HC Deb 02 September 1998 vol 317 cc873-4W
Mr. Nigel Jones

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what environmental activities her Green Minister has undertaken since being appointed. [50064]

Mr. Battle

I have considered "environmental-related issues" on a day-to-day basis, reflecting their importance in the work of DTI, and the Government's commitment to the overall objective of sustainable development. I have taken a number of steps to ensure that sustainable development is properly integrated into all of the Department's work. This includes: circulation of copies of the recently published guidance on environmental appraisal to all directorates and to staff at all levels, to be supported by staff training sessions; a series of seminars with prominent speakers from industry and NGOs to raise the level of understanding of sustainable development issues and the implications of our work; and a Sustainable Development network throughout the DTI and Government Offices to provide a focal point for two-way communication with the 50-strong Environment Directorate which provides a central contact point for advice and information to all staff on environmental issues. My Department has contributed to the revision of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy and work is underway on the development of a DTI sustainable development strategy.

Virtually all of the DTI's responsibilities, from energy, trade, and science and technology policy through to sectorial sponsorship (including that in respect of the environmental and waste management industries) to consumer affairs are related to activities which have impacts on the environment, and implications for sustainable development which can be significant.

I have made sustainable development a priority across my science and research portfolio, in particular with regard to the Foresight Programme. Through its identification of a vision for the future and the development of practical initiatives to realise that vision, it can make a substantial contribution in the life of this Parliament to our long term policy objectives. Foresight is already promoting a number of initiatives which have the potential to make an important contribution to sustainable development. For example, the Foresight LINK Awards launched on 1 September 1997 have a declared preference for projects addressing the broad theme of "A Cleaner World". Another Foresight initiative, the "Foresight Clear Zones" programme aims to help in the development of technology that will improve local air quality and reduce congestion within our urban centres, making them cleaner, but at the same time accessible and commercially thriving.

Awards have been made to six projects underway across the country that demonstrate "technology for liveable cities". The "Sustainable Technologies for a Cleaner World" conference on 19 May 1998, which 1 addressed, raised awareness of the market opportunities presented by the key environmental challenges of the future. The conference focused on future markets for cleaner technologies and processes and environmental products which will exist in 2010, in the UK and globally. It considered how the UK should best respond to these opportunities through R&D and other necessary actions.

I have promoted and provided practical help and support for the UK Environmental goods, services and technologies industry at home and overseas through the Joint DTI/DETR Environmental Markets Unit (JEMU).

JEMU has identified a number of significant overseas markets for the UK environmental industry and is helping the sector to exploit the commercial opportunities which these markets represent.

On 18 March 1998 my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and I launched a business plan for JEMU which outlines the way in which the Unit will work with the environmental industry over the next three years.

Finally, I am developing systems for environmental appraisal of polices and programmes and implementing greening government operations. I have attended two Green Minister's meetings, a bilateral meeting with the Minister for the Environment, and gave oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee in relation to their Greening Government inquiry.