Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
3 NOVEMBER 2010
Chair: I would like to
welcome you all to the Environmental Audit Committee this afternoon,
and thank all three of you for coming in. We do not want a long
introduction from each of you, but if you introduce yourselves
and let us know the remit you have responsibility for, that might
Mr Anderson: I'm
Mike Anderson. I am the Director General in Defra, under which
sustainability comes. I also run the Green Economy programme,
and in fact all our corporate services and spending review. But
the sustainability agenda comes under me in policy terms in Defra.
Mr Jordan: I'm
William Jordan. I'm the Chief Sustainability Officer for Whitehall.
I am responsible for delivering the policies that Mike Anderson
and his colleagues in DECC come forward with for government on
sustainable development in Whitehall.
Mr Rowbury: Hello,
I'm Sam Rowbury. I'm the Acting Director of the Centre of Expertise
in Sustainable Procurement, which is a team in the Efficiency
and Reform Group in the Cabinet Office that supports William in
his role as Chief Sustainability Officer.
As you know, we are looking at the ramifications of the decision
about the Sustainable Development Commission. We want to kick
off by asking you if you could give us some idea about government
performance to date on sustainable development and where it needs
to be urgently improved. We would like to have a sense of where
you feel that direction of travel should be.
Mr Anderson: Perhaps
we should divide it up, as I'm the policy person, starting with
me on policy across the piece, which is a bit wider I guess than
the operations and the procurement under William.
Sustainable development has come a very long way
in the last 10 years or so, and the SDC made a major contribution
to that during the period when they were arguably in charge of
the agenda, at least in terms of an arm's length body. We would
say that the general principles of sustainable development are
well understood in government departmentsthat was something
that has happened in the last 10 years and I don't think was there
beforehandand that policies presented by policy officials,
for Ministers to decide on, all have that strong evidence base
of the sustainable development agenda sitting within it. That's
partly why this Government has decided that the Sustainable Development
Commission is no longer necessarily the right way forward to drive
Where do we need to focus it next? We can talk more
if you want examples of what has happened before. Where I think
we need to focus it next is across the three planks of sustainable
development. The main focus of the Coalition Government's agenda
is the green economy and driving that very hard. There are a number
of remits within the structural reform plans of different departments,
all of which correlate into the green economy; some of it low
carbon, some of it beyond that. For example the Green Economy
Roadmap, which is a joint piece of work with Defra, DECC, BIS,
also with the Cabinet Office, HMT and DfT involved in it.
On the environmental side, the big challenge for
usagain we can talk about it in detail if you'd likeis
the natural value programme: how we value, in economic terms,
the natural environment. That would be very much part of Defra's
natural environment White Paper, which we will be presenting soon
across government, and the resource efficiency agenda connected
to that; the fact that water and various minerals are running
out ultimately, and how we deal with that resource efficiency
Finally, on the social side, the inequalities agenda
is very much part of this Government's agenda, as you can see
reflected in things like the public health White Paper. I think
that's where the focus will be but you can see, in everything
I'm saying, it's about it being embedded in the activity of those
departments, rather than an add-on, with or without the Sustainable
Development Commission helping us. So I think that's the approach.
Can I just pick you up on what you said just there about the resource
efficiency measures? That's obviously going to be a key part of
the European Commission programme as well. But can I just ask
you, in relation to the Green Economy Roadmap, how you see all
of this being embedded? Who is going to do it? How are you going
to be cross-cutting in the way that you take that forward?
Mr Anderson: That
is precisely the question that we need to address now. There are
certain specific activities, such as the Green Dealwhich
I think the Secretary of State for DECC has announcedthat
are clear exemplars of a sustainable development approach to a
particular agenda; the social, environmental and economic aspects
to the Green Deal. So that's already happening. The Green Economy
Roadmap, which is again very much part of this Government's agenda,
will need to identify specific activities that will drive that
agenda, rather than theories and strategies and that type of approach
to it. They're very much more interested in concrete actions that
we will take. That work has only just started now, about exactly
what we're talking about. The fact that you have DECC, BIS and
Defra driving it demonstrates you have a troika of departments
who are very much behind it, and the Secretaries of State. We
will need Treasury support for this. That's a key part of whatever
we do when we buy it in, because without Treasury support we are
probably wasting our time.
Could you just share with us why you think it has not been sufficiently
embedded up until now?
Mr Anderson: That's
a very good question. I think partly it is this notion of "add
on". One of the problems we've probably had with the sustainable
development agenda is, partly, that we haven't explained it very
well; it is still a bit of a term of art, a bit of jargon, if
you go down to the street. I don't know about your constituents,
but when I talk about "sustainable development" it doesn't
immediately resonate with a lot of people out there. We haven't
explained it that well.
Secondly, having the idea that it's the Sustainable
Development Commission over here or a Sustainable Development
Unit over herepart of which are my guys behind me here
from Defraisn't always the best way to approach it. It
looks as though, "All right, it's just their responsibility"
rather than everybody's responsibility, as a policy official in
the advice they give to Ministers, that any bit of evidence has
to have a short-term effect, a medium-term effect, a long-term
effect, which is after all the sustainable development agenda.
So it's fundamentally flipping this around and changing it from
being the job of an arm's length body, or a particular advocate
into: it had better be everything you do in government, otherwise
you're not going to make the right policy choices. That's the
space we have to get to.
Q55 Zac Goldsmith:
Practically speaking, what level would that leadership have to
Mr Anderson: The
simple answer is that it has to go through all levels of government.
You have to have ministerial, prime ministerial, deputy prime
ministerial leadership. The Ministers that I'm aware of who are
deeply engaged on this and interested in it are: the Prime Minister
himself, not least in relation to things like wellbeing indicators;
the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to his chairmanship of the
Home Affairs Committee; Mr Letwin, sitting in the Cabinet Office,
who is responsible for government policy, who is a very useful
allyif all government policy partly goes through him, he
is looking at it through a sustainable development lensand
then the Secretaries of States in the departments we've talked
However, if the officials aren't already producing
our policy advice thinking through that prism, we're making a
mistake. You may have read the summary of the Government Economic
Service Survey on the economics of sustainable development, for
example, so when we make policy, when we do impact assessments,
when we're being checked by the NAO for our activities, it has
to be part of what we're doing. In a sense, you could say it should
be the natural bailiwick for a civil servant because, in giving
our advice, we should always be looking for the long term as well
as the short term. There may be tradeoffs but that's part of our
Q56 Caroline Lucas:
I take the point that if we're talking about people in the street,
yes, they might not be able to get their heads around what sustainable
development means; it sounds technical; it sound jargon. But what
we're talking about are government ministries. We're talking about
a concept that has been around almost 30 years, since Rio. We've
had the SDC for 10 years trying to embed it. I'm rather alarmed
that it all sounds like, "Well, it depends whether or not
we have the right Minister in the right place to take it up".
Is it the case, would you say, that there just simply hasn't been
sufficient high-level political capital put behind this idea to
date? Is that the problem? Because it seems to me that we're talking
about 30 years since this idea has been around. How many more
years do we have to wait for it to be properly embedded in government?
Mr Anderson: No,
I don't think I said it depended on the Minister. I think I said
I don't necessarily think it was the right approach that we took,
in terms of getting sustainable development embedded into the
various agendas. Because there have been different Ministers over
time that are interested in the agenda, and different politicians
interested in the agenda. I think the point on this is: was the
Sustainable Development Commission the right way to do it? At
the time it might have been because there was a lack of advocacy
of the agenda, perhaps, at that time, because of the need to begin
to impart a bit of expert advice into departments because of some
of the watchdog roles that the SDC played, both on operations
and on policies. But I think we're saying that, certainly under
this Coalition Government, the agenda has moved on and they want
to do it differently, and I think that's where we are.
Q57 Zac Goldsmith:
I want to rephrase my earlier question. My question was: at what
level? Your answer, logically, is that it should be at every level.
But, given that we have seen the closure of what was an arm's
length advisory body, which in my viewand probably not
just my viewwas largely ignored, if you had to recreate
that function in an area within government, where would it naturally
fit? Is it the Cabinet Office?
Mr Anderson: I
see, yes. It's not about Defra, so I'm certainly not worried about
that. First of all, I have to say we're not recreating the function
because that is not the point of what is being said. But if you're
talking about where you drive the agenda from, William may want
to talk in a second about the Cabinet Office driving the operational
agenda rather than the policy agenda. I am certainly not precious
about where you do it from. The Treasury would be the perfect
place to drive a sustainable development agenda from, if you wanted
to do it, Defra has a lot of the expertise, but it needs to be
in every government department. So I think that is an open question
and that's what my boss, the Secretary of State, is talking to
Oliver Letwin and the Deputy Prime Minister about, what is the
best way to drive that agenda, using her personal leadership and
using everybody else's as well.
Q58 Simon Kirby:
I'm slightly confused now, sir. Are you saying that the Cabinet
Office is the best place to drive the sustainability agenda and,
if not, is there any evidence that Defra is capable of influencing
the other Ministers and departments?
Mr Anderson: They
are two separate questions but I'm happy toI'm also separating
out because I'm only talking policy here and William does the
Chair: I think Mr Kirby
would like an answer to his question on policy.
Mr Anderson: On
policy, Defra has certainly continued to influence across the
piece. The government systemas you knowdepends on
every government department producing a policy. Let's take planning.
Let's make it a more concrete rather than a nebulous theory. The
planning proposals put forward by Communities and Local Government
have a presumption of sustainable development built into them
now, and the guys sitting behind me, and our department, have
been deeply involved in how that is going to play out. All government
departments chip in on that approachon the Cabinet Committee
right-round approachand influence the agenda in that way.
Is Defra strong enough to influence, in every single government
department, every single bit of sustainable development? Well,
sustainable development covers the whole of government policy,
so I think we have to pick and choose, from Defra's perspective,
where we think we can have the most impact, in which areas.
Q59 Peter Aldous:
When you have peaks and troughs in an economy, do you feel that
when things go into recession, perhaps the concept takes more
of a backseat than it does in better times?
Mr Anderson: That
is a good question, both on operations and on policy. On operations,
if you are reducing your carbon by 10% in a particular calendar
year, yes, I'd guess you'd probably need to spend a bit of money
on it. It is how quickly the return comes back in and whether
you have that. In Defra's case it's about £700,000. Do we
have that this year in order to make the savings in the following
year? The sustainable development answer is, "Yes, you'd
be better to spend it this year", which we are doing. But
in all cases it's going to be a trade off, I think, isn't it?
Q60 Neil Carmichael:
You talked before about picking and choosing which areas to focus
on with regard to sustainable development. What sort of mechanism
is there for you to find out what you should be picking and choosing
from, and is it from the officials or do Ministers take a lead?
Mr Anderson: It's
the whole of the Government agenda. I think, in the coalition
programme, the word "sustainability" is mentioned about
eight or nine times. In each of Defra's structural reform plan
priorities it's absolutely embedded in it, and we take our lead
from that. Our lead is being taken from the structural reform
priorities, for all government departments, about what this Government
wants to focus on in the next period, in the whole period of Parliament.
The local growth paper, for example, from BIS, is a good example,
to make it more concrete. That is a clear priority for this Government.
It clearly needs us to have the notion of sustainable development,
the principles of sustainable development, embedded into it. So
we need to talk to BIS, Oliver Letwin will talk to BIS. It also
needs to come to the respective cabinet committee, in that case
the Economic Affairs Cabinet Committee.
Q61 Neil Carmichael:
Health policy, for example, is not your natural area for sustainable
development, but I can think of a few areas where sustainable
development is highly relevant: in the building of new hospitals,
the planning of facilities, or whatever, and the impact of, let's
say, the White Paper, in terms of a consortium for GPs. That's
all going to have an impact, isn't it, on the delivery of a service
and sustainable development? At that level it reeks all over,
doesn't it? The second related question is that if you take, for
example, a small town in Germany, Freiberg, they have
Mr Anderson: Yes.
Neil Carmichael: You know
Mr Anderson: Yes.
Neil Carmichael: Yes.
They have gone down the track of linking health with sustainability,
and so forth. So how does Defra interface with health on that
Mr Anderson: We
have a very close relationship with health, as it happens. I have
a personal relationship as well with the director generals responsible
for driving that public health agenda. In particular, we have
a very close connection between our social researchers on behaviour
change and the relationship between health inequalities, driving
public health and driving sustainable development, and also on
the mental health agenda as well. There's a lot of discussion
between us about the best use of green space for people, for mental
So I would argue the Department of Health is one
of the better exemplars about how you do that. The public health
White Paper is not perfect, and I think a Committee like this
might want to look at it and question some of the bits within
it, as it should do, but it is at least a department that clearly
understands that principle between the short term and the long
terma very good example of a department. I don't think
Defrato answer part of the previous question as wellneeds
to be deeply engaged if health are already driving that properly.
We just need to be light touch: "Are you guys in the right
space on this?"
Q62 Martin Caton:
When the Secretary of State made the announcement about no longer
funding the SDC, she quite rightly reminded everybody that it
was not just owned by the UK Government, but it was jointly owned
by the devolved administrations. I know you're in discussions
about the way forward but, before the decision in principle was
made, were there any discussions with the devolved administrations
Mr Anderson: There
was. If you recall, there was a whole government Cabinet Office-led
arm's length body review about the activities taking place, and
there were discussions individually with departments about what
was happening. Our view was we were going to withdraw funding,
whatever. The question then becomes: how does that impact on the
devolved administrations and the future of the SDC? Because our
decision could not be to close the SDC without the agreement of
the three other governments, so it is at that point, once we've
made our decision to withdraw funding, that we start talking to
the devolved administrations and that conversation is still going
Q63 Martin Caton:
Some of my colleagues and I will come back to the watchdog role
of the SDC before. But I can't see how the gap is going to be
filled, in that the SDC was overseeing what was happening in England,
what was happening in Wales, what was happening in Scotland and
Northern Ireland. It had a compare and contrast role, whichit
seems to meis a hole quite difficult to fill. Was that
taken into consideration when the decision was made?
Mr Anderson: Yes,
it was taken into consideration in the sense of the role of the
SDC in capacity building across the piece and, therefore, getting
best practice and seeing that in different places. But I think
the answer to that is in each of the four administrations, countries,
devolved administrations, a slightly different approach to sustainable
development has grown up. Therefore, I am not certain whether
you can compare exactly what's happening in one with exactly what's
happening in another and say, necessarily, what should best be
applied to one or the other countries. The SDC does have that
cross-cutting view, but I'm not certain how much we lose from
Q64 Martin Caton:
I'm not suggesting it's as simple as, "Look, there's a perfect
example, we're all going follow that," but you often can
learn from the approach in different parts. But I'll move on to
another question, if I may.
Does the Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement,
CESP, have the capacity to report on the Sustainable Operations
on the Government Estate, SOGE, targets without help from the
Mr Anderson: I'm
lost in the world of acronyms as well, but fortunately it's William's
Mr Jordan: Perhaps
I could answer that question. Perhaps I could take the opportunity,
Chair, to respond to your initial question, since Mike has now
given his initial statement on policy.
My post was originally created about two and a half
years ago, because the Government of the day was not doing well
against its targets for Sustainable Operations on the Government
Estate and also its sustainable procurement action plan. That
was the finding of the Sustainable Development Commission, acting
in its watchdog role of the day. I'm pleased to say the SDC are
one of the bodies that we've worked very closely with over the
past two and a half years, as we've worked to put that situation
May I just go back to your original question and
answer both questions at the same time? In terms of what we did
then and what still remains to be done and also what we can and
cannot do to replace the SDC, as we look at a world without the
SDC, the first thing that we needed to do was to establish that
there was a single source of authority on sustainable operations
and sustainable procurement; that there wasn't one source of authority
that dealt with value for money and another that dealt with sustainability.
That was helped initially by the fact that I was then working
in the Treasury Group. It's helped now because I'm now working
in the Efficiency and Reform Group of the Cabinet Office. So no
one thinks when I suggest that something be done, for reasons
of sustainability, that there might conceivably be any conflict
between my right hand and my left where my left hand might say,
"You should do this for reasons of value for money".
So establishing a single source of authority was
one thing that the creation of my post and the Centre of Expertisewhich
Sam heads up to support meachieved. The second thing was
sending a very clear message to the world that this agenda was
a priority of government. That message has been very much the
message of the new administration. One of the very earliest announcements
of the new Prime Minister was that this would be the greenest
government ever and, as an indication of that, that we would reduce
carbon emissions from the Government estate by 10% within 12 months.
So establishing priority I think has been done; working with director-general
champions of estates across Whitehall, director-general champions
of sustainability, commercial directors, estate managers, practitioners,
to make sure that we have a guiding coalition to drive action
on these agendas. I think that you can always do more on it but
it is much more in place than it was two and a half years ago.
Finally, all this has enabled us to put in place
a serious planning and performance management regime where, when
we are now set a target to achieve 10% reductions in 12 months,
departments have planned how they will achieve this. We report
monthly; we will publish monthly performance against that target.
So I think all those things are in place and they give me considerable
confidence that, yes, we can continue to both support progress
against the Government's SOGE targets, which remain in force,
and the new 10% target, and that we can also challenge departments
around the robustness of their data, before we report it.
Q65 Dr Whitehead:
For the sake of clarification, could I try to understand the process
by which the devolved administrations and the Scottish Government
were consulted about the abolition of the SDC? Was it the case
that, in the first instance, the Government stated, "We are
thinking of abolishing the SDC, what do you think about it?"
or was it a case of, "We are abolishing the SDC, what are
you going to do about it?"
Mr Anderson: No,
our decision was to withdraw funding from the SDC, as I said.
Because of the way the articles are set up with the SDC, it could
not be a UK Government decision simply to abolish it. Our decision
was against the parameters of how the role of the SDC was seen
and the money that we were putting into it. Our department determined
that that was not the best use of the spend of money for this
particular body. At that point you begin the consultation with
the devolved administrations about whether that leads to wind
up of the SDC, because they still have the right to put money
in; they still have the right to support the SDC if they want
to do so.
Q66 Dr Whitehead:
So it was therefore the latter, "We are going to abolish
Mr Anderson: No,
no. It was, "We are going to withdraw our funding".
Q67 Dr Whitehead:
Would you not accept that amounts to the same thing then?
Mr Anderson: There
are some conversations going on about whether you could maintain
it on a de minimis budget. I think we put in about £2.5 million;
"we" being our department. I think its overall cost
is something over £4 million. So the question is: if the
other administrations wanted to they could maintain a body for
Q68 Martin Caton:
Getting back to CESP and SOGE, have Cabinet Office Ministers committed
to maintaining the capacity for Whitehall-wide SOGE reporting?
Mr Jordan: Cabinet
Office Ministers and officials, like Ministers and officials elsewhere
in Whitehall, are currently digesting their spending of new settlements.
But I see no reason to suppose that people will do anything other
than maintain our reporting against SOGE targets and the targets
of the Prime Minister.
Q69 Martin Caton:
To clarify, is it the intention that CESP just takes over the
SDC's assessment of the SOGE performance in the future?
Mr Jordan: What
we will be able to do in the future is what in fact we have been
doing in the past year. Last year we took over from the SDC the
administration of the publication of performance data against
the targets and the SDC has an established code for assessment
of departmental performance, which we can also apply. So I think
we can continue to do those two things. The SOGE targets do, of
course, just run for one further year.
Q70 Sheryll Murray:
What plans do you have to improve SOGE targets?
Mr Anderson: I
suppose that's back to me in terms of policy, although William
would have to execute it. That is now currently with Ministers.
I hope our Secretary of State can say a bit more next week, because
we do have an action plan idea. You may have seen in our structural
reform plan that we are going to do an action plan in relation
to developing this further, and how we set about it. There are
ideas on that. We are going to do it, provided it goes through
Q71 Chair: If I may
just come in on that, before Ms Murray carries on. You mentioned
that the action plan was coming out next week. Could you just
confirm that that will be out before the Secretary of State comes
before the Committee.
Mr Anderson: I
hope so, Chair. The processes of Whitehall are the processes of
Whitehall. We are trying to do that. We have a commitment to put
it out in October; you will have spotted it's November, but we
are trying to get that out, not least so you could have a bit
of a conversation about it next week.
Q72 Sheryll Murray:
Could I just go on a little bit further: have you identified any
particular inefficiencies or overlaps with other reporting processes
that could be phased out?
Mr Anderson: That
is a very good point. It's not a criticism of the SDC, of what
we've done before. I don't know how much material you've had the
chance to flick through, but when you look at things like the
Becoming the "Greenest Government Ever" documentit
is besmirched with thousands of charts, as well as everything
elsethis has become a bit of an industry, rather than focussing
on the things that matter. What we're trying to do now is align
it to departmental annual reports, to the accounting for sustainability
approach that the Treasury want to take in. So we're only doing
it once and we're doing it right. You can imagine the complaints
from other government departments, when people like ourselves
over- bureaucratise and over-complicate what needs to be a broadly
simple system of what matters at any given stage. The trouble
is everyone says everything matters at any given moment, but we
do have to identify what it is that counts and what can we do
now, which is why the Prime Minister steer that 10% carbon is
what we're going to do in a yearnext yearwas a good
steer because you can focus down on that.
Q73 Sheryll Murray:
You have clearly anticipated my next question, because you have
answered it already. But should the SOGE targets be extended to
arm's length bodies, do you think?
Mr Anderson: We
are, in Central Government, the exemplar in relation to this.
If you look at business, for example, business is just doing this
across the piece. I attended a nine-day conference on sustainability,
sponsored by IBM and the Prince of Wales and Business in the Community.
This is so much a part of what everybody does, and it's so much
a part of what many local authorities and many arm's length bodies
do, but it's not everywhere and, therefore, we do need to continue
to develop that. I know William would like to comment.
Mr Jordan: Yes,
under the SOGE framework, when it was first set up, reporting
by arm's length bodies was voluntary. A small number had done
so. Reporting by the executive agencies of government was mandatory.
That didn't seem to mean 100% of them did it, when I took up my
post. We've now have very close to 100% on executive agencies
and we will continue to encourage arm's length bodies to report.
I believe that, prior to the general election, the previous administration
announced that it would extend reporting on an 80:20 basis to
arm's length bodies. That is to say that it had intended, had
it remained in office, to extend reporting to make it mandatory
for arm's length bodies, subject to de minimis threshold of 1,000
square metres or more of floor space, provided that you also had
250 full-time equivalent employees. I think there is a lot to
be said, if you want to extend to arm's length bodies to go for
some de minimis threshold of that kind; it makes the numbers much
more practicable to report on. I see the case for reporting and
I encourage from a voluntary basis at the moment.
Mr Anderson: Can
I just add something else on that in relation to the expansion
of the agenda, not just the bodies, because carbon footprinting
is something we are beginning to look at much more, because the
supply chain matters in relation to government departments. But
it is trying to get the right evidence base on that, which is
the next stage. That is out next stage, and I suspect you'll be
seeing things in the next few weeks about carbon footprinting
that we are trying to do in Defra itself very much, in the lead
of that, because that sits in our teams. So there are plans to
expand all these things, as we get the evidence base and as people
can shoulder the burden of what that means for them.
Q74 Sheryll Murray:
Can I just move on to sanctions? If a department fails to meet
a SOGE target; do any exist? If it fails to meet the sustainable
development indicators, do any sanctions exist at the moment?
Mr Anderson: William
is aching to answer that, I can see.
Mr Jordan: I think
this depends partly on what you have in mind by "sanctions".
The clear thrust of the new administration is towards transparency
of reporting. I've already mentioned that we are now reporting
monthly data performance outcomes against the 10% carbon target.
I see this very much as the way of the future. We've also introduced,
under the new administration, the commitment to real time displays
of energy usage in 18 headquarters buildings in Whitehall. That
means that departments are being held to account in a completely
different way than has hitherto been possible. I was sharing a
platform with a director-general from DECC, who was saying his
department had experience of members of the public phoning them
up immediately following the Monday Bank Holiday saying, "Why
did you fire up your gas heating system on the Bank Holiday Monday?
Surely there was no one in the office", which is a very good
question and the sort of thing that previously would have not
been accessible to the wider public, and the sort of thing that
means you are strongly motivated to succeed.
So the new model, which we've been working on, with
real time displays, and with the monthly reporting on the 10%,
will lead to a totally different regime and a totally different
incentive structure. What we have done hitherto is to publish
results for the SOGE targets after year end. Originally these
were published in March, following a financial year that had ended
12 months previously. We succeeded in bringing that forward to
December. That is not a satisfactory reporting regime. So I think
that is the kind of holding to account that departments will now
Q75 Sheryll Murray:
Finally, have any real penalties been consideredfor instance,
using the threat of fining departments or holding back some of
their budget for poor performance?
Mr Jordan: I'm
not aware that we have considered holding back the departmental
budget for poor performance.
Chair: If you weren't
aware, who would be aware?
Mr Anderson: No
we haven't done. The short answer is that there are no financial
penalties. There has been a discussion around carbon budgeting
in relation to that, but that's moved on a bit, because it's a
very, very complex system to try and work outwe're not
comparing like with like a lot of the time. You have to be careful,
because if you're comparing the Ministry of Justice estates, say,
prisonsif you look at Defra sometimes we're in mid-table
on some of these performance things, which is a bit depressing
for a department like ours. Our excuse, reason, rationale for
that is we run a lot of laboratories, and we haven't yet found
the answer to being as energy efficient in laboratories as we
need to be. So the question is: would you penalise us for that?
Would you give a financial penalty for that? Or would you say,
"Actually, guys, yes, we understand that and the best practice
is whatever it is and you guys should be doing that". I would
be very surprised to see the Government go down the penalty route,
Sheryll Murray: So would
I, but I just needed to ask the question.
Mr Jordan: You
were asking me, if I wasn't aware of this, who might be aware
of this? As I was saying earlier, I believe I work for two of
my colleagues, one of whom, in Defra, is here today, the other
of whom, in DECC, is not here today. I'm not necessarily privy
to what might go on in the deepest councils of other government
Q76 Caroline Lucas:
Thanks. From the previous evidence we have heard, it is clear
that the job of improving sustainability in the different government
departments is a very labour intensive role; it requires a lot
of close collaboration on an almost daily basis. How many staff
are available to assess the sustainable development units in Defra
that might be embedded in other departments to try to do that
kind of work, and is it something you've considered?
Mr Jordan: Shall
we start by saying what the staffing allocation is in the CESP?
Mr Rowbury: So
currently we have a team of 14, which is essentially made up of
four people who deal with the performance management, and they
have an account management role with each department and work
very closely with departments to assess their data, validate it,
quality assure it and challenge that. We then have two further
teams who lead, one on the sustainable operations side and one
on the supply chain sustainable procurement side. Their role is
more about delivering specific projects, working with departments
to try and identify common barriers that we can bring together
at the centre and get to grips with and overcome.
So the function of the team is essentially
twofold in that you have this kind of challenge piece, which is
about looking at department's plans and their data and their kind
of performance management function, scrutinising that and working
with them to improve the quality of those plans. Then the second
function is around support, which is about looking at what is
going on in one department and then trying to share that with
other departments. So do it once but then spread that information
out across Whitehall. So if someone is leading in a particular
area we can learn how that information can be disseminated more
widely. We have a network of practitioners, who are the sustainability
leads in each department, who we bring together to share information
and knowledge, learning what works and what doesn't work. We would
also work with expert bodies outside government, such as the Carbon
Trust, to bring in their advice, where we can provide guidance
or recommendations to departments on the kind of priority actions
they should be taking and implementing within their estate and
Q77 Caroline Lucas:
The staff in the Sustainable Development Unit?
Mr Anderson: In
Defra there are about 30 people in the Sustainable Development
Unit, but I'd add to that the 60 economists and the 180 scientists.
It depends on what we're trying to achieve. I think you talked
about embedding people, which I think the SDC did in the Department
of Health and the Department for Education. I don't think that's
the policy that we would take, for the reasons that I said at
the beginning, that it is not the approach of the current Government
to try and embed people who are just the sustainable development
people, if you see what I mean.
Q78 Caroline Lucas:
What specialist knowledge is available to CESP and Defra and how
does that compare to the specialist advice that was provided to
the SDC? You mentioned the Carbon Trust but who else can you call
Mr Rowbury: We
will go to whichever expert body we need to go to get the relevant
advice. Something we've done quite recently is to produce some
information in support of the 10% commitment, around priority
actions that a department could work with its facilities management
provider to deliver. So this is looking at the temperature controls
within the building and how you can adjust those to reduce the
energy use. It's about looking at how you manage the operating
window of the building, so that the heating comes on at 9 o'clock
in the morning, rather than, say, 8 o'clock in the morning when
the first people arrive, and things like using your security staff
who might be walking about the building to check for monitors
that have been left on by staff.
Q79 Caroline Lucas:
That's not specialist advice. What I'm thinking about is: the
SDC had top of their game specialist commissioners who they could
call on at almost any moment for real specialist advice, and what
I want to be convinced of is that there's a plan here somewhere
to have a list of people who are already being talked to about
providing some kind of similar advice, not a security guard who
is going around looking to see whether or not a monitor has been
Mr Rowbury: In
terms of our engagement with SDC, I can't remember a particular
example when they would have provided us with that sort of practical
advice. It would have been when the commissioners
Q80 Caroline Lucas:
No, sorry, let me be clear. They would have provided that to another
government department. In their absence, we're trying to cobble
together what is going to provide that kind of support, and what's
been suggested is that the Sustainable Development Unit in Defra
and CESP can somehow provide that degree of specialist support.
If you don't have it in your own teamor maybe you dobut
if you don't, then who else are you going to be able to pull in
to be able to give kind of advice, and what plans are there to
talk to them in the same way that the Sustainable Development
Commission had, as I say, a number of commissioners and others
who they could call on at any minute?
Mr Jordan: I think
it's probably worth saying we've worked with a range of specialist
bodies over the years, including the Energy Savings Trust and
Waterwise, on different aspects of the targets. We do not feel
that there has been a lack of technical expertise available to
us, or to government departments, as they look to develop their
sustainable operations and sustainable procurement. What there
has been is a lack of prioritisation and leadership and converting
that advice into practical action. That's how the world looks
from our perspective.
Mr Anderson: I
think that's right. There is an enormous wealth of people to call
on on the sustainable development agenda. I'm having lunch next
week with the sustainable development partner of PwC who runs
sustainability in PwC. We will be looking at the stakeholder base
as part of the wind down of SDC. They do have a good stakeholder
base as well, and we're talking to them about getting access to
that. When Will Day and I interviewed for the potential of four
commissioners in March, that never took place, I think something
like 300 people applied from outside, who were offering sustainable
development practitioner advice to be a commissioner.
Sorry, I don't quite see how this is answering the question, in
terms of how those people out there are in touch with you and
connected to you.
Mr Anderson: That's
what I'm saying in relation to the database. One thing the SDC
are talking to us about is who they called on, as well, in order
to get that expert advice. Because at the minute, what happened
before was that people might go to the SDC and say, "Can
you get us advice?" Well they didn't have all the capacity
for all the advice across all the areas, so they would then find
someone as well. What we'll have to do is cut that middle person
out and get straight to where you get the proper advice, whatever
the issue is. All departments do that all the time, whether it's
on economics, whether it's on science, whether it's on any of
the areas that would be of interest. I think you're right about
how co-ordinated that would be and are we in the right space.
I think that it is important for us to try and ensure that happens,
and that is a very serious conversation going on with the SDC
at the minute.
Q82 Sheryll Murray:
Are you aware of any other bodies that various government departments
already consult that would fill the role of the Sustainable Development
Commission with regard to expert advice? Are you already aware
that this is perhaps being duplicated with some departments?
Mr Anderson: The
guys have already mentioned the Energy Saving Trust there in relation
to the operations that are already around and the Carbon Trusts
are also providing a lot of that. So there is a lot of duplication
out there. We also have to look, in government, in the times that
we're now in, as to what research councils are duplicating activity
across the piece. So one of the reasons, one of the drives, behind
the whole arm's length body review was indeed to try and avoid
duplication across various areas. So, that has been a problem
of government because we have spent rather too much money duplicating.
Q83 Dr Whitehead:
When CESP took over responsibility from the SDC for collecting
and reviewing department's performance data, did it get any extra
staff to do that?
Mr Jordan: CESP
did not exist prior to its creation in 2008, so yes it got staff
to undertake its functions. Those were provided partly through
a transfer from Defra and partly through a transfer of resource
from other government departments.
Q84 Dr Whitehead:
It was set up in 2008 and took over responsibility from SDC for
performance data in 2009?
Mr Jordan: Yes.
Q85 Dr Whitehead:
At that time it had 14 staff?
Mr Jordan: Yes.
Dr Whitehead: And it has
Mr Jordan: Yes.
Dr Whitehead: Sorry it
had 14 staff in 2008 and has 14 staff now, is that right?
Mr Jordan: I'd
be entirely happy to go back to the record and confirm this, but,
broadly speaking, yes, its funding has remained constant over
this period. If the question is intended to probe how we managed
to do this without additional staff, I think the answer is that
we spent quite a lot of our first year working over the data very
closely with the SDC to check its robustness, because our suspicion
was that much of it was not terribly robust. So we always had
a performance management team from the beginning. As it became
clear that we were getting much better quality data, that the
performance regime could be simplified, the SDC decided it would
prefer to spend its time working on other issues and leave us
to continue the work we'd started on the data in cutting a degree
Q86 Zac Goldsmith:
A very quick question, relating specifically to Defra. It is a
bit of a crude question, but I am interested in knowing more about
the relationship between a department like Defra and the SDC.
How often did you seek their advice? How often did they give you
unsolicited advice? How often did you take their advice? It is
the SDC's influence over the behaviour of departments that I'd
be interested in hearing a little about.
Mr Anderson: Yes.
It was a mixed model frankly. We gave them the money to fund them
and the team behind me here were in constant daily/hourly contact
with them. Sometimes we gave them a remit saying, "Would
you like to look at that?" Sometimes they did bits of work
on their own decision, with their own board and commissioners
deciding to do that, so it was a mixed relationship. With the
SDC, because of the four planks of itwhether or not you'd
consider that a good remitthe advocacy, the capacity-building,
the policy advice and the watchdog, there was inevitably a mixed
model, in relation to how you ran that from that perspective.
Other departments could also call on them for bits of advice when
they wanted to. I assume that they then decided whether they had
the resource or capability and sometimes charged those departments,
I think, if there was a very specific piece of work that they
might need doing. But the general remit was established in the
Q87 Caroline Lucas:
I have a question about the transition from the end of the SDC
and passing over the experience and knowledge to Defra and CESP.
What processes are in place to make sure that there is a seamless
transfer of knowledge and experience?
Mr Anderson: Daily,
hourly, minutely I think in this case. It's fascinating to see
that when you decide to withdraw funding from something there
is a massive upsurge of interest in that particular thing. The
complexity of dealing with that means we are in constant and total
contact all the time, about which bits work where and how that
goes. We can go into the detail of which elements of it you like,
but it is a total conversation non-stop with the teams of how
we do it. I would like to pay respect, in front of the Committee,
to the individual members of staff because members of staff are
having to leave, andwhatever one decides about the merits
of the decisionI would like to put on the record our high
respect for the value of the individuals involved. We have to
deal with people who may be losing jobs at the end of March, so
there is an awful lot of activity going on, on that front; then
there's activity going on, on the substance of what are the things
that we will be wanting to carry on; what are the things that
our Secretary of Statewho is coming next weekthinks
could be handed over direct to Defra, and what are the things
we are just dropping. So there is a very complex conversation
about which bits should go where and which bits are dropped.
Q88 Caroline Lucas:
I look forward to seeing it. Defra has had the second largest
proportional cut arguably, with 29%, in the CSR. How is that going
to affect the capacity of CESP and Defra to be able to move forward
on this agenda?
Mr Anderson: I
think we're talking about a different way of doing things. Everyone
has a 33% cut in admin broadly across government, which is broadly
people, so it depends which way you look at it.
Q89 Caroline Lucas:
It is pretty clear that Defra has had a disproportionately high
percentage of cuts?
Mr Anderson: I
don't think we would think that it is disproportionately high.
We think it's in about broadly the right space of what you'd expect
it to be, given the parameters of the way the Spending Review
was set out, which is about 29%. 30% is the figure, if you take
the total. Most government departments
Chair: Sorry, we don't
want to know about the reference to other government departments,
we just want to know how it will affect your capacity to do
Mr Anderson: That's
fine. What I'm saying is we will be reducing across the piece
in Defra in various areas. We will need to see how many people
we need to run the future agenda, as articulated, and then cut
our cloth according to that. That's exactly what we'll be doing.
Q90 Caroline Lucas:
How many posts do you think you'll lose as a result of that kind
of level of cuts?
Mr Anderson: In
the Sustainable Development Unit or across the whole of Defra?
Caroline Lucas: No, in
Mr Anderson: In
the SDU I wouldn't like to say, because that's what we have to
decide depending on what the future remit will be, which is coming
Caroline Lucas: Okay,
well tell me Defra as a whole then.
Mr Anderson: Defra
as a whole is a 30,000 network, so you'd lose about 5,000 to 8,000
Q91 Caroline Lucas:
In terms of the watchdog function of the SDC, there was a statement
from the Minister, Jim Paice, basically saying, "There are
already many organisations and commentators who will continue
to hold the Government to account and thus that a dedicated watchdog
body is unnecessary". Are you convinced that there is no
need for any other body to be carrying out that watchdog function?
How is it going to be done?
Mr Jordan: This
goes back to what I was saying earlier about the transparency
agenda. I do think that external bodies will have the data in
future, with which to hold government to account. We're already
experiencing that. This Committee will hold government to account.
The National Audit Office will conduct studies that will hold
government to account.
Q92 Caroline Lucas:
Basically, the Committee has no resources to hold government to
account. That's the sort of thing that's just so frustrating,
because the Minister herself has said, "Yes, of course, wonderful,
the EAC can have a role in holding government to account".
Yet, where are the staff? When we have the SDC with 14 more staff,
we don't have the capacity to do that. I'd love us to. So, is
that a realistic statement, is my question?
Mr Jordan: I believe
that occasions like today are a fine opportunity to hold this
group of officials to account.
Q93 Sheryll Murray:
Yes. I just want to go back a question, if I can, because when
you were asked about posts being lost, I fear that when our report
is published we'll start to have a lot of scare stories throughout
Defra employees. Could I just ask you: obviously, any cuts in
personnel will take account of natural wastage, retirement, and
of course it crosses all of Defra's areas, from the small sea
fisheries office in Plymouth, right through to the headquarters
up here? I just was a little bit concerned that we'd made a statement
on numbers that perhaps could have been misconstrued.
Mr Anderson: Thank
you for your message. Thank you.
Q94 Neil Carmichael:
According to your memorandum on this subject, you are going to
replace sustainable development action plans with business plans
in departments. Is that right, yes? My question is: are you going
to review those and are you going to have a part in drawing them
up for the other departments, and how is that going to work in
terms of your relationship with those departments? I can see some
potential areas of dispute there.
Mr Anderson: I
think the way to define it is that the structural reform plans
have already been drawn up by the secretaries of state in the
different departments in consultation. So that's the business
plan of where departments are going. We have not been engaged
on setting what the business plan is for every government department.
That's their secretary of state negotiating with the centre and
the Prime Minister about how that happens. I think the important
thing is then when those plans are being put into action, in the
normal processes of policy and advice going to Ministers, are
the principles of sustainable development being very much driven
during that. That's when I think we go back to impact assessments,
economists looking at the way the policy is being developed, the
write-round across government for giving us all an opportunity
to check what other government partners are doing, and also the
Home Affairs Committee process where these things are brought
Our idea would be, for example, that a carbon plan,
which is likely to be brought forward by DECC, is scrutinisedif
that's the right wordlooked at in the Home Affairs Committee
to ensure also that the principles of sustainable development
are very much part of it. I think the Secretary of State for DECC
is very keen for that to happen. That's the sort of process that
I think will happen.
Q95 Neil Carmichael:
Just how tough are you going to be able to be with other departments?
What mechanisms are you going to have to ensure their business
plans, their behaviour and their policies are along the lines
of and consistent with sustainable development?
Mr Anderson: Departments
talk to each other all the time. There tends to be a bit of a
myth that departments don't talk to each other all the time about
what's going on. But what they don't do is to try and sanction
Neil Carmichael: That's
what I was getting at, though.
Mr Anderson: But
it is a Cabinet process of bringing that together so we get a
better result. There will be no sanctions for it. It will be a
discussion about what is the best way to do it, as far as I can
see. However, when it gets to a political level and when it gets
to the cabinet committees then those conversations can be fairly
brutal, about whether a secretary of state or whether a particular
department has followed the policies in mind, whatever the subject
is, from health through education through
Q96 Neil Carmichael:
So the enforcement is going to be between Ministers rather than
Mr Anderson: I'm
not sure I'd use the word "enforcement". The process
is initially in the department, through departments talking to
each other through officials and through Ministers. So it's all
of it. There will also be the NAO. You talked aboutand
you are an audit committeewhen our policies are being looked
at. The NAO are a deeply brutal and effective organisation for
ensuring that policies are being designed in the right way and
are being carried out in the right way. An enormous scrutiny process
goes on already with the NAO, who I think you have access to as
well, in terms of their capacity, and who wrote quite a good paper
on sustainable development for you in July, I thought.
Q97 Neil Carmichael:
If Defra is in charge of pursuing sustainable development, what
role do you play in other departments' plan making, delivery and
policy making, and so forth?
Mr Anderson: It
is the same conversation we just had there I think. We are the
keepers of sustainable development in government, and people turn
to us to ensure that we are content that they are doing the right
thing. We have our various classic, bureaucratic programme boards,
sustainable development programme boards, and things that I chair
with all other government department officials. Other boards and
activities take place across the piece at official level to ensure
that those principles are taking place. The challenge will be
whetherI think we referred to it at the very beginningin
a time of cutting back on money and a time of all government departments
having to focus on managing agendas in a very different way, will
we be able to ensure that the principles of sustainable development
are still taking place across the piece? I think that's a good
challenge for us and for all of governmentit's not just
for Defra. I think that's something that this Committee, ourselves,
and hopefully the politicians most engaged, will be looking at
all the time.
Q98 Neil Carmichael: Now
let us take planning for example because that's quite an interesting
subject: new planning policy, Department of Communities and Local
Government launching it. One of the key themes is that Central
Government have less to do with planningyou can see my
direction of travel hereso, Central Government deliberately
says, "Local authorities are in charge". How do you,
as Defra, get sustainability driven into plan making at the local
Mr Anderson: I
think that does redound to the approach of this Coalition Government,
as to what they do or don't want to see happening at local level,
and there is a deliberate devolving of all activity to local level.
That must mean, ipso facto, that there is going to be patchiness
in some of these areas. However, all local authorities are going
to have to publish what they do; they will still have to share
data in the same way. We need to ensure they have access to the
evidence, to the capacity that they are aware of the things that
we are talking about in relation to sustainable development.
But as I understand the principles of localism and
Big Society, we are trusting as well these people to understand
better in their local community what it is that is sustainable,
better than some Central Government diktat, written by a director
general in Defra who has a shared government office with hundreds
of other people, trying to second guess what is going on in there.
That, as I understand, is the philosophy behind this and, therefore,
I wouldn't expect to be centrally diktating or measuring exactly
what they're doing. But I think you're right that there is an
important question about ensuring they have access to the evidence
and the knowledge required to, therefore, be able to do the right
Q99 Neil Carmichael:
Also, presumably, there is a leadership function that needs to
be applied here, because best examplepresumably, emanating
from Defra and other departmentsneeds to be seeping through
towards other things. The same logic clearly applies to, let's
say, education, because you'd want to be sure that schools and
things were assuming the same sort of strategies, wouldn't you?
Mr Anderson: Yes.
Q100 Chair: Can we
just ask a little bit about the CSR negotiations and whether or
not Defra was involved in those with individual departments?
Mr Anderson: Within,
Chair: With the individual
departments in respect of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Mr Anderson: In
some departments, yes, because, for example, there is a relationship
between Communities and Local Government on waste and Defra, so
there are some elements of some spending reviews of other government
departments. We were involved with the BIS Spending Review because
of Regional Development Agencies. We were involved with Communities
and Local Government again on the GO Network, and with DFID, for
example, in relation to the £100 million we now have of ODA
money to be dedicated to international forestry, so yes.
Q101 Zac Goldsmith:
Defra is already working on mechanisms for enabling the Government
to value ecosystem services. First of all, can you tell me when
that is likely to be completed and reported?
Mr Anderson: I
don't think I want to make a commitment to a month. It is soon.
I think 2011 is the last I've seen of it. It's under the control
of our chief scientist, Bob Watson, who is the man driving it
Zac Goldsmith: Has a date
Mr Anderson: I
don't know the answer to that. I can come back to you on whether
there is an exact date set. I know we are reaching the latter
stages of the national ecosystem assessment.
Q102 Zac Goldsmith:
On that, in light of whatever findings are presented, has there
been any indication from the Treasury yet that they want to see
the Green Book updated to reflect the much broader concerns
that we have?
Mr Anderson: The
natural value question is a fascinating question for government
and how we are going to build that in. The Treasury are in conversations
with us about this. We know that the Green Book doesn't
quite have all the things that we wanted in, in order to value
natural value and our natural environment White Paper is likely
to major on this as well.
If you want to talk about Defra having real traction
in Whitehallif you're asking me the best way to set about
it, it would be inside the economic argument that's going on in
Britain at the minute. That has to be the best way for us to be
able to pull the rest of the agenda behind itsustainable
development, bio diversity, all these other areas. The best way
is if we get inside: "This is what you should be looking
at in economic terms". It also takes you slightly beyond
the GDP question that we are asking ourselves now, as to wellbeing
indicators and going beyond simply just the GDP. So there's a
lot of work going on on that.
Q103 Zac Goldsmith:
Yes, you've answered my next question already, thank you. It would
be interesting to know, if there was pressure to expand the brief
of the Green Book, where should that pressure come from?
Who is responsible for deciding on the terms of reference for
the Green Book? Is it the Treasury?
Mr Anderson: The
Treasury are the Treasury, but there's also a raft of economists
out there who are part of the advice to Treasury about the best
way to go about this.
Q104 Zac Goldsmith:
Will Defra be asked for its opinion on the future of the Green
Mr Anderson: Yes,
we are already in discussion on that and we don't think it quite
gets there yet and
Zac Goldsmith: Just for
the record, we had a discussion with the SDC at previous sessions
and their view, very clearly and unambiguously is that the Green
Book needs a complete overhaul. I just wanted to send that
message to you. I think we covered those points there.
Q105 Peter Aldous:
Sam, what sort of input has CESP had on the Cabinet Office's Efficiency
and Reform Group?
Mr Rowbury: What
Peter Aldous: Has CESP
had an input on the Cabinet Office, on the agenda of the Efficiency
and Reform Group?
Mr Rowbury: Yes,
we are part of the Efficiency and Reform Group so we are feeding
into the process as the group gets up and running. We are talking
to procurement colleagues about the approaches that are being
developed there in centralised procurement. We're talking to estate
colleagues, and many of these are the kind of colleagues that
we were working with when OGC was without the Cabinet Office.
So we are talking to estate colleagues around the Government property
vehicle that's being developed, and looking at how we can build
sustainability within the new processes and systems that have
been set up by the Efficiency and Reform Group.
We can tell a good story around how resource efficiency,
energy efficiency and driving out waste within government fit
within that efficiency reform story. We can talk about the savings
that can be delivered from improving energy efficiency of your
building, as well as the carbon savings. That's a good message
that you can get, you can take it to Departments and take it to
the finance directors, who will be approving some of the investment
cases for new technologies or whatever.
Q106 Peter Aldous:
Did you have direct input into Philip Green's review of procurement?
Mr Rowbury: The
team personally, no, we didn't feed into that, although they did
happen to sit right next to us so I know there was some informal
Peter Aldous: Was there
any particular reason for that or not?
Mr Rowbury: Not
particularly, I don't think we were consulted on that. It's not
necessarily a natural fit for us. I think where we would start
to get involved is in how the recommendations from the review
start to get taken forward.
Q107 Peter Aldous:
How do you feel that the Efficiency and Reform Group is balancing
the sustainability agenda against the whole need to save money?
Mr Rowbury: Well
I think they go hand in hand. I think it's the same. I think you
can deliver resource efficiency and save money. So the sustainability
and the value for money arguments are paralleled.
Q108 Peter Aldous:
So you're happy, when it comes to looking at the OGC's procurement
policy, that they're not just seeking to save money, they do reflect
the need for sustainability as well?
Mr Rowbury: Yes,
I think that's fair to say.
Mr Jordan: That
is the whole rationale for us to bring this agenda forward from
the Cabinet Office.
Q109 Dr Whitehead:
Sir Philip Green was appointed to review government efficiency
and his focus was on the procurement of goods and servicesIT,
travel, print and office suppliesno hint of any discussion
on sustainability in that review, would that be right to say?
Mr Jordan: The
review has been published and Philip Green chose what he decided
to look at and how he decided to look at it.
Q110 Dr Whitehead:
But did anybody, at any stage, within any of the bodies responsible
for sustainable development within government departments, say,
"Excuse me, might it be a good idea if we had a hand in this
review?" because there does appear to be a rather large hole
Mr Jordan: I didn't
seek to influence the outcome of the Philip Green review. The
review recommends the centralisation of procurement to save large
sums of government money. The centralisation of procurement was
a policy objective, to which the new administration was already
committed, as you can see from reading its Structural Reform
So the Philip Green review, in a sense, broadened
and deepened the direction of policy travel and we believe that,
in relation to the procurement of energybecause we are
in fact working extremely closely with the team that is responsible
for the procurement of energy in the Cabinet Officesustainability
and value for money will go hand in hand with centralisation.
Q111 Dr Whitehead:
I'm a little puzzled by this because it does appear, from what
you're saying, that none of the what you might call internal government
watchdog functions that we have been discussing today concerning
sustainable development, either had a route to participate in
this review or indeed had the inclination to suggest that they
might. Yet, just two weeks ago, the Minister for the Cabinet Office
said, "We are committed to procuring in a way that is sustainable
but maintaining a quango is not a guaranteed way to achieve that".
So presumably, the alternative way to achieve that was within
government departments that had a role, and a function, to oversee
the question of sustainability in conjunction with the question
of value for money and procurement, for example, but nothing happened
in that respect.
Mr Jordan: We are
committed to procuring sustainably. We were committed to procuring
sustainably before the Philip Green review and we are still committed
to procuring sustainably today.
Dr Whitehead: Yes, I accept
that, but when a great big review turns up about the whole question
of government procurement, concerning which sustainabilityI
would imagine, indeed on commitmentshould be a substantial
issue, none of that commitment appeared to be forthcoming, as
far as the involvement or even a suggestion that they should be
involved in that review, by any government body that is committed
to sustainability in procurement.
Mr Jordan: I had
the pleasure of attending a lunchtime session, at which Sir Philip
Green outlined, to a number of commercial directors across Whitehall,
his emergent conclusions, so I did have a degree of engagement
with the review. Had I felt that the review was going to affect,
in any adverse way, our commitment to sustainable procurement,
I therefore had the opportunity to raise that question. As it
was, it broadened and deepened the existing direction of quality
travel and I don't think there is anything that should have been
done otherwise in relation to the review.
Dr Whitehead: But there
is already in existence the Green Book on sustainable procurement
within OGC. Sorry, a guide to green procurement and a guidance
for procurement officers relating to government procurement that
is produced by the OGC.
Mr Jordan: We have
published a fair amount of guidance over the years including a
leaflet, called Buy Green and Make a Difference, which
explains how to procure in a sustainable manner within the framework
of the EU procurement directives.
Q112 Dr Whitehead:
CESP presumably would have a role in looking at the extent to
which that leaflet, for example, might not be completely cancelled
out by other guidelines about how procurement might work as far
as, say, Treasury considerations are concerned?
Mr Jordan: At the
time that we published that leaflet, which was written within
the CESP, we were part of the Treasury group and there was no
question, whatever, but that this was the policy of the Government
of the day across every government department.
Q113 Dr Whitehead:
I think the thrust of my question would befollowing on
from what appears to be the non-involvement of anybody concerning
sustainability with the Green reviewwhat power or authority
would CESP have in, for example, at the very least, ensuring that
procurement guides have a balance within them, say, between saving
money and sustainability? Indeed there have been criticisms of
the OGC's sustainability guidelines, inasmuch as they appear to
be entirely cancelled out by other guidelines that also exist
for procurement officers, which seem to suggest the opposite of
what the Green guidance documents suggest. Would CESP have any
role in that or would OGC simply say, "Go away, you're part
of our department, don't rock the boat"?
Mr Jordan: I would
be very interested to see, and I would encourage other departments
to draw to my attention, anything that they felt cancelled out
any guidance that I was about to publish or that was standing
guidance. As far as I'm concerned, guidance I've published is
guidance for government and there is nothing I am aware of that
cancels out any guidance that I have published.
Q114 Chair:, I am
very conscious of the time, we have a few short quick questions
before we need to close our session. You have talked quite extensively
about the role of Defra, but wouldn't the Cabinet Office be the
better place to hold Ministers to account on this cross-cutting
Mr Anderson: That
is a very good question, Chair, and the Secretary of State, I
think, is a good person to ask next week as to her view. I think
she wants to see personal leadership from herself. She is committed
to that. But we will need support from other government Ministers,
key government Ministers. As I've said before, Oliver Letwin is
deeply engaged on it. Again, I don't think it matters because
it's about embedding the agenda across the whole of Whitehall.
Q115 Chair: In terms
of embedding it, I'm still not sure that we have the evidence,
or understand the evidence, that Defra is best placed to influence
and hold Ministers to account in other departments. How would
you say that Defra is able to do that?
Mr Anderson: Again,
I think that goes back to some of the conversations we've had.
I don't think it's Defra holding to account, and I don't think
that's the way that this Government wants to do it. It is about
every government department being held to account democratically
by the data it's putting out, and it's also about the processes
that we're going to put in place. There are still open questions.
Hopefully the Secretary of State will have some of those answers
next week because we're right on the brink of: are we going to
have an approach in one of the committees or are we going to embed
it in a different way? So maybe next week she will be able to
talk to you a bit more about how it's going to work across government.
Q116 Chair: We will
wait until next week. But can I just ask: there have been reports
of a new Cabinet committee for sustainable development, might
we know what that is by next week or
Mr Anderson: I
don't think thatI have to be careful because I'll probably
be wrongis likely to be the favoured answer because we've
tried that before and it didn't work, I think, Chair.
Q117 Chair: So where
have those plans got to, have they been shelved?
Mr Anderson: They
haven't been shelved. I don't think that's the favoured option
because what happens is it becomes an add-on again. You get sustainable
development Ministers looking at sustainable development and not
looking at the whole picture. So, when you say should the things
be in the centre, they should be in the whole central process,
and that's the likely direction that we're going to go, rather
than have a group of Ministers over here to decide, looking at
it, I think.
Q118 Dr Whitehead:
Are you considering any new statutory obligations to require either
departments or public bodies to achieve their sustainable development
targets, or rather is anybody, to your knowledge, considering
new statutory obligations?
Mr Anderson: No.
Dr Whitehead: That is
off the agenda?
Mr Anderson: It's
not on any agenda that I've seen. I know Wales do it but we don't.
Q119 Dr Whitehead:
How are local decisions on sustainable developmentnot the
actual decisions themselves but the cumulative impacts of those
decisionsbeing monitored? I noted that you mentioned earlier
that local authority action may be, shall we say, patchy but I
think you would agree, nevertheless, that those patchy actions
will have a cumulative impact. How would that monitoring happen?
Mr Anderson: Yes,
cumulative impact goes back to Mr Goldsmith's question as well,
in relation to natural value and the wellbeing indicators. I think
we do have to try and have a system in place. Essentially it's
the whole government system approach as to a cumulative impact
and we have that internationally, in the sense that's what they're
trying to do next for the next Rio Plus Summit. I think we have
to find a way, in the United Kingdom, of looking at the cumulative
impact of all government departments' policies. I think that is
a huge challenge that has never been fully cracked anyway. If
you were to ask me whether the SDC do that, no, I don't think
that they could. They could help identify gapsand I think
they did that from time to timebut I think it's a much
bigger issue than that.
Dr Whitehead: But you
could perhaps do that, and indeed it has been done in the past
through the Audit Commission, for example.
Mr Anderson: You
could try all sorts of different ways of doing it I think.
Q120 Dr Whitehead:
But with the abolition of the Audit Commission, would you accept
that one of the areas of ability to do that has now been taken
away and, therefore, your
Mr Anderson: I
wouldn't comment on that. I think that the Public Affairs Committee
would probably think that they were also engaged in looking across
the piece as well. So I think there are a number of bodies that
have that capacity. I think we have moved from bureaucratic accountability
to democratic accountabilityI think is the expressionand
therefore, it is about people being held to account across the
piece rather than by bureaucrats looking at bits of paper, I think.
Q121 Dr Whitehead:
How would democratic accountability exactly add up with cumulative
impacts of local
Mr Anderson: I
think, ultimately, a country probably knows whether it's sustainable
Q122 Dr Whitehead:
Would it be done by a vote or
Mr Anderson: Well
ultimately, I suppose that's always the measure. I suppose, ultimately
to measure whether a government has achieved sustainable development
will be, indeed, whether the people feel that sustainable development
has been achieved. That is a question that all governments at
all times face.
Q123 Peter Aldous:
Yes perhaps, up to now, there has been a view that the concept
of sustainable development needs to be driven out on, what I would
call, a "top down" basis. From what you've seen of local
government and local communities, do you think the "bottom
up" process might work and might work better?
Mr Anderson: I
think that it is worth trying because both are likely to be patchy,
because you can't get everything from central diktat, and you
can't get everything from local activity, so we do have to be
brave enough to change the game, as we're going through this,
and where we see problems there are problems; whether a local
community is the best place to make a decision about its local
wind farm is a good question.
We will have to have some national intervention at
some moments in time and it's getting those parameters right.
Planning is one of the key areas. I think, as Mr Carmichael was
saying. If you get planning right what are the national parameters
of planning on sustainable development? Then, within those parameters,
the local area should be able to make its decision about what
looks best. I think that is where we're trying to go.
Chair: There we must leave
this I'm afraid. May I just thank all three of you for coming
along. It has been an illuminating session, and we look forward
to the second round when we see the Secretary of State in due