Letter from Rt Hon John Prescott, Deputy
Prime Minister and First Secretary of State
I am writing to follow up the evidence I gave
to the Committee on 4 March regarding the UK's preparations for
the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Firstly the Committee asked why the Secretary
of State for the Department of Education and Skills is not a member
of MISC 18.
The works of DfES is important for the achievement
of sustainable development in this country, and as their memorandum
to you explains, they have been contributing to the domestic sustainable
development agenda in a number of waysworking with DEFRA
as appropriate, for example on the WWF Our World Project. Officials
from DfES also sit on the Inter-Departmental Working Group, which
is working on preparations for the Summit.
The Government's aims on education for the Summit
are largely outward-focussed ie they concentrate on the achievement
of the second Millennium Development Goal of universal primary
education and on capacity building in developing countries, in
terms of the infrastructure and knowledge base (particularly concerning
science and technology). This includes supporting good governance,
strong institutions and training networks. Ministerial responsibility
for policies and programmes regarding the improvement of education
overseas rests with the Secretary of State at the Department for
International Development. As you know, Clare Short has been fully
involved with MISC 18 and UK preparations for the Summit.
The membership and terms of reference of MISC
18 were decided by the Prime Minister and announced to the House
on the 22 November 2001 in written answer number 18143. The membership
of MISC 18 focuses on including departments with the largest policy
involvement in the core issues of the Summit. In the case of a
subject area as cross-cutting as sustainable development, these
interests do spread widely. We have sought to balance the inclusion
of a range of interests with keeping the group to a size that
promotes efficient business.
The Committee also asked questions regarding
whether the Government will be pressing for a binding framework
for corporate accountability at the Summit. Though there are worthy
objectives behind the proposal, the Government believes that corporate
social responsibility (CSR) needs to be primarily a business-led
agenda that builds on the minimum standards set by goverment regulation.
Therefore, as I explained to the Committee, we will not be pushing
for a binding CSR framework to result from Johannesburg.
However, the Government is very active in the
field of promoting CSR. We believe that businesses can play a
key role in poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable
development, and we are encouraging greater engagement on their
partparticularly at WSSD. We are also working to facilitate
best practice and we support a host of voluntary initiatives that
include codes of practice, labelling reporting, supply chain agreements
such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fairtrade mark.
Internationally, we also support initiatives such as the OECD
guidelines and the UN Global Compact.
Finally, with reference to our discussion of
the progress made since Rio towards addressing climate change,
you may be interested in the attached table, which shows the 49
countries that have so far ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Following
the European Environment Ministers' Council on 4 March, which
decided on the legal base for ratification, Margharet Beckett
laid the Protocol before the House of Commons on 7 March. We,
along with other European Member States, aim to deposit our instruments
of ratification with the UN in June. If the other Annex 1 countries
work to this timetable, the Protocol will be able to enter into
force before the World Summit.
I am copying this letter to Members of MASC
18 and to Estelle Morris.
18 March 2002