Environment Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 17th May 1995.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , South Hams 2:30 pm, 17th May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his forecast of the annual running costs of the new environment agency; and what are the current costs of carrying out the same work within existing organisations. [23194]

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

The work to be transferred to the environment agency is valued at £528 million at 1994–95 prices.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , South Hams

Although Conservative Members welcome the Government's commitment to protecting the environment, there is just a little concern about the advertisements that appeared in the national papers for the director whose salary will be twice that of Cabinet Ministers and who will have 9,000 staff who will no doubt be serving notices and enforcing summonses. Will not the new agency impact on Britain's business culture by adding cost to our products as a result of the number of civil servants who will be rushing around asking businesses to comply with this or that regulation?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

There is an old adage that, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. We are in the business— [Interruption.] We are in the business of ensuring that we get very large monkeys—[HON. MEMBERS: "Stop digging!"] We are in the business—

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

I know exactly where I am, Madam Speaker.

We are in the business of ensuring that, whoever is appointed chief executive of that most important agency, which is a product of far-seeing legislation that the Government are introducing, will be paid the right amount to do an important job. Industry will need to ensure that the people who run that agency can speak the same language as it does, so that the legislation is implemented to the highest standard.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Will the Minister recognise that, on occasion, the National Rivers Authority has not had the necessary powers or finances to deal with certain river pollution, especially from former mine workings? Can he give the assurance that the Environment Bill will give the authority powers to eradicate that pollution from the parts of the country where it is a major problem?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

There is a question on the Order Paper about that issue, which I intend to answer, but I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he wants.

Photo of Mr John Sykes Mr John Sykes , Scarborough

As an adequately paid Back Bencher, I assure my hon. Friend that the national parks currently operate well under the aegis of the Department of the Environment. One thing that is extremely important is the fact that, under the new arrangements, we shall seek far more professional, and perhaps more local democratic representation in the national parks service. Can my hon. Friend give us an assurance today that, for example, parish councillors will be asked to serve on the new national parks board?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important argument. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are examining it closely. In discussing the Environment Bill, currently in Committee, we have not reached the provisions relating to the national parks, but I intend to ensure that there is better representation from those who live and work in the parks, who are, in my book, the most important people there.