Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State's announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

5 Conclusions

79. This report considers how the architecture for delivering sustainable development needs to change to deliver more sustainable government, and how the sustainable development agenda should be revitalised to deliver the 'green' and 'long term' ambitions of the Coalition Government. A new architecture would be able to deliver improvements in the sustainability of Government operations and procurement and it would also provide the leadership, tools and scrutiny needed to deliver more sustainable policy making.

80. The Government must recognise that Defra is not in a position to be able to make departments act more sustainably. Its non-central position limits its ability to influence other departments or to hold them to account. The Cabinet Office is better located to do this. Policy leadership on sustainable development should be transferred to the Cabinet Office which would drive the embedding of sustainable development Whitehall-wide, and a new minister for sustainable government should be created to oversee that imperative. That minister would be responsible for monitoring the sustainability of all Government programmes and policies. The capacity to undertake this leadership role should make use of existing Defra expertise on sustainable development, transferring the relevant teams if necessary.

81. The Treasury needs to commit to the sustainable development agenda, to play an essential supporting role to the Cabinet Office. The Treasury has levers at its disposal to help ensure the compliance of other departments, which it could use to underpin sustainable decision-making in departments. It must commit to overhauling the 'Green Book' so that it fully reflects the principles of sustainable development; an area we intend to return to in a future inquiry.

82. A new cabinet committee should be set up to drive this agenda across Whitehall which would include representatives from all departments, and provide a forum in which a new sustainable development minister and the Cabinet Office and Treasury could drive forward the sustainable development agenda.

83. The components of a new architecture for embedding sustainable development in Government need to be brought together in a new Sustainable Development Strategy.

84. We will continue to scrutinise the sustainable development performance of Government. We will undertake regular assessments of the Government's sustainable development performance and hold Ministers to account by: monitoring the Government's sustainable operations and procurement data and reporting processes, and changes anticipated for the indicators system; and reviewing the appraisal of government policies, across Government, and the impact of these policies on sustainable development. Most importantly, we will examine the operation of the post-SDC architecture that Government establishes to embed sustainable development in all its work.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 10 January 2011