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Relevant Authorities to Define Requirements of Environmental Protection

Part of New clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 27th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble 4:45 pm, 27th June 1995

Our meetings are held on a regular basis in the course of the process of government. That does not necessarily require a full turnout of every green Minister every time. The hon. Lady asked about Brent Spar. As she well knows, that is a matter for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the President of the Board of Trade. It is clear that they are the Departments whence the decisions emanated. When the matter was discussed, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade told the House exactly what he thought about the situation, and I have nothing to add to that.

I remind the House that it is a long-established part of Government policy that the effects on the environment of existing and proposed policies need to be examined systematically. We committed ourselves formally to doing so in our White Paper, "This Common Inheritance", and we restated and carried forward our thinking in our 1994 sustainable development strategy. We have a green Minister in every Department, whose job it is to ensure that environmental considerations are integrated into the strategies and policies of Departments—a day-to-day responsibility, as opposed to the collective meetings of which I have already said a little.

The hon. Lady made great play of the fact that we have not made a great song and dance about the documents that we have produced. I remind the House that they include "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" in 1990 and "Environmental Appraisal in Government Departments" in 1994, which added to the economic appraisal that has been available for some time in the Treasury Green Book.

I am sure that the hon. Lady will accept that those documents are not everybody's bedtime reading, however important they may be to the process of government. It is in the process of government and within the corridors of power that the booklets have been read, and their influence there has been substantial. To suggest that that is not important seems a little shortsighted to me.