HC Deb 09 June 1997 vol 295 cc312-3W
Mr. Dais

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the initiatives taken by the Government since 1 May in respect of environmental protection and sustainability. [2084]

Angela Eagle

We will fulfil our Manifesto commitment to put the environment at the heart of decision-making across Government and we are considering the mechanisms which will deliver this. The framework for this was outlined in the speech my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister gave on 5 June at UNED-UK. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will reinforce our international commitments when he addresses the special session of the United Nations General Assembly at its conference on sustainable development at the end of this month. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stressed the importance of the environment in his mission statement. The Department for International Development has announced a commitment to promoting sustainable development through its activities.

In these first few weeks in Government it is right that we should build our policies carefully and coherently as well as imaginatively, and take time to consult widely about our future programme. But already we have begun to take steps to improve our environment. The appointment of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister as Secretary of State for the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, demonstrates our commitment to tackle environmental issues and sustainability in a more integrated way. We are setting up machinery to enable Departments to adopt a consistent approach to assessing the environmental consequences of policies. We are about to embark on discussions with the House authorities on a powerful new parliamentary environmental audit committee to scrutinise the sustainable development implications of policies and action across Government as promised in our Manifesto.

Already some significant action has been taken in specific fields. At our summit on water resources and supply last month we set out a 10 point plan to help secure reliable, efficient and environmentally sustainable water supplies. This includes setting new mandatory leakage targets, doing more to help customers conserve water and reviews of the charging and abstraction systems. We have launched a fundamental transport policy review to deliver an integrated transport policy. We have set in hand work to analayse what carbon savings the main policy areas could contribute towards our Manifesto target of reducing CO, emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010. This is the beginning of our action to promote environmental protection and sustainability, delivered in just a few weeks. Much more is to follow.