Select Committee on Environmental Audit Ninth Report


27. The challenges associated with ensuring the effective coordination of Government Departments are multiple and cover a wide variety of issues from the expertise of civil servants to inter-departmental conflict, as well as political factors. One of our recent Reports, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, looked at this issue in relation to the Climate Change Programme Review (CCPR). We found that those considering the CCPR had tried to break out from departmental silos through, for example, the use of the InterDepartmental Analysts Group (IAG) to oversee analytical work and appraise policy options. The IAG comprises some 50 analysts from across Whitehall, and was initially established in order to inform the Government's response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's recommendation in 2000 that there should be a 60% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. The membership of the IAG was expanded for the CCPR to include representatives from the Energy Saving Trust, Carbon Trust, Environment Agency, and Sustainable Development Commission. Although the creation of this body gives an indication that the Government wished to ensure that cross-Government working was facilitated better, we received evidence during that inquiry which indicated that "the review process was in important respects disjointed; and, more widely, we heard of disconnections between different Departments, and between central, local and regional Government".[32] More specifically we heard that both the Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs had maintained control of fiscal measures external to the review process. A witness argued during the inquiry that as a result of this it was impossible to make a fully joined-up appraisal of the potential of certain policy options, and that this impaired the ability of the CCPR to devise and decide on different policies.[33] In addition, the Energy Saving Trust and Sustainable Development Commission both argued that their ability to comment on the review proposals was restricted as they were only consulted towards the end of the process.[34] Beyond the CCPR, Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, has also criticised the "consistent inter-Departmental incoherence" in developing and implementing climate change policy.[35] The SDC has said that:

    Climate change is a cross-Departmental issue with huge implications for all areas of public policy. The current system puts very little responsibility for tackling climate change with final consumers, which positions Government Departments against each other as they try to achieve a cross-Departmental goal with as little pain as possible for their own constituents.[36]

28. Dr Russel agreed that cross-Government action had been "weak[,] crucial issues such as climate change have not been systematically or effectively integrated into the policy making activities of Departments".[37] He told us that his research suggested that this is partly a result of civil servants having multiple factors that they must consider in policy making:

    …when civil servants have too many considerations to factor into their policy making, they may lack the skills and resources to deal with them all effectively. As such there is a possibility that they pick and mix between competing issues to suit their own Departmental interests. Thus, by placing a separate emphasis on climate change, there is a danger that other important sustainability issues (e.g. biodiversity loss) might be crowded out and… sidetracked.[38]

29. Dr Russel stressed the importance of a period of sustained political leadership from the Prime Minister, combined with appropriate training for civil servants so that they are able to identify the wider sustainable development impacts of a policy.[39] We asked whether the introduction of the OCC would address some of these concerns. He thought that the physical location of the OCC within DEFRA would limit its effectiveness, as the same had been seen with the Sustainable Development Unit. He would rather see the OCC being placed in the Cabinet Office:

    …which has a traditional coordinating role in Whitehall. In the Cabinet Office, it is at the apex of the Departmental system and, if you take the example of the Better Regulation Executive, it has more authority, is better resourced for these types of things and has better expertise to work on cross-cutting issues.[40]

30. Nick Mabey agreed that it is paramount that there is a "clear political message from above".[41] He thought that following the sustained political leadership on climate change by the Government, Whitehall is now beginning to respond to the challenge.[42] Nevertheless, he identified problems in the governance arrangements including with regards to implementation. When he worked at the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, he found that implementation was improved when projects were:

    …followed by small teams, usually of three or four people from the team, going to work inside the delivery Department in a joint follow-up team with regular reports to the PMDU or to Cabinet. It got to the point where, rather than just being a think-tank, it turned into a delivery structure as well, where the intellectual capital was spent. Even after initial hostility sometimes, if you produced good work people would say, "Great, you have helped us on a very difficult problem," as long as it was that spirit of joint problem-solving and not invading their space. I think it is great because it allows you to devote resources in a way in which frontline civil servants never have the opportunity to do: when you are doing a frontline job, you just cannot do that kind of work.[43]

31. He believed that responsibility for driving policy through had to be given to the Cabinet Office, Permanent Secretary or Deputy Permanent Secretary "with the authority to challenge departments to come up with answers".[44] Specifically, he believed a body should be placed in the Cabinet Office in charge of project management, or monitoring the project management, of climate change policies. In order also to drive the process through, he believed that it would be important for there to be "a very clearly senior civil servant grade, grade 2 and above, responsible for it".[45] However, he made the proviso that such a Cabinet Office body would have to be empowered and willing to challenge Departments, which is why a very senior civil servant should be required to operate it.[46]

32. Professor Tom Burke also argued for a greater role for the Cabinet Office:

    There is a clear mechanism for banging heads together at a policy level in the Cabinet Office process and at the political level in whatever Cabinet Committee or cabinet structure is used. All of that is visible and transparent and rather easy to understand. I have been doing this for a long time but I am getting lost in the fog of consultations and institutional mechanisms. I am getting a bit lost as to where accountability lies and where the clarity of focus lies…

    Departments reflect the aspirations and ambitions of their Ministers. Yes, if a Minister wants to fight a turf war, his officials will go out at policy level and fight that turf war for him. That is why I say for climate change you really do need a Cabinet Office process that forces at a policy level the banging together of heads on an evidential basis. Even that cannot substitute for the fact that, at the end of the day, Ministers have to make choices and, frankly, Ministers are not always willing to make choices, particularly strategic choices where the benefits fall somewhat in the future and the costs quite often fall right away.[47]

33. Guy Lodge from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned that the creation of a strong centre to lead on policy areas should avoid command and control, as often the expertise rests within the individual Departments. Rather, the role should be for co-ordinating and facilitating a joined-up approach; "[I]t is not just imposing its will—at times it will, of course—it is a case of building the right relationships across Government and the centre is the obvious place for that to happen".[48] Mr Lodge has undertaken a study of international innovations in civil service reform which considered issues including the effective management of cross-Government challenges such as climate change. The study found similar problems with effective management of cross-Government issues around the world, and highlighted an attempt by Finland to make more effective horizontal Government a key priority for civil service reform. There are clear parallels between the Finnish approach and those ideas that we have heard for a new climate governance structure in the UK:

    A series of institutional innovations designed to enhance coherence across Government have recently been adopted, many of which are considered to have been highly successful, making Finland one of the world leaders in joined-up Government... In 2004… the priorities for the administration were reduced to a small number of [horizontal] strategic and cross-cutting policy outcomes. Each policy programme is allocated a lead coordination Minister from the most relevant Government Department, and a number of other key Ministers (all of cabinet rank). A dedicated programme director - a senior civil servant - is appointed and a delivery team of officials assembled. The coordinating Minister and programme directors organise the implementation of the policy programmes, making decisions on how to divide tasks/ responsibilities across Government Ministers and ministries.

    The reforms have seen the role of the PMO change and strengthen at the same time. The PMO has deliberately been 'beefed up', so that it can foster and facilitate joined-up work, acting as a powerful force against Departmentalism. This approach has been strengthened through Ministerial policy forums, which bring Ministers together periodically to conduct a thorough analysis of whether the right policies are being pursued and what impact they are having… In addition, in order to improve horizontal governance, senior officials are expected to—and are assessed on their ability to - share knowledge, establish partnerships and networks, and the conditions for joint decision making (OECD 2003).[49]

34. In oral evidence to us, an official from the then DTI rejected the assertion that the OCC would be more successful if located in the Cabinet Office. He also stressed that "there is a danger that if the centre is seen to be pushing its views too hard on Departments they will feel disempowered and they will become defensive and feel that they are being told what to do and one of the great successes in the [OCC] is we have managed to avoid that".[50] Officials pointed to the draft Climate Change Bill as evidence of the effectiveness of the current structure:

    …we drafted the draft Climate Change Bill and that was a huge cross-Whitehall process and involved very, very strong interests from different Departments. By structuring ourselves in a way that was about collaboration, co-operation and effective co-ordination we made quick progress and we came up with a very, very high quality product. It is maintaining that essence of an organisation which is really important. Whether we as an organisation or Government as a whole needs to provide more support to Number 10 or not is a secondary question to the primary issue which is about helping Government co-ordinate and helping Departments perform better in tackling climate change.[51]

35. Officials also rejected the need for the OCC to be headed by a very senior civil servant for it to be effective:

    We have always positioned ourselves essentially as helping Departments, as being a support for the Government to improve climate change policy-making. Given some of the things that we have done, arguing that somehow the grade of the leader of the organisation is going to make a big difference is not something that has been substantiated by what has happened.[52]

36. Due to the power and central co-ordinating function of the Cabinet Office, it is clear to us that it should have a far greater role to play in ensuring that all Departments pull together to ensure climate policy is coherent. We therefore recommend that a new Climate Change and Energy Secretariat be established within the Cabinet Office to oversee management of climate change policy, supported in some analytical form by the Office of Climate Change which should also move to the Cabinet Office. As well as helping to generate effective policy, this new body should seek also to focus on the implementation and delivery of policy within the Departments.

37. We have heard that for such a central body to be effective it must not be seen as part of a command and control exercise that emasculates the Departments. It will therefore be important to maintain the diplomatic approach adopted by the OCC. Nevertheless, given the often conflicting objectives of different Departments, there is a need for a strong central body able to pull rank through its location in the Cabinet Office. In addition, we recommend that the Secretariat is headed by a senior civil servant of sufficient authority to command the attention of those whom he needs to blend into a co-ordinated group. Although we believe that these changes will aid further the effective creation and delivery of climate change policies it still remains the case that unless the Prime Minister takes a strong lead in Cabinet by establishing climate change as one of his priorities, then individual departments will not be fully accountable for climate change nor give it the priority it needs.

Cabinet Committees

38. As described above, improving the coherence of climate change policy will rely a great deal on the ability of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to balance the objectives of different Departments. As part of this, witnesses stressed to us the importance of an effective Cabinet process by which decisions are taken by Ministers in a clear and transparent manner. A paper by Dr Duncan Russel discussed historical attempts to bring closer coordination between Ministers of different Departments. This found that early Cabinet Committees with an environmental focus were reported to be "ineffective and weak". He felt that this situation improved slightly in recent years when the Energy and Environment Committee first became chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister then the Prime Minister, and when the Sustainable Development Ministers were given their own Cabinet Sub-Committee.[53] Despite past criticisms of environmental Cabinet Committees, Elliot Morley MP stressed the importance of the Cabinet Committee structure created by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair:

    …the Energy and Environment Committee… was chaired by the Prime Minister, and I think that was important because I think the fact that that Committee, which is at the heart of Government and has representatives from each of the ministries and is chaired by the Prime Minister first of all it tends to attract the senior Ministers from each of the Departments, and that is very important. Secondly, it gives a very clear lead right from the very top of Government of the importance of energy and climate and that is absolutely crucial… But I thought that the stepping up of [the Energy and Environment Committee] was a big step forward, particularly because the Prime Minister chaired it - that was very important.[54]

39. On 23 July 2007, the Prime Minister announced that he had "strengthened the system [of Cabinet Committees] by re-casting it to focus on the Government's priorities and, in doing so, have reduced the total number Committees".[55] The changes included the abolition of the Sustainable Development in Government Sub-Committee comprised of sustainable development Ministers and the downgrading of the Energy and Environment Committee to a Sub-Committee of the Economic Development Committee. In addition, the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is now chaired by the Chancellor rather than the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister. These changes stimulated some criticism, as they were taken by some as a sign of a downgrading of the priority given to climate change and environmental issues. This view was rejected by the Government.[56]

40. Jonathan Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, wrote to Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil service, to voice his concerns that the changes sent the wrong signals about the Government's approach to sustainable development, and urged "that the arrangements are enhanced to ensure more effective accountability and high-level championing of sustainable development".[57] Mr Porritt argued that the arrangement under which the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is a Sub-Committee of the Economic Development Committee "signals that sustainable development will now be considered through an economic lens… which flies in the face of the Government's own sustainable development principles". He also is concerned that neither the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee nor the Economic Development Committee have sustainable development stated in its remit and that "therefore no clear ownership is outlined across the Committee structure. We know from experience that sustainable development is not yet integrated into Government activities, therefore specific ownership of sustainable development through the Committee structure needs to be clearly allocated". He also argued against the abolition of the Sustainable Development in Government Sub-Committee. He felt that this group was important to ensure that "full cross-Government dialogue on sustainable development can be maintained, ensuring that developments relating to: Sustainable Development Action Plans, sustainable operations targets (including procurement), and the SDC's own mandate for scrutiny can be effectively governed".[58] Sir Gus responded that "the new streamlined, cross-cutting structure inevitably means some committees focussing on specific issues, such as sustainable development in Government, have disappeared. This is no reflection of the importance attached to any of these policy areas. Indeed I believe that it will only help raise the profile of sustainable development in Government to have Cabinet-level Ministers on ED(EE) considering the issues in the context of our broader efforts on climate change and sustainability".[59]

41. Although environmental Cabinet Committees have in the past failed to act as an effective forum for integrating fully the environment across Government, we are nevertheless concerned about recent changes to the Cabinet Committee structure. The abolition of the Sustainable Development in Government Sub-Committee, the demotion of the Energy and Environment Committee to a Sub-Committee of the Economic Development Committee, and the chairing of the new Sub-Committee by the Chancellor rather than the Prime Minister, point to an apparent downgrading of climate change and other environmental issues in the Cabinet Committee process. One way in which focus could be maintained would be to create a new climate change Ministerial post with an automatic right to attend full Cabinet meetings. This Minister would not be a DEFRA representative but rather would have a cross-Government management function with overall responsibility for coordinating the Climate Change Programme and a Climate Change and Energy Secretariat, and with the duty to provide clear political leadership on climate change. Nonetheless it will remain that Cabinet Committee arrangements, although important, matter less than political leadership. Ultimately the proof of the new Prime Minister's and Cabinet's commitment to sustainable development and climate change will be in the decisions that are taken and the policies that are delivered.

Public Service Agreements

42. Public Service Agreements (PSAs) were introduced in 1998 to "set out the key priorities for the Government, focusing on the outcomes that really matter to the public... They send a clear message to the public about what they can expect the Government to deliver, whilst focusing Departments on delivering results".[60] Supporting documents for the 2004 Spending Review also argue that the PSA framework "provides an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability to the delivery of public services. Departments are required to report publicly their performance against targets twice a year, in Departmental Reports in spring, and in Autumn Performance Reports. These, alongside the PSA performance website launched last year, provide the latest published data on how each Government Department is performing against its key targets, offering the public the information to judge how the Government is doing".[61]

43. Witnesses to this inquiry have concluded that PSAs have had a variable impact as to improving cross-Government coordination on climate change. CABE, the Government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space, told us that:

    The effectiveness of such cross-cutting strategies is variable, and in some cases remains to be seen. However, strategies are more effective if they are owned by those responsible to delivering them and include targets with clear route maps for turning strategy into action. Target setting is valuable in focussing efforts, but targets need to be meaningful and achievable. Similarly, cross- Departmental partnerships need to be genuine partnerships and require clear lines of leadership, responsibility and accountability. For example, Cleaner, Safer, Greener aspirations were encapsulated in CLG's PSA target 8, and key legislation and targets to assist practitioners in delivering and enforcing CSG objectives were identified on the Cleaner, Safer, Greener website. Defra, I&DeA, Local Government Association and ENCAMS worked in partnership and there was a shared sense of ownership of targets.[62]

44. Dr Russel was critical of the past effectiveness of the overall PSA framework in delivering sustainable development objectives. In his research he has found that "the application of sustainable development-related targets to policy making and delivery has been weak". In particular he argued that PSAs "have not been comprehensively aligned to goals in the United Kingdom's Sustainable Development Strategy".[63] Dr Russel argued for compulsory sustainable development reports to be introduced to the Spending Review process in order to ensure that appropriate PSAs could be set. As part of this, he argued, "the Treasury must ensure that where Department's reports are substandard or Public Service Agreements are not met, there are appropriate incentives (e.g. the allocation of special funds for cross-cutting projects) and penalties (e.g. the freezing of funding) to ensure compliance".[64]

45. Professor Burke told us that he is "rather sceptical" about the use of management tools, such as PSAs, as a "substitute for leadership choice, but that is not to say that properly used they cannot play and extremely useful and helpful role. They need to be few in number".[65] Nick Mabey argued that in the past PSAs have been an "absolute failure" in trying to produce joined-up Government on sustainable development".[66] This was a result of a failure to ensure that there was a joint strategic view between departments, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office. He thought that the simple application of a joint target to impose this "never worked".[67] Where there was a meeting of minds between different parts of Government on a specific issue (primarily the Cabinet Office and the Treasury), the outcomes could be very successful.[68] He went on that key in achieving this strategic alignment was clear political leadership:

    …the core element is that the political level involved have had an extremely clear discussion about objectives and how they are shared or not, and if there is a dispute that is clearly resolved by the Prime Minister not being ambiguous. Sometimes you have to do that, sometimes you cannot resolve things that clearly, but that means you are set up for lack of inclination. That is the core thing, the clear political message from above. Then you have to devolve responsibility for driving it forward, either to Cabinet Office or to the Permanent Secretary or the deputy Permanent Secretary with the authority to challenge Departments to come up with answers. They have to have the authority of the politicians to drive it through otherwise they will be completely stranded and left in a bureaucratic exercise. It always worked when that political alignment was there.[69]

46. The Government told us that, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, it is reformulating PSAs in a number of ways including:

      There will be a much smaller number of PSAs—less than a third of the current number;

      PSAs will be cross-cutting, focused on the highest priority outcomes; and are likely to involve several Departments in delivery;

      PSAs will be outcome-focused rather than output-focused;

      Each PSA should be underpinned by one or more key national performance indicators;

      With regard to measurement, these indicators should be outcome-focused; specific, use robust data subject to quality control, and be sufficiently accurate and reliable as to enable decision-making.

      PSAs will be accompanied by delivery agreements showing what different Departments, delivery bodies and stakeholders will contribute to delivering the PSA.[70]

47. These changes, the Government argued, "should further strengthen the framework for addressing cross cutting issues, like climate change, that require major policy contributions from a number of departments". The new PSAs that will be announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review "will focus on the highest priorities to address the Government's long term challenges, including increasing pressure on natural resources and the global climate, requiring action by governments, businesses and individuals to maintain prosperity and improve environmental care".[71]

48. Public Service Agreements as a management tool can lead to more effective cross-Departmental working where they act to reinforce an existing, or help to create, strong consensus within Government on an issue. Our evidence suggests that PSAs relating to sustainable development and climate change have been less than effective due to the absence of such a consensus. Therefore the proposed changes to the Public Service Agreement framework under the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, such as providing more information on the delivery and accountability for PSAs, although positive, are likely only to improve the effectiveness of delivery of cross-Government sustainable development and climate change objectives where there is a clear political will that this should be the case.

Committee on Climate Change

49. The draft Climate Change Bill contains provisions for the creation of a new non-departmental public body called the Committee on Climate Change (the Committee). The consultation document published with the draft Bill proposed that this Committee be created to assess "independently… how the UK can optimally achieve its emissions reductions goals".[72] Its duties and roles would include advising the Secretary of State as to the level that should be set for new carbon budgets and to report annually to Parliament on progress towards meeting the budgets and longer-term targets. More information about the Committee can be found in our Report, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill. In that Report we supported the Government's decision to establish an independent Committee on Climate Change:

    The creation of such an independent body should make a significant contribution to the quality and transparency of Government climate change policy. One particularly valuable aspect of the Committee's work would be in providing challenge to, and public reporting on, Government forecasting and policy analysis… Furthermore, the Committee should be able to make detailed policy recommendations to Government. Another major contribution which the Committee on Climate Change could make would be to help to depoliticise the consideration of policies to reduce emissions, including measures which could be potentially very contentious.[73]

50. In that Report we also went on to recommend that the Committee be given the resources that it would require to ensure that its work is fully independent "and does not merely have to rely on the conclusions given to it by individual Departments… Given the importance of the Committee it needs a high quality secretariat which is adequate to support all its work and a budget for commissioning external research".[74] The importance of this recommendation was reinforced during the course of this inquiry. Professor Helm argued that this Committee as it is currently set-out, "is without a clear independence from Government and its remit is largely an advisory and reporting one". Witnesses were in agreement that it is important that the Committee will be, and be seen to be, independent of Government. For example, EEF told us that "the independence of the Committee is vital to ensure that it adequately performs the role that was originally envisaged… to reinforce the independence of the Committee, the secretariat support should also be outside of existing Government departments to ensure that there are no potential conflicts of interest." [75]

51. We also heard from witnesses that there is a critical need to ensure that there is clarity as to the roles and duties of the Committee, particularly with regards to its relationships with other bodies. Professor Helm told us that there is potentially a great overlap between the Committee and existing bodies:

    …the new Committee will be involved in the setting of the five-year rolling carbon budgets, whereas the out-turns will depend in considerable measure on the decisions made by other bodies, none of which will have a duty to help achieve them. It will have a role in respect of the emissions trading schemes—something the Environment Agency currently plays a part in.[76]

52. Professor Burke also stressed that the role of the Committee must be clearly defined and that it needs to be defined with respect to the wider institutional context, in particular in relation to the proposed independent planning commission. He thought that failure to do this would undermine the public's confidence in the Committee.[77] In line with earlier recommendations, due to the large number of organisations involved in climate change policy, in order for them to be effective it is paramount that their roles and duties are effectively defined. Failure to ensure that the Committee on Climate Change has clarity of purpose, and that it will function within a coherent institutional framework, will undermine its ability to function effectively. Therefore upon its creation the Committee should conduct a strategic review of Government bodies with a major stake in climate change policy.

Departmental responsibilities

53. While we were taking oral evidence for this inquiry, it was reported that there might be a reorganisation of Departmental responsibilities upon the appointment of Gordon Brown MPas the new Prime Minister, including the movement of the energy brief from the former Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) to DEFRA, thereby creating a new energy and environment ministry.[78] We asked witnesses whether they thought that this might enable coordination better to be achieved between climate change and energy objectives. Elliot Morley MP thought that energy should be moved to DEFRA "[b]ecause I think it does not make sense at the moment to have DEFRA responsible for climate change and to have energy within the DTI because you cannot separate the two, basically, in terms of objectives… [Giving DEFRA the responsibility for energy] would be a very desirable thing".[79] He went on:

    I think it is fair to say that when you have separate responsibilities within different Departments then it is inevitable that where those issues are put in terms of priority there will be differences in different Departments...

    …there has to be a limit about what you can put in any one Department to make it effective and manageable. I think energy would lend itself very well to Defra because we have to move towards sustainable energy, we have to move towards a low carbon economy. That applies to the DTI as well, of course, in relation to industry and the promotion of industry and the development of our environmental sectors, but I think to have a much more closely integrated approach between climate and energy within one Department makes absolute sense.[80]

54. Dr Russel agreed that there might be some advantages to moving energy into DEFRA as this would bring all activities in this area under one roof, helping to provide strong leadership and a unified approach. Nevertheless, he cautioned that extensive departmental reorganisation can lead to detrimental policy delays for up to five years, and that the resulting Department might prove unwieldy if delegated too many policy areas.[81]

55. The very first Environmental Audit Committee's second Report, published in 1998, gives an interesting historical perspective on the impact of departmental responsibilities in dealing with environmental issues. In 1997 the then new administration took office committed to the pursuit of sustainable development, reflected in the manifesto pledge that "concern for the environment will be put at the heart of policy-making". The Prime Minister also argued in a speech that "we must make the process of Government green. Environmental considerations must be integrated into all our decisions, regardless of sector. They must be at the start, not bolted on later".[82] As part of this process, in order to help alleviate departmental conflict, the Government created the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). At the time the Committee concluded, as did the then Deputy Prime Minister, that this would help to achieve "policy integration at one of the crucial conflict points for sustainable development", the environment/transport interface. The Committee also noted that the merger of the environment portfolio with the transport portfolio created a powerful Department with "substantial political clout in Whitehall… reinforced by the fact that the DETR's Secretary of State is also the Deputy Prime Minister which gives him the scope and authority to give a strong lead on sustainable development issues, both within his own Department and throughout Government". The Committee recommended that whenever the boundaries of Departments are changed, due regard should be given to the impact that this would have on the Government's ability to reinforce and integrate sustainable development. It also recommended that high-level political leadership for sustainable development be maintained by it being the explicit responsibility of the Prime or Deputy Prime Minister.[83]

56. The DETR only survived from 1997 to 2001, with environmental policy moving to DEFRA and land use planning and transport moving to the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). The most widely quoted explanation for the break-up of DETR was that it was "so large and unwieldy that effective policy formulation and delivery was not achieved. The size and range of the DETR meant priorities had to be made and this was reflected in its uneven record".[84] However, attempts to reconcile environmental and transport aims by their bringing together into a single Department might have failed more as a result of the political difficulties created by a public perception that the Government was anti-car, and by the fuel protests of 2000. In an article, Dr Mark Beecroft of the University of Southampton wrote that the creation of the DETR indicated a recognition by the Government that integration on these issues was required, but that the subsequent separation of these issues demonstrated the difficulties of practically bringing them together within the administrative and political complexities of the time.[85] Ultimately the focus on transport was intensified by the separation of DTLR into the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (subsequently Communities and Local Government).

57. Back to the present day, the difficulties associated with integrating sustainable development objectives into decision making, and the problem of Departmentalism in this area, continue some 10 years after the Environmental Audit Committee first discussed the issue. For example, our Report from earlier this year into Regulatory Impact Assessments noted that the policy appraisal process for integrating environmental and social impacts into policy decisions continues to be unsatisfactory. Researchers from the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE) argued that "predefined agendas, manifesto commitments, tradeoffs with other Departments, pressure from outside groups, etc" all continue to act to obfuscate the incorporation of environmental considerations into policy decisions.[86]

58. The Departmental reorganisation occurred shortly after we took oral evidence from Elliot Morley MP and Dr Russel, although not in the manner that was anticipated. It was announced that the energy brief would be moved to the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), which is an amalgamation of functions of the former DTI with the Better Regulation Executive. Simon Retallack, IPPR, expressed disappointment to us that the energy brief had not moved to DEFRA in the reorganisation, primarily as "far too often DEFRA loses political battles on key areas of policy because of opposition, most frequently from the Treasury, but equally from the DTI. When we think about how to improve the machinery of Government from an efficiency perspective, it is valuable to think of it, too, from a political perspective and look at and explore the options available to strengthen DEFRA's position within Government and to bring together the key areas clearly that need to be brought together to drive progress on energy policy and transport policy".[87]

59. A Government official argued to us that simply giving one Department responsibility for both energy and climate change does not guarantee better coordination on policy in these areas due to the complexity of the issues.[88] Rather, it was argued that the wide cross-Departmental nature of climate change makes it more important that structures are put in place to allow Departments to co-ordinate with each other, and that the changes that had been implemented have resulted in this:[89]

    The Prime Minister has explained the new machinery of Government and the responsibilities are quite clear. We have governance that brings us together, at the top of which sits the Ministerial Committee on Environment and Energy. I think that the White Paper on Energy Policy that we published recently demonstrates that climate change is now right at the heart of our energy policy in a way that when I talk to my European counterparts across the Union they say is a model for the rest of Europe. The outcome shows that the machine is working.[90]

60. DEFRA's Capability Review supported in part this view. The review team found that "there are good examples of cooperative work between DEFRA and other Government Departments, for example the joint work that DEFRA carried out with the Department of Trade and Industry on the Energy Review, and cross-Whitehall work involving DEFRA to establish the Office of Climate Change".[91] The team also observed that "although other Government Departments have seen DEFRA as too much of a campaigning organisation, and have had problems working well with it whilst developing strategy, DEFRA is improving its engagement strategies with stakeholders as part of its overall development of strategy".[92] Sir Gus O'Donnell remarked that the five Departments scrutinised in the third tranche of reports, which included DEFRA, FCO and DFID, "powerfully expose the challenge and complexity of working effectively across Departmental boundaries". He went on that "we must do this better and more flexibly if we are to achieve the Government's increasingly ambitious delivery goals. This poses some significant challenges to the machinery of Government but above all to the leaders of the Civil service".[93]

61. We congratulate DEFRA, DTI and other Departments involved in those climate change projects in which successful cross-Whitehall co-ordination has been achieved, such as the establishment of the Office of Climate Change. Nevertheless, although we agree that it is important to ensure that there are strong overarching cross-Government coordinating structures, we argue that bringing together climate change and energy into a single Department would have helped to minimise the risk of inter-Departmental conflict in these intricately linked policy areas and therefore it could have enabled more coherent policy in both these areas. We believe that the movement of the energy brief into DBERR rather than DEFRA constitutes a missed opportunity to mould governance structures into a shape more predisposed to coherent management of this complex policy area.

32   Environmental Audit Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, HC 460, p32 Back

33   ibid Back

34   ibid Back

35   Environmental Audit Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, HC 460 Back

36   ibid, Ev 56 Back

37   Ev 2 Back

38   Ev 2  Back

39   Q 5 Back

40   Q 8 Back

41   Q 45 Back

42   Q 37 Back

43   Q 40 Back

44   Q 45 Back

45   Q 51 Back

46   Q 51 Back

47   Q 128 Back

48   Q 154 Back

49   "Innovations in Government: International perspectives on civil service reform", IPPR, April 2007, Back

50   Q 170 Back

51   Q 170 Back

52   Q 172 [Mr Brearley] Back

53   Duncan Russel, "The United Kingdom's Sustainable Development Strategies: Leading the Way or Flattering to Deceive?", European Environment, Vol 17 (2007), pp 189-200 Back

54   Q 89 Back

55   HC Deb 23 July 2007 c46WS Back

56   "Brown downgrades Cabinet Committee on climate change", Independent On Sunday, 5 August 2007 Back

57   "New cabinet committees and governance arrangements for sustainable development", Letter to Sir Gus O'Donnell from Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, 27 July 2007 Back

58   "New cabinet committees and governance arrangements for sustainable development", Letter to Jonathon Porritt from Sir Gus O'Donnell, Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil service, 29 August 2007 Back

59   ibid Back

60   "2004 Spending Review", HM Treasury, 12 July 2004, Back

61   ibid Back

62   Ev 75 Back

63   Ev 4 Back

64   ibid Back

65   Q 124 Back

66   Q 44 Back

67   ibid Back

68   ibid Back

69   Q 45 Back

70   Ev 57 Back

71   ibid Back

72   Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Draft Climate Change Bill, Cm 7040, March 2007  Back

73   Environmental Audit Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, HC 460, p59-60 Back

74   ibid, p63 Back

75   Ev 78 Back

76   Ev 24 Back

77   Ev 80 Back

78   "CBI fights for DTI as Brown prepares Whitehall revamp", The Times, 25 June 2007 Back

79   Q 91-92 Back

80   Q 93 Back

81   Q 4 Back

82   Address by the Prime Minister to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Sustainable Development, June 1997 Back

83   Environmental Audit Committee, Second Report of Session 1997-98, The Greening Government Initiative, HC517-1, p xiii Back

84   "From DETR to DfT via DTLR, what are the potential implications for transport planning of these changes in departmental organisation?", Transport Planning Society, November 2002, Back

85   ibid Back

86   Environmental Audit Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Regulatory Impact Assessments and Policy Appraisal, HC 353, Back

87   Q 139 Back

88   Q 182 Back

89   Q 158 [Mr Brearley] Back

90   Q 158 [Mr Rickett] Back

91   "Capability Review of the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs", Civil service, March 2007, p19, Back

92   ibid Back

93   "Capability Reviews, Tranche 3: Findings and common themes, Civil service - strengths and challenges ", Civil service, March 2007, Back

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