Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary letter from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman of the Committee

  Response to specific questions from the Environmental Committee following DEFRA's oral evidence session, 21 July 2004.

  In your letter of 28 July you asked for some supplementary information in connection with the above Inquiry. The questions posed by the Committee and the Department's response to these is set out below.

  1.  You mention your involvement in the housing debate through MISC22. Can you tell us how often the Committee has met in the last year and who was present?

  It is established practice under successive administrations, as reflected in the Ministerial Code and under Exemption 2 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, not to disclose information relating to the proceedings of the Cabinet and its committees.

  2.  The remit of MISC22 is stated as:

    "To consider how far and on what timescale to seek to develop the Thames Gateway in particular to consider the requirements and the funding implications for transport infrastructure and other key public services."

   We are not clear as to how this Committee influences issues of co-ordinating housing and sustainable development policies at a national level, particularly in relation to environmental protection, and would like further clarification.

  The Prime Minister decided that MISC22 committee, which he chairs, will take forward the important work on housing growth and the Barker Review. MISC22 has already been very successful at getting work on the Thames Gateway and the other South East Growth Areas underway. Part of this work was to secure the building of 200,000 new homes. Given the experience of this committee in dealing with housing growth issues, the Prime Minister decided that this was the most appropriate committee to oversee the Government's policies on housing growth and sustainable communities across England. The Committee will continue to deal with the South East Growth Areas. The committee's terms of reference are:

    "To consider issues arising from delivering an improved housing supply in England within the context of creating sustainable communities."

  3.  Are there any cross-departmental discussions, through ministers or officials, taking place regarding housing (other than MISC22) which DEFRA is involved in?

  ODPM leads on housing policy. The Interdepartmental Working Group on Sustainable Communities, chaired by ODPM, meets regularly. A Technical Group has also been established at official level to address issues related to the Government's response to the Barker Report. Defra is a member of this group which will meet for in September for the first time. Ad Hoc meetings on specific housing-related issues are held from time to time, as and when requested by Defra or other Departments.

  4.  What work is being considered by yourselves and other Departments, following the Entec Report, to determine the environmental impacts of increasing housing supply? Will this include determining the environmental impacts of the Sustainable Communities Plan as it currently stands? If not, why not?

Defra and ODPM are currently considering the terms of reference for a joint research project into the implications of additional housing supply for sustainable communities. The Pilot Study for this research will take place in October 2004.

  I hope the Committee finds this further information helpful.

September 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 31 January 2005