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

Further written evidence submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Before I give evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee tomorrow I wanted to update you in writing on the decisions I have made in relation to which of the Sustainable Development Commission's existing functions should transfer into Defra.

I have already indicated that I do not consider that it is for Government to carry out all of the activities currently undertaken by the SDC and that we will in future be working directly with a broader range of individuals and organisations.

Some of the SDC's functions do need to continue. In particular we need to work with the SDC's partners to ensure that we continue to engage with a broad audience to take forward the sustainable development agenda. I am therefore proposing that we take on the function of communicating with, and seeking views from, those stakeholders with whom the SDC has built up relations.

Likewise I do not wish to lose the important work that the SDC has done to support Government through building capability on sustainable development. In line with my commitment to mainstream sustainable development, I wish to continue the work the SDC has done, on its own or in partnership, to influence policy-making processes across Government. This includes development of the sustainable development impact assessment process, working with the National School for Government on training for policy officials and developing guidance in the HMT Green Book.

Over the next few weeks we will work with the SDC to identify which of the SDC's current staff should transfer to Defra with these functions. We aim to have completed this process by the end of the year.

We have previously spoken about the potential role for your Committee in scrutinising Government's performance on sustainable development and you were pursuing what NAO resource and expertise might be available to you to do this. Of course there is existing SDC resource - a team of seven - carrying out some specific scrutiny activities and once you have established what the Committee might do in this area I would encourage you to consider whether any of them similarly have the right to transfer.

I would be happy to discuss these decisions with the Committee.

Finally please find attached a copy of Defra's Business plan which was launched on Monday.

9 November 2010

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