Environmental Audit Committee Press Notice

20 October 2008

Room for improvement at the ECGD

The Export Credits Guarantee Department must take a bold and rigorous approach to sustainable development and transparency, says the Environmental Audit Committee.

In a report out today, The Export Credits Guarantee Department and Sustainable Development, the Committee calls on the ECGD to build on its existing sustainable development policies to improve the standards of the projects it supports and further its commitment to sustainable development. Improvements of this kind are especially important because the ECGD has a unique capacity to influence Export Credit Agencies worldwide. By taking a bold and ambitious stance on sustainable development and transparency, the ECGD has the power to improve standards across the globe.

The Committee acknowledges that the ECGD's primary duty is to support the competitiveness of British industry. However, the ECGD cannot be exempt from wider government objectives on sustainable development and the environment. The ECGD must demonstrate that environmental concerns play an important role in its decision-making and that its activities do not actively undermine the principle of sustainable development.

In recent years the ECGD's portfolio has been increasingly dominated by heavily polluting sectors such as defence and aerospace. The Committee wants to see tighter scrutiny of the sustainable development credentials of these projects, and calls for more rigorous environmental standards across the ECGD's portfolio. It is also crucial that the ECGD works to diversify its portfolio by attracting projects from sustainable and environmental industries.

The transparency of ECGD's assessment processes must also be improved. The current approach to information disclosure undermines confidence in ECGD's procedures and prevents full scrutiny of its operations. The ECGD provides support from public funds and exporters must therefore recognise that this facility should necessarily entail a high level of disclosure.

Chairman of the Committee, Tim Yeo MP, said: "The ECGD has made good progress on sustainable development, but it must not rest on its laurels. It is vitally important that the ECGD tightens its environmental standards.

The ECGD's portfolio is dominated by heavily polluting sectors, including aerospace and defence. The ECGD must scrutinise the environmental credentials of these industries much more rigorously and encourage them to raise their standards. Moreover, the ECGD should work to attract more projects that support sustainable development to its portfolio.

Although the ECGD is not a large agency, it carries huge weight internationally. The ECGD must use this influence to push up standards and improve the performance of Export Credit Agencies worldwide."

Notes for Editors:

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Eleventh Report of Session 2007-08, The Export Credits Guarantee Department and Sustainable Development, HC 929. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/eacom

Copies of the EAC report will be available in hard copy from 11am on 20 October 2008; and can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 929. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage: www.parliament.uk/eacom

For further information on the report, or to bid to interview the Chairman, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.



Chairman: Mr Tim Yeo, MP

Mr Gregory Barker MP Mr Nick Hurd MP Mr Graham Stuart MP
Mr Martin Caton MP Mr Mark Lazarowicz MP Jo Swinson MP
Mr Colin Challen MP Ian Liddell-Grainger MP Dr Desmond Turner MP
Mr David Chaytor MP Shahid Malik MP Joan Walley MP
Martin Horwood MP Mrs Linda Riordan MP Phil Woolas MP*

* The Minister for the Environment has ex-officio membership of the Committee in like manner to the Financial Secretary's membership of the Committee of Public Accounts.