retains policy responsibility and deals with day-to-day progress and implementation of the UK's policies. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister works closely with them—and with others with a key interest, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, HM Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry—on strategic and cross-departmental issues.

6.  The Deputy Prime Minister chairs the Cabinet Committee on the Environment (ENV) and the newly established Ministerial Group (MISC18) on the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Through these Committees, the Deputy Prime Minister is able to ensure proper collective consideration across Government of all the issues and to ensure a co-ordinated and agreed approach to them.

7.  The Deputy Prime Minister has a particular role in his contacts with international leaders in carrying forward the UK's priorities on the environment and sustainable development and raising their profile. The Deputy Prime Minister enjoys high-level access to world leaders and is currently seeking to raise the profile of the WSSD with them and to encourage and engage high-level attention to it. In particular, he is emphasising the UK's wish to match the current global coalition against terrorism with action to deal with other important common issues such as poverty, access to fresh water and energy, climate change and the problems of Africa, which are likely to feature at the Johannesburg Summit. The Deputy Prime Minister has in recent weeks had, or will over the next few weeks be holding, discussions on these issues with the Russian Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister, the Vice President of China, the Prime Minister of Romania, the President of Venezuela, the United States Vice President, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and the Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Cabinet Office action on sustainable development

8.  The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Christopher Leslie MP) is the Green Minister for the Cabinet Office and oversees the incorporation of sustainable development considerations into both the management and housekeeping of the Cabinet Office and into Cabinet Office policies in general.

26 November 2001

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Prepared 31 January 2002