Further written evidence submitted by
Jane Davidson AM, Minister for Environment, Sustainability and
Housing, Welsh Assembly Government |
I am responding to your letter of 14 October 2010
in which you ask questions in relation to your Committee's inquiry
into embedding sustainable development across Government. As you
know, we have spoken about this inquiry, and I have already submitted
evidence to the Committee. Your letter asks additional questions
and I am pleased to set out my response to these below.
Does the Welsh Assembly Government intend to continue
funding and working with the Sustainable Development Commission?
Following the announcement of the Secretary of State,
I issued a written statement which confirmed that we would fund
the delivery of the SDC's agreed work programme this financial
year. This will give us time to set in place new arrangements
I announced that we would continue to seek independent
advice on sustainable development, drawing on the best practice
from the UK, Europe and internationally, to inform us as we take
forward our policies. I also recognised the need for continued
engagement and networking with all sectors and communities in
Wales to ensure we can deliver our vision of a sustainable Wales.
My officials are shortly to advise me on options
that will ensure that we have arrangements in place that are fit
for our purpose here in Wales to provide appropriate advice on
sustainable development and to catalyse and support action to
deliver sustainable development in all parts of society across
I have also written to the Secretary of State for
the Environment, and Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland,
asking them to consider the proposition that the SDC is retained
as a dormant company. This has the potential to offer the following
- It allows the option of retaining the expertise
provided by the existing Commissioners of the SDC, for members
of the SDC to draw upon, possibly on a "call-off" basis;
- The Commissioners could provide a body of expertise
for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee to draw
- It retains the option of the re-establishing
the SDC as a "live" company at some time in the future,
should Members of the SDC wish to do this, without the cost of
re-establishing a new company limited by guarantee.
What impact would the UK Government funding cuts
have on your work with the Sustainable Development Commission?
There are three areas I would like to highlight:
- The work that the SDC does in Wales is informed
by best practice from other parts of the UK. This allows an effective
transfer of "on the ground" experience of delivering
sustainable development, to inform practice in Wales. This element
of the SDC's work is of value and I would not wish to see it lost.
- It is extremely helpful to us to be able to draw
on the authority and expertise provided by the Commissioners as
we develop our approach to sustainable development in Wales. This
element of the SDC's work risks being lost, which is why I have
suggested the option that the SDC remains as a dormant company.
- The SDC benchmarks the environmental management
performance of the Assembly Government against other Whitehall
Departments, through its Sustainable Development in Government
reporting process. It is unclear if benchmarking in this way on
environmental management performance will be practicable in the
future in the absence of the SDC.
How does the Welsh Assembly Government expect
to relate to the sustainable development delivery architecture
that might be reconfigured after next March? Does it intend to
work with the other devolved administrations, and if so how?
I wish to ensure that, as we develop the new arrangements
in Wales, we build in the capacity to continue to draw on best
practice in the UK and wider afield, to inform us as we take forward
our sustainable development agenda. My officials are currently
in discussion with other officials in the other Devolved Administrations
about the practicalities of how this might happen.
Does the UK Government's withdrawal of funding
from the Sustainable Development Commission put at risk a consistent
approach to sustainable development across the UK? If so how?
As I note above, we would wish to continue to draw
on best practice in the UK and wider afield, to inform us as we
take forward our sustainable development agenda.
25 October 2010