Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (G 28)



  1.  DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was created at a time of intense activity on the control of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak and consequent work to help the economy in rural areas. In addition, global negotiations on climate change and sustainable development (in the run-up to this year's World Summit on Sustainable Development) were reaching critical phases. DEFRA faces many challenges in its work with policy issues that impact on the whole of the economy, the lives of everyone and whose delivery relies on a wide range of organisations in and out of government. We are committed to:

    —  finding resource-efficient ways of generating wealth and hence reducing pollution and waste;

    —  helping the farming and fishing industries through economic transition;

    —  working with others to deliver services and create opportunity in rural areas; and

    —  reducing risks to people from environmental impacts such as disease, climate change, floods and toxic waste.

  2.  We have set out our programme for the next year in Working for the Essentials of Life[1] this expands on the Department's vision, aim and objectives and summarises what we will do now, in the form of 106 commitments, towards achieving our vision in the long term. It also lists over 50 achievements which are set out more fully in the Departmental Report[2] which was laid before Parliament on 23rd May 2002. Our aim is sustainable development, and we are committed to both pursuing this in our own work[3] and also promoting it across government, in society generally and internationally. Similarly, we are promoting rural issues across government, for example by playing a role in partnership with HM Treasury on encouraging a rural dimension in the plans of other departments during the current Spending Review.

  3.  Steady progress continues to be made on long-term and difficult issues, such as reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies, on seeking agreement at international level on climate change and preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg later this year. Domestically, we have ratified the Kyoto protocol on climate change and are pursuing a range of measures to help the UK achieve these targets. We held the first waste summit and are vigorously pursuing a programme to meet targets for reducing waste and increasing recycling. In responding to the inquiries established after the 2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak we have announced a range of measures to modernise farming, to reduce the prospects of further damaging outbreaks of disease and to strengthen the evidence on which policy is made.

  4.  No one would have expected us to prejudice continuity of business to effect the merger and change how the department operates. We managed the range of practical consequences of the merger as a distinct programme, "Developing DEFRA," whilst re-focusing our work and continuing to deliver on important policy areas. The enormous demands of managing the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak involved taking staff away from routine duties to frontline work, for a period well after the creation of the new Department. For example, a backlog of correspondence occurred which accentuated a longer-term and serious organisational problem. This has been resolved, both by deploying staff and effort by Ministers, so addressing both the short-term backlog and the organisational weakness. The merger programme has largely met the objectives set out for it, despite the very real challenges faced in creating a new organisation with neither a long planning period nor significant "merger dividends." We have recently been working with the Prime Minister's Office of Public Service Reform to define the future of that programme.


What our vision is and how we will use it to define our work

  5.  DEFRA's vision[4] is long-term and aspirational, intended to inspire and explain to people what we seek to achieve and to set a clear political direction for the Department. Within a hierarchy of planning, it is translated into the Departmental aim and 7 objectives[5]. The vision, aim and objectives are enduring. Periodically, in response to opportunity, resources and normal business planning processes, the department will set strategic priorities that contribute to achieving the vision in the medium-term. Working for the Essentials of Life is an interim statement of our strategic priorities that we will develop further following the allocation of overall budgets for DEFRA for 2003-6 at the conclusion of the Government's 2002 Spending Review. The Department uses its objectives as a framework within which resources can be allocated to work (through business plans) and for which targets can be set and performance measured.

What we have achieved so far towards our vision

  6.  The following are some of the highlights from the last year of positive actions taken by the Department towards the long-term aspirations within DEFRA's vision. These are described in more detail in DEFRA's Departmental Report which was laid before Parliament 23 May 2002.

  7.  . . . a World in which climate change and environmental degradation are recognised and addressed by all nations (relates to DEFRA objective 1)

    —  The UK played a key role in negotiating the legal texts for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels in 2008-2012 at Marrakech in November 2001. The Protocol was ratified by the UK at the end of May.

    —  Part of the World's economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, the UK emissions trading registry—an on-line auction that allows participating companies to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide—went live on 2 April 2002, fulfilling a manifesto commitment.

    —  In April DEFRA-funded scenarios for climate change, intended to provide a sound scientific basis for climate impact assessments, were published. These scenarios show specific likely impacts up to 2080 and will be used in land use and economic planning.

    —  The UK became the first country in the world to publish a Fuel Poverty Strategy which guarantees pensioners, the disabled and other vulnerable groups will not suffer ill health due to a cold home.

  8.  . . .; where low carbon emissions and efficient use of resources are at the heart of our whole way of life (relates to DEFRA objective 6)

    —  A Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) review of waste was launched by Margaret Beckett at the first waste summit in November 2001, marking the start of a radical overhaul of the way we deal with waste.

    —  A consultation paper on the management of radioactive waste was published to decide how best to manage nuclear waste over many thousands of years.

    —  After consultation, bids have now been invited for distribution of 140m for local authority waste minimisation and recycling.

    —  Michael Meacher announced on 19 March that the Government will extend competition in the water industry to large users.

  9.  . . . here in the UK, rural communities are diverse, economically and environmentally viable, and socially inclusive with high quality public services and real opportunities for all (relates to DEFRA objective 2) [6]

    —  We continue to implement policies set out in the Rural White Paper, delivering the vision of a living, working, protected and vibrant countryside. Alun Michael launched the Rural Affairs Forum, so providing rural interests with direct access to Ministers and key decision-making officials.

    —  To remind people that the countryside is well and truly open for business, the "Your Countryside, You're Welcome" campaign was launched on 28 January in cooperation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the English Tourism Council and the Countryside Agency as well as nearly 50 other organisations.

    —  The Countryside Access Recovery Fund was launched on 5 February by Alun Michael to help not-for-profit organisations promote access to and understanding of the countryside;

    —  In a statement to the Commons on 21 March, Alun Michael announced a six month period of consultation and the drafting of a new Bill to control hunting with hounds.

  10.   A country where the food, fishing and farming industries are not dependent on output-related subsidies, but work closely together and with government to produce safe, nutritious food which contributes positively to consumer choice and the health of the whole nation (relates to DEFRA objectives 3 & 5)

    —  Margaret Beckett and the Prime Minister announced measures on 26 March to take forward some of the recommendations of the Policy Commission on Food and Farming, including ways to help producers improve marketing and become more competitive, a new food chain centre and work with the Food Standards Agency and Department of Health on nutrition. Following discussion with stakeholders at regional and sectoral level and a national contact group chaired by Lord Whitty we will publish a strategy for sustainable food and farming in the autumn;

    —  Reforms to the EU sheepmeat regime in November 2001 potentially allow us to support more sustainable stocking;

    —  The World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha in November 2001 agreed that negotiations on further global cuts in agriculture subsidies should conclude in 2005. Critical negotiations on EU enlargement are being supported by DEFRA officials providing support to EU candidate countries through twinning;

    —  Work on an Organic Farming and Food Action Plan to help farmers respond to the growing demand for high quality organic food was started by Elliot Morley and will be launched by July 2002;

    —  At the December 2001 Fisheries Council the UK secured an outcome on fisheries quotas which was welcomed as striking a balance between conservation and incomes, and contributing to the long-term goal of a reformed and sustainable Common Fisheries Policy as set out in our position paper to the European Commission published in September 2001. We welcomed the European Commission's subsequent reform package, published 28 May, although there remains important detail yet to be negotiated.

  11.   A place where we manage the land in a way which recognises its many functions, from production through to recreation (relates to DEFRA objectives 1, 3 and 4)

    —  Elliot Morley has begun a major review of all agri-environmental schemes which will be the main vehicle for following up some of the recommendations of the Policy Commission including developing a "Broad and Shallow Pillar 2" environmental scheme;

    —  An extension of arable options within the Countryside Stewardship Scheme was launched on 11 February to provide assistance for farmers to create new habitats for wildlife;

    —  Alun Michael announced 24 successful partnership bids for the 76 million EU LEADER+ Programme, which will support small-scale innovative projects to meet locally-identified rural development needs;

  DEFRA announced a 12.8 per cent increase in resources for National Parks in England for 2002-03.

    —  Elliot Morley announced 21 million of grant aid for a 28 million coastal defence scheme in Scarborough, to help protect homes, businesses and parts of the town's fundamental infrastructure;

    —  An improved priority scoring system for funding flood and coastal defence schemes has been introduced following consultation. The new system takes into account economics, social issues and environmental protection and enhancement.

  12.   Where we seek to promote biodiversity on land and in our seas (relates to DEFRA objective 1)

    —  Margaret Beckett launched the first Marine Stewardship Report—Safeguarding Our Seas: A Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of our Marine Environment—which sets out a framework for action to save the marine environment;

    —  Funding of 175,000 will go to the Great Ape Survival Project (GrASP), part of 1 million paid to global biodiversity conservation programmes by DEFRA;

    —  Over 200,000 "Souvenir Alert" leaflets have been distributed since November 2001, as part of a joint public information campaign with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) aimed at tourists who may bring back souvenirs made from endangered species;

    —  We published a 10 year review of Special Protection Areas and established a scientific working group to monitor future needs;

    —  DEFRA agreed to pay 17.3 million for the early surrender of peat cutting consents at three internationally important wildlife sites. No further commercial cutting will take place at Thorne Moor and Wedholme Flow, and works will be phased out over three years at Hatfield Moor.

  13.   Where animal welfare and protection against animal disease is at the core of the way in which we farm and live (relates to DEFRA objective 7)

    —  DEFRA had successfully eradicated the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic (last case 30 September 2001) and achieved international recognition of FMD-free status, although there is no room for complacency.


    —  Lord Whitty launched an illegal food imports action plan on 28 March, to reduce risks of exotic animal and plant disease entering the UK and threatening public health, livestock, agriculture and horticulture;

    —  Elliot Morley has issued for consultation a draft interim Foot and Mouth Disease contingency plan which sets out the operational response to any future outbreak of the disease;

    —  We have gained provisional recognition by the European Commission for the Cattle Tracing System database to simplify procedures for cattle passports;

    —  We have set 1 January 2003 as the date for a ban on fur farming to come into force, implementing the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000. In Europe we negotiated a ban on close confinement sow stalls and agreed a new Council of Europe declaration on the welfare of turkeys;

    —  We launched a consultation to harmonise and simplify laws relating to animal welfare.

  14.   Through the practice of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, we will achieve our vision (relates to DEFRA's aim)

    —  Michael Meacher published the second Government review of progress towards sustainable development over the country as a whole. This includes latest analysis of the 15 headline indicators of sustainable development, 10 of which were showing progress in the right direction;

    —  DEFRA leads on the development, co-ordination and presentation of UK policy in preparation for WSSD in Johannesburg. It is working to raise awareness of the Summit and engage civil society in preparations. The Prime Minister's five sectoral initiatives—financial services, water, tourism, forestry and energy—on which the Government is working closely with business and NGOs form an important element in preparations;

    —  DEFRA's own sustainable development strategy, Foundations for our Future will be published shortly.


  15.  DEFRA was created on 8 June 2001 as part of a wider set of changes to the structure of central government. DEFRA is composed of:

    —  the Environmental Protection Group and Wildlife and Countryside Directorates of the former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions;

    —  a small number of staff concerned with animal welfare from the Home Office; and

    —  all of the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

  16.  There are a number of policy areas where, by bringing together similar work areas, we have been able to improve policy-making. For example, it is no longer appropriate to consider farming in isolation from the rest of the food chain, or from the environment and rural economy. DEFRA retains long-standing commitments from MAFF to modernise agriculture, ensure its sustainability and reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy. But in redefining farming's role in rural England, DEFRA is able to take a broader perspective, taking into account other rural economic activities in areas such as services, manufacturing and leisure. DEFRA will lead delivery of the Government's commitments to all people in rural England as set out in the Rural White Paper, Our Countryside, The Future.

  17.  DEFRA combines major responsibilities for water, land management, sewerage and flood defence, inland waterways and protection and management of seas, fisheries and other marine resources previously dispersed across MAFF and DETR. It has responsibility for overall policy on waste, including toxic substances, radioactive materials and animal waste. Where once there was a division between the key parts of government concerned with genetically modified crops, DEFRA now has a unified policy and a single unit on GM issues. Climate change affects the whole of society but it will have particular impacts on land-based industries and DEFRA can now consider these issues together. DEFRA combines a range of responsibilities for animal welfare, previously in Home Office and MAFF.

  18.  DEFRA has responsibility for promoting sustainable development across government, in society and internationally. This means addressing economic, social and environmental issues together and delivering tangible improvements in everyone's quality of life.

    —  The business sectors DEFRA is concerned with (such as farming, fisheries, water and waste) protect and manage key natural resources and make a substantial contribution to the UK's overall GDP.

    —  DEFRA leads across government on environmental protection, particularly of water, air, the global atmosphere, land and biodiversity; and is sponsor to the main environment and countryside arms of government, the Environment Agency, English Nature and the Countryside Agency.

    —  DEFRA's main objectives for rural areas are to provide economic prosperity, fairness of opportunity and access to services for the 25 per cent of England's population who live in rural areas.

  19.  DEFRA is currently engaged in a major upgrade of its science capacity, with an important series of reviews under way following the appointment of a new Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof Howard Dalton. Our aim is to strengthen our evidence base, and to improve our capacity to build forward-looking policy which is firmly based on scientific and economic analysis. A strong capacity is essential across the whole range of DEFRA's policies. Particular priorities include climate change and reducing the risks of disease. We are developing the evidence base for rural policy, to ensure that our policies secure sustainable economic growth and that we can identify and develop policy solutions to the distinctive needs for social inclusion in rural areas. Major reviews of both the internal organisation of science in the Department, and of DEFRA's three science Agencies are in hand. Our new Science and Innovation Strategy will build on this work, and ensure that we have an integrated and effective set of arrangements to deliver our future evidence base.

A structure fit for purpose

  20.  The Committee asks "whether farming, food, environmental and conservation concerns, and rural affairs are each given proper weight". DEFRA has set out its vision, aim and objectives and these set the scope of our work and long-term goals. Selecting priorities between these inherently difficult. Which is more important, a competitive food chain, fair services to rural people or a protected atmosphere? DEFRA's strategy is about working towards clear targets for each, equally important objective. Judgements have to be made reflecting a) importance of issues in the government's overall programme, b) resource constraints and c) tactical opportunities. DEFRA increasingly expects to be judged on the outcomes and outputs we seek and deliver (targets met, lives affected, etc) and on the efficiency with which we use our inputs (staff and money allocated). For example, DEFRA's Sustainable Development Strategy includes 22 measures of performance allocated across seven themes of DEFRA's work.

  21.  The committee asks "whether the Department is engineered to deliver its objectives." In creating DEFRA, the Government was seeking to add to what had been achieved by its predecessor departments by capitalising on potential synergies. In "Working for the Essentials of Life" DEFRA has set out its future programme, explaining the benefits of a more rounded approach to key policy areas. Here, we describe the changes that have taken place within the Department and how we plan to take these further.

  22.  The Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP was appointed the first Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the creation of DEFRA. Within the Ministerial team[7], there is clear accountability for our major policy areas with:

    —  Michael Meacher MP, Minister of State for the Environment

    —  Alun Michael MP, Minister of State for Rural Affairs

    —  Lord Whitty, Parliamentary Secretary, Minister for the Food Chain and Waterways

    —  Elliot Morley MP, Minister for Animal Health and Welfare, Fisheries, Flood Defence and Forestry

  23.  At official level, a new management board structure is in place[8] which brings in new blood, ensures the structure fits our purpose and strengthens the leadership of our core professions, specifically:

    —  three major Directorates General lead our work on environment protection, rural affairs and the food chain;

    —  professional services in science, animal health and welfare and legal are led from board-level appointments;

    —  a new Director General for operations and service delivery gives a focus on customer services and operations'

    —  three non-executive Directors bring a sharp external perspective to our work.

  24.  The new structure has also resulted in significant changes elsewhere in the organisation including a reorganisation of the former MAFF functions at regional level.

        Other key changes include:

    —  a new focus on rural affairs, with a Board-level Director General and a Directorate focusing on economic and social issues and rural strategy;

    —  responsibility for protection of the marine environment, freshwater, floods, sewerage and coasts has been brought together in DEFRA and these groups work closely with the Fisheries Directorate on marine issues;

    —  a new focus on the food chain, with two major Directorates (one focusing exclusively on livestock, and the other on all the other food issues) linking primary production, food industry and consumer issues;

    —  flood defence has been brought together with wildlife and land use;

    —  a new sustainable agriculture strategy division, merging staff from former DETR, and MAFF environment and agriculture policy divisions, a new livestock strategy division and a unified GM policy unit;

    —  Wildlife management and biodiversity conservation have been brought together.

  25.  Structural change can only be one part of changing how an organisation works. In addition, we are developing working practices which will enhance our efficiency and focus on delivery, in particular:

    —  strengthening leadership at all levels of the organisation;

    —  further developing the culture of basing policy on evidence and making this open to external scrutiny;

    —  delivering work through cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary teams;

    —  working in partnership with our agencies, other departments, other levels of government (local and international) and client organisations;

    —  managing our relations with a wider range of stakeholders more actively;

    —  investing in efficient, customer-focused and e-business delivery of services to customers (such as the establishment of the Rural Payments Agency).

Merger and long-term organisation change

  26.  At its creation the DEFRA Ministerial and Management teams were faced with a number of immediate and long-term issues which had to be resolved without their affecting capacity to cope with normal business. Large numbers of MAFF staff had been re-allocated to FMD duties in the first months of the outbreak with knock-on implications for other work. Environment policy staff and Ministers were committed to handling critically important negotiations on climate change, sustainable development and a major review of the Environment Agency. Immediately following the merger a range of practical issues had to be addressed, particularly:

    —  development of a vision, aim and objectives to reflect the role of DEFRA and a set of shared values and common working practices;

    —  assimilation of staff from a range of departments into a single department; and

    —  creation of common systems of financial and staff management, terms and conditions (especially pay) for staff, IT provision and communications services.

  27.  DEFRA's Management Board quickly created and drove forward a "Developing DEFRA" programme to project manage the 12 strands of the complex merger. Working to a clear set of priorities that have been reviewed by the Management Board on a quarterly basis, this programme in now largely complete. Unlike a "normal" business merger the transfer of policy and agency staff from former DETR led to few large-scale savings in resources. Central services such as IT, HR, Communications and legal services based around the former MAFF services had to provide both enhanced amounts of service and, in some cases introduce wholly new systems. A difficult merger has now largely been completed.

  28.  Within days of the creation of DEFRA, Margaret Beckett started an open dialogue with staff and stakeholders on the purpose and direction of DEFRA. This culminated in an agreed vision, aim, objectives and subsequently a planning framework for DEFRA which set out a long-term, ambitious and high-level direction firmly anchored around sustainable development. This was followed in March 2002 by Working for the Essentials of Life which included 106 commitments by DEFRA over the next year.

  29.  However, the principles outlined at a high level in the first year now need to be translated into specific commitments and targets, clear outcome measures and long-term programmes that will make a tangible contribution to meeting our objectives. Immediate priorities for future investment and development are:

    —  working towards challenging waste reduction and recycling targets for business and communities following on from the Performance and Innovation Unit's report;

    —  finding ways of generating economic growth while both minimising waste and pollution, especially through low carbon fuel technologies which underpin the government's commitments to protect the global atmosphere;

    —  strengthening the Government's overall approach to rural policy;

    —  charting a course for the continued modernisation of farming, especially building on recommendations of the Policy Commission on Food and Farming;

    —  ensuring that a comprehensive strategy for animal health, based on the best scientific evidence and proper contingency procedures, is in place to prevent and handle major outbreaks of animal disease.

  30.  DEFRA has been working with the Prime Minister's Office of Public Service Reform (OPSR) in a joint review which is shifting the emphasis on DEFRA's change programme to one that will:

    —  strengthen long term planning, allocate resources and improve and measure the performance of managers;

    —  focus policy-making and service delivery on clearly-defined outcomes and better services to customers;

    —  strengthen the skills and performance of staff, especially through improved working practices; and

    —  improve the fit between corporate services such as IT, finance and human resources and DEFRA's business needs.


  31.  The impact of the transfer from DETR on the role and influence of the Environmental Protection Group and Wildlife and Countryside Directorate has been positive. Sustainable development has been established as the Department's headline aim and unifying theme, with a Departmental sustainable development strategy to be issued shortly and DEFRA Ministers and officials ensuring that the UK continues to play a major role internationally in preparations for the World Summit this summer.

  32.  In terms of environment protection, DEFRA Ministers and officials have maintained the UK's leading role in international negotiations at Marrakech, Doha and elsewhere. Domestically, initiatives such as the Waste Summit, greenhouse gas emissions trading, and the (world first) Fuel Poverty Strategy demonstrate that the role and influence of the Environmental Protection Directorate General remains as strong as ever. The Government's strategy for marine conservation and its forthcoming England Biodiversity Strategy illustrate that wildlife conservation work has continued to develop. Strong synergies between DEFRA's rural environment responsibilities and the wider rural economy are illustrated by the continued prominent role DEFRA's agencies, the Countryside Agency and English Nature, play in these issues.

  33.  Across government, DEFRA works closely with other departments in promoting sustainable development, such as DTI on energy, construction, trade and resource productivity, FCO and DFID on trade and international dimensions of sustainable development. Effective influence over issues such as planning and transport which are now the responsibility of Department of Transport (formerly DTLR), has been maintained by the establishment of a concordat between the two Departments, which we hope will be retained in the new Department created 29 May.


  34.  The inclusion of Rural Affairs in DEFRA's title shows the importance that the Government attaches to rural England and its people. DEFRA's objectives specific to rural areas are:

    —  to enhance opportunity and tackle social exclusion through promoting sustainable rural areas with a dynamic and inclusive economy, strong rural communities and fair access to services and

    —  to improve enjoyment of an attractive and well-managed countryside for all.

  In the Rural White Paper[9] the Government committed to "ensure that our policies take account of specific rural needs." 260 commitments were contained in the White Paper and nearly 100 have already been delivered (see below for key examples). The Department is working hard with other Government departments and agencies to deliver the outstanding commitments. Fundamental to the achievement of the Government's objectives for rural areas is partnership—across central government, with tiers of local and regional government and also with private sector, business and not-for-profit bodies and community groups. DEFRA can only play its part in partnership with others and for this reason on of Alun Michael's first actions was to create the Rural Affairs Forum. This has learned from the Rural Task Force established during the FMD outbreak) and bodies set up to advise predecessor departments. It is an effective forum which gives a wide range of interest groups, practitioners and people who live in rural England the chance to air problems and solutions with senior officials and Ministers.

  35.  The natural assets of Rural England represent significant economic and recreational benefits to the country as a whole. However, these same assets present significant challenges and some inherent disadvantages. For example:

    —  An economic trauma affecting the productivity of land will often have serious knock-on effects for the wider rural economy.

    —  The physical beauty of the countryside attracts millions of visitors. Providing an adequate infrastructure for these visitors requires care to be taken so that the very environment which they come to enjoy is not damaged.

    —  The distance between rural communities and the towns and cities in which major services are concentrated leads to poorer service provision.

  36.  The Government's commitment to rural England through DEFRA is to enhance opportunity, and to tackle social exclusion in promoting sustainable rural areas which have a dynamic and inclusive economy, strong communities and fair access to services. It aims also to bring about improved management of the countryside. Many of the necessary levers of change are controlled by other Departments and agencies, requiring DEFRA to work closely with a wide network to achieve objectives. Margaret Beckett chairs the Ministerial sub-Committee on Rural Renewal where Secretaries of State for the key departments which affect the lives of people in rural areas report on their rural policies. In addition, DEFRA has been working with the Treasury to "proof" for rural relevance a range of measures submitted by other Departments in their spending programmes for 2003-6. DEFRA Rural interests are represented by rural directors within the Government Offices who work closely with other Government Office staff, Regional Development Agencies and local authorities. In addition to programmes undertaken by DEFRA itself (many of which are listed in England's Rural Future[10]) key achievements since June 2001 include:

    —  The former DTLR announced an extension in mandatory 50 per cent rate relief to include all village food shops (with rateable values 6,000 or less);

    —  The Post Office and DTI introduced a 2 million fund to help community-led projects to relocate and refurbish rural post offices;

    —  The Sure Start Unit in DfES established a 22 million fund to support small Sure Start programmes in rural areas and small pockets of deprivation;

    —  The Housing Corporation and former DTLR approved 1,341 homes in small rural settlements (of less than 3,000 people) in 2001-02—exceeding its target of 1,100; target for 2002-03 is 1,300; on course to double approvals from 800 in 2000-01 to 1,600 in 2003-04;

    —  The former DTLR published a consultation paper on whether to give local authorities discretion to charge the full rate of council tax on second homes and whether the additional revenues should be retained locally;

    —  The DTI announced 20 winning projects for the 3 million Development Fund for Rural Renewal, part of the Phoenix Fund, which will help businesses affected by the Foot and Mouth outbreak;

    —  DEFRA and the former DTLR published a consultation paper on proposals for "Quality" Parish and Town Councils, giving them an enhanced role for their communities;

    —  The former DTLR has developed specific rural targets for Local Public Service Agreements by a number of local authorities;

    —  Regional Development Agencies have provided 80 million Business Recovery Fund for small rural businesses hit by foot and mouth disease restrictions.


  37.  DEFRA has made a good start. It is an important department at the heart of the Government's programme. We have established a long-term vision and have made significant progress towards achieving it. However, we are not complacent and have already begun a major change programme, building on a successfully completed merger, to strengthen the organisation's capacity to continue to deliver our policies and services.

16 June 2002.


1   Working for the Essentials of Life is available at Back

2   DEFRA's Departmental Report 2002 is available at Back

3   We will publish our own sustainable development strategy, Foundations for our Future, in June 2002. Back

4   available on Back

5   available on Back

6   More examples of rural policy achievements across Government are cited in paragraph 35. Back

7   Further details of Ministerial portfolios can be found on Back

8   See DEFRA press notice October 2001, "New Management Board at DEFRA". Back

9   ("Our Countryside: The Future", published in November 2000. Back

10   England's Rural Future set out how the Government would respond to difficulties experienced by the countryside and was published by DEFRA in December 2001. Back

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