Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2003-04
14 September 2004 Committee publishes its report on Defra's annual report

14 September 2004 Committee publishes its report on Defra's annual report

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has today published a report which examines the annual report of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for 2004. The Committee concludes that there is no longer an air of crisis about the Department and that, overall, the Department has made progress in the past year.

However, the Committee considers that Defra does not yet have sufficient 'clout' to be taken seriously by other government departments in framing their key policy decisions. In particular, the Committee believes that although other government departments pay lip service to the priorities of sustainable development, in the big decisions-over fuel duties and aviation policy-Defra is not able to hold sway. The Committee considers this to be a very significant failing on the part of Defra.

The Committee's report also examines Defra's performance against its public service agreement targets. In a number of cases performance has slipped, or seems likely to slip in the future. For example:

  • in relation to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, Defra is not on course to achieve a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 20% by 2010

  • Defra has recorded slippage against its target of improving air quality and acknowledged to the Committee that it needed to do more to achieve the nitrogen dioxide, ozone and larger particles targets

  • in relation to waste reduction, the Committee is extremely doubtful that Defra will meet the target of recycling or composting 25% of waste by 2005-06 and expresses surprise that Defra described itself as "on course" to achieve its goal.

In each case where there is slippage against targets, the Committee urges the Department not to be tempted to lower its targets to more achievable levels.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

The report follows an inquiry conducted in June 2004. The Committee took oral evidence from the permanent secretary, Sir Brian Bender, and senior Defra officials.

The full report will be available on our website from around 3.30 pm on 14 September, at www.parliament.uk/efracom.