Government agrees with idea of serious penalties for significant breaches of environmental law
Serious penalties need to be imposed on those committing significant breaches of environmental law, says the Government in its response to a parliamentary report on the Environment Agency.
The Government’s Response to the Environment, Transport and the Regional Affairs Committee’s Report on the Environment Agency, published on 18 October, agrees with almost all of the Committee’s recommendations. The parliamentary report offers important insights for a review of the Agency’s functions and performance which the Government is due to begin shortly, according to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).
A financial management and policy review of the Agency later this year will provide the opportunity to re-examine how performance can be developed and improved to deliver effective environmental protection and a high quality business service, explained Environment Minister, Michael Meacher.
“The Government has confidence in the ability of the new Environment Agency Chair, Sir John Harman, to develop a coherent and focused vision for the Agency and its staff, to give it better strategic direction, and to ensure that its functions are performed effectively,” said Meacher.
The Agency has an important role to play in raising awareness of environmental issues, points out Meacher, agreeing with the Committee’s assertion that the Environment Agency should be a champion of the environment and sustainable development.
“Parliament has also recognised the seriousness of environmental crime,” said Meacher. “The courts are, of course, independent of Government and our role is to ensure that those giving sentence have sufficient powers, in the exercise of their discretion, to effect a just disposal in each individual case (see related story).”
The Government’s response to the Committee’s report reflects the views of the Environment Agency’s two Whitehall sponsor departments, the DETR, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), and of the National Assembly for Wales, as the Agency’s sponsors in Wales.
The Environment Agency’s response to the Parliamentary Committee’s report is available from The Stationary Office.