HC Deb 31 July 1997 vol 299 cc542-3W
Mr. Terry Lewis

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what decisions Green Ministers took at their meeting, on 30 July. [11881]

Mr. Meacher

At our first meeting, we agreed to establish a programme of work to support the strategic decisions taken by the new Cabinet Committee on the Environment. We considered ways of building sustainable development into policy formulation at the highest level and looked at ways of ensuring that Departments consider sustainable development and the environment in implementing their policies and programmes.

As background to our work, we are today publishing the results of a consultancy study by KPMG that the last Administration commissioned to gauge how far it was meeting its commitment to assess the potential environmental impact of new policy proposals. The study shows that while Departments had begun to take better account of environmental impacts, much more needed to be done to ensure that policies were systematically considered. Copies of the study will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

To address the shortcomings some of the practical measures we are introducing immediately are:

  1. (i) a new sustainable development unit in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to support all Departments and to produce an aide-memoire for policy advisers, reminding them of the need to incorporate environmental considerations into policy appraisals for those policies where environmental impacts might be significant, and setting out the steps that ought to be taken in doing so. It will also provide a central contact point for Departments.
  2. (ii) DETR economists, in consultation with other Departments represented on the Inter Departmental Group on Environmental Costs and Benefits, will provide more technical guidance to those who are frequently involved in 543 the environmental aspects of policy appraisal. When available this guidance and the aide-memoirs will replace "Policy Appraisal and the Environment".

We agreed to undertake regular collective reviews of the quality and scope of such assessments.

We also asked officials to consider further targets and policies for ensuring that Departments and their agencies are operated sustainably, for example in energy and water saving, waste minimisation, procurement and staff commuting plans.

We are concerned to keep Parliament and the public informed of progress and issues under debate and will be publicising the outcome of our meetings.