The Committee asked for a report on recommendations
(c); (d), (e) and (f); (g) and (h); and (l). It also asked for
a report on the activities of the Advisory Committee on Consumer
Products and the environment (ACCPE).
ACCPE was appointed in September 1999, with a wide
remit to advise on the development and co-ordination of policies
to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer products, and
the priority areas for research and future action in these policy
areas. The Committee is chaired by Dr Alan Knight, Head of Sustainability
at B&Q, and has 13 other members from business, environmental
and consumer backgrounds.
Over its first year ACCPE has given detailed consideration
to many of the issues referred to in the recommendations listed
above. It will be publishing a report in the autumn setting out
its conclusions on its first year's work, and the Government will
consider then how best to take forward the work in these areas.
Recommendation (c) - To date, the Government
has failed to provide the necessary leadership in attempts to
reduce the environmental impact of consumer products. We believe
that a coherent framework of policy measures must be put in place
to encourage more environmentally responsible actions from consumers,
retailers and manufacturers
The Government's response to the Select Committee
report drew attention to the strategy for sustainable development,
A better quality of life (May 1999), which sets out a high-level
vision for achieving a more sustainable development. Over the
past year, the Advisory Committee has looked in more depth at
a key element of this strategy, the sustainability of goods and
services, with a view to creating a framework in which product-related
measures complement each other and positively support sustainable
development objectives. The Committee has looked in particular
at the scope for developing more integrated approaches to product
policy. As an essential first step, it has identified the key
environmental issues most affected by consumer products and the
range of product-related measures available to tackle these. The
Government will consider ACCPE's conclusions in this area, contained
in its first annual report.
The Government has continued to encourage a more
strategic view about goods and services to be taken at EU level,
and looks forward to the European Commission's green paper on
Integrated Product Policy, expected to be published shortly.
Recommendation (d): In the absence of a credible
EU scheme, and in line with our predecessor Committee's recommendation
in 1991, we believe that the UK Government should develop a national
ecolabelling scheme. The scheme should be publicly funded to ensure
that the cost of products does not increase and the label achieves
maximum take-up. (Paragraph 20)
Recommendation (e): We recommend that the national
ecolabelling scheme should include a generic label based upon
the whole life-cycle of a product. Given the need for prompt action
in this area, we urge that such a scheme be launched within the
lifetime of this Parliament. (Paragraph 22)
Recommendation (f): In addition to introducing
a generic ecolabelling scheme, we recommend that the new Government
advisory panel should consider which product areas would be suitable
for labelling according to specific product attributes or environmental
issues. Such an approach will only be appropriate in a limited
number of instances where the issue, or the need for information,
is clear-cut and straightforward. (Paragraph 28)
The Government asked ACCPE to give early priority
to the consideration of measures for improving the environmental
information available to consumers, drawing on two studies commissioned
by DETR on the lessons to be learnt from ecolabelling schemes
operating in different types of market. The Advisory Committee
has some interesting ideas for different ways of providing information
for consumers and the Government will consider its detailed proposals
before deciding how to proceed.
Recommendation (g): We recommend that, as a
matter of priority, the Government should provide the Green Claims
Code and any successor codes with statutory backing. (Paragraph
Recommendation (h): We are disappointed that
no real progress has been made on the issue of fair trading as
it relates to green claims, despite widespread acceptance of the
problem. In his evidence to us, the Minister assured us that there
was no disagreement between the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions and the Department of Trade and Industry
on this matter. We welcome this statement but emphasise that action
should be taken within the lifetime of this Parliament and must
precede the introduction of a national ecolabelling scheme. (Paragraph
In its response to the Select Committee, the Government
said that it had commissioned the National Consumer Council (NCC)
to survey the market in the first year of operation of the Green
Claims Code to see how effective that guidance had been. The NCC's
report, published in October 1999, showed evidence of some improvement
in the position. Although in some areas there were still many
examples of vague and unhelpful claims, the situation had improved
considerably in a number of key product areas since the Code was
The Government believes that best practice guidance
will continue to have a vital role in improving the standard of
environmental information. Since the Select Committee's report
it has published a revised version of the Green Claims Code, updated
to take account of the new international standard on green claims,
ISO14021, which was published in September 1999. The revised
Code sets out the principles of good practice in making green
claims and is supported by the CBI, the British Retail Consortium,
the local authority trading standards body (LACOTS) and the British
Standards Institution. The Government has written to major manufacturers
and retailers to draw it to their attention and encourage firms
to use it when making green claims.
To help promote a more challenging public attitude
towards environmental claims, DETR has also published a new leaflet
for consumers "Hi, I'm green" explaining what
labels to look for and how to complain about claims which seem
unhelpful or confusing.
With regard to a statutory code, the Government said
in its response to the Select Committee that DETR and DTI would
work with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to see whether powers
under the Control of Misleading Advertisement Regulations could
be used more effectively to combat misleading green claims. The
OFT has not so far identified a case which it considers would
be in the public interest to pursue under the Regulations, although
it has established that the Regulations could be used to combat
environmental claims which are overtly misleading. The exercise
has illustrated how traditional consumer protection legislation
is not well suited for tackling the unhelpful kind of claims which
do not conform with standards of good practice and which may deflect
consumers from exercising a sound environmental choice. The Government
is therefore considering whether other approaches might be more
effective in tackling bad practice and improving the standard
of information, and is seeking the views of ACCPE on possible
Recommendation (l): We recommend that the Government
examine what additional steps can be taken to enable "green"
procurement practices to be adopted within central and local government.
Clear guidance should be provided to authorities on this matter.
The Government has taken a number of additional steps
over the last year to enable the adoption of "green"
procurement practices across its estate. DETR, for example, is
continuing to work with the Office for Government Commerce to
promote best practice and to liaise with international organisations.
DETR has also organised events and is currently arranging a major
seminar to promote green procurement. Initiatives taken include:
- Michael Meacher announced in July that the Government's
policy on procuring wood is now a binding commitment on all Government
departments and their agencies. Each Government department will
also have to report annually on its purchases of timber and timber
products and the process will be monitored by an independent group
reporting to the Committee of Green Ministers;
- development of a pilot project by the Buying
Agency to market recycled copier paper throughout the Civil Service.
A collaborative procurement project led by DETR has resulted in
the award of a number of framework contracts for the supply of
recycled paper for printed publications. These are open for use
by other Government departments and their Agencies;
- publication of further information on green vehicles,
alternative fuels and emission requirements in DETR's Green Guide
for Buyers and encouraging fleet managers and their suppliers
to join the Government backed "Motorvate" scheme designed
to reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions. A "Cleaner
Vehicle Demonstration Day" was also held for Government fleet
managers in January 2000;
- a new Good Practice Guide on minimising the running
costs and impact of office equipment which was launched at a seminar
for public sector IT managers in the British Library in December;
- The Government' Construction Client Panel has
placed new targets on Government departments for "Achieving
sustainability in construction procurement".
Information on many of these initiatives is given
on the greening government pages of DETR's web site which has
been extended to provide more advice on environmental issues in
ACCPE has also looked at ways of "greening"
public procurement, both in terms of improving the information
available to procurers for drawing up environmental criteria for
product specifications, and in strengthening specific guidance
to departments in areas where are established and verifiable criteria
Following the response to recommendation (C),
the Committee would be grateful if the Government would: i) list
the MEA negotiations which have taken place on which a) the Government
has set out its position by means of a PQ (ie. those "where
decisions are likely to be taken") and b) they have not;
and ii) for each case where the Government has not set out its
objectives, explain why it was not felt appropriate to do so.
The Government should also report progress
on resolving the potential conflict between MEAs and WTO trade
rules (recommendations I, J, K and L); and make statements both
of its position in relation to the French EU Presidency suggestion
of a "World Environmental Organisation", further to
recommendation (Q), and on the position and role of UNEP, further
to recommendations (O) and (P).
MEA Negotiations (Recommendation C)
A MEA negotiations
(ie Conferences of Parties or equivalents) which have taken place
since publication of the Government response in January 2000 on
which the Government has set out its position by means of a Parliamentary
Question or a Ministerial statement:
i Convention on Biological Diversity,
Extraordinary Conference of the Parties on adoption of the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety, 24-29 January 2000; a written Ministerial
statement on the outcome of the Conference was provided to Parliament
on 9 February 2000.
ii Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 11th Conference
of the Parties, 10-20 April 2000; the UK position on issues for
consideration at the CoP was set out in an adjournment debate
on 21 March 2000; subsequently a reporting PQ was tabled on 9
May 2000 informing Parliament of key outcomes and major decisions.
iii UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),
meeting on UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the
Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS), 30 May - 2 June 2000; a PQ was answered
by the Deputy Prime Minister on 25 May 2000 which set out the
outcomes expected from the meeting.
iv OSPAR Convention on the Protection of the
Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic, 26-30 June
2000; a draft inspired PQ was prepared before the OSPAR meeting
as indicated in the Minister for the Environment's Written Parliamentary
Answer of 5 May to Mr MacGrady (SDLP - South Down); however, on
21 June there was an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall on
this issue - the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State's response
in the debate included the same elements which would have been
covered by the PQ, there was therefore no need to repeat the material
in a written answer.
v International Whaling Commission (IWC),
52nd Annual Meeting, 3-6 July 2000; a PQ was tabled
on 13 July 2000 in answer to which the Minister for Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food set out the Government's approach to the meeting.
B MEA negotiations
on which the Government has not set out its position by means
of a PQ or a written Ministerial Statement:
i Convention on Biological Diversity,
5th Conference of the Parties, 15-26 May 2000;
ii Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in
Europe (ASCOBANS), 3rd Meeting of the Parties,
24-26 July 2000;
iii Agreement on the Conservation of Small
Cetaceans in the Baltic and North Seas, 3rd Meeting
of the Parties, 26-28 July.
To correct these oversights PQs will be tabled after
the Parliamentary Recess informing Parliament of the outcomes
of the meetings and major decisions taken. Systems have now been
put in place to ensure that such oversights are not repeated.
MEAs and Trade Rules (Recommendations I,J, K and
The Government recently provided a response to the
House of Lords European Union Committee's report on "The
World Trade Organisation: The EU Mandate after Seattle" which
included the following response in respect of the Government's
continuing commitment to clarify the interface between WTO rules
and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs):
"The Government fully agrees with the Committee
on the need to avoid conflict between the WTO and Multilateral
Environmental Agreements (MEAs). This is why we are pressing for
a clarification of the relationship between WTO rules and trade
provisions of MEAs as part of a new trade Round. Our aim is to
secure an agreement which is legally binding on all WTO members
and promotes mutual supportiveness between WTO rules and trade
measures arising from MEAs. The UK is working with its EU partners
to identify and agree on the various options for clarifying this
relationship. The UK is not convinced that seeking a formal amendment
to WTO rules, and in particular GATT Article XX, represents the
best option for clarifying the relationship. Alternative mechanisms
such as a new side agreement, which could take the form of an
interpretative understanding of Article XX, are under active consideration.
There is also a pressing need for improved dialogue
with developing countries on this issue. It is essential that
in developing our proposals for clarification we take full account
of others' concerns, particularly with respect to the potential
for eco-protectionist abuse of a clarifying mechanism. We are
funding the Commonwealth Secretariat to host a workshop on Trade
and Sustainable Livelihoods in January 2001 which will address
this matter alongside a range of issues of interest to developing
countries. The UK and EU are also seeking to further discussions
in bilaterals and within the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment
in order to build consensus in favour of clarification."
The UK will continue to play an active role in discussions
at the EU level to promote an approach to the clarification of
the WTO/MEA interface consistent with this response, including
at the next meeting of EU trade and environment experts on 6 September
2000 for which the European Commission have tabled a paper on
"Resolving the relationship between WTO rules and MEAs".
The UK will also participate in a meeting convened by UNEP in
Geneva on 23 October 2000 to examine and reduce potential tensions
between MEAs and WTO rules, immediately prior to the next meeting
of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment.
To promote further multilateral dialogue on the relationship
between trade and sustainable development the UK has provided
£100K in this financial year to the recently established
UNEP/UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment
and Development, which will undertake thematic research on major
issues in the trade-environment-development domain and on practical
approaches to sustainably address them, recognising the development
priorities of countries.
The UK also continues to support the UNCTAD/FIELD
Trade and Environment Capacity Building Project, to which we have
committed £423K over two financial years. This project brings
together 10 developing countries to examine experience in, and
constructive ways of taking forward, the trade and sustainable
development debate. The project has already led to papers being
tabled in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment. The next
stage of this project, a roundtable event involving developing
countries and EU partners, will be held in London this autumn.
Role of UNEP (Recommendations O and P)
The UK remains one of the largest donors to the United
Nations Environment Programme and continues actively to encourage
others to support the organisation. We are strongly supportive
of the aim of broadening the donor base for contributions to UNEP.
In addition to our support for UNEP's main environment work through
our contribution to its Environment Fund we have also provided
£650,000 to UNEP to support the establishment of a United
Nations global biodiversity monitoring centre in Cambridge.
The UK is committed to the success of UNEP as the
key environmental arm of the United Nations system and as an influential
global organisation. With this aim in mind we support all efforts
to increase the effectiveness of UNEP, including the better use
of its regional structure and improved coordination. The UK's
support for the Mercure Satellite system has helped to improve
communication within UNEP. UNEP has strengthened its presence
in Nairobi, which is rightly recognised as an important feature
of its commitment to increasing the involvement of developing
French EU Presidency Suggestion of a "World
Environmental Organisation" (Recommendation Q)
DETR has commissioned a report on options for reform
of global environmental governance from the Royal Institute of
International Affairs. This will be published in September and
a copy will be given to the Committee. The UK will consult widely
with EU and developing country partners on a way forward, with
the aim of improving action on the ground. The French Presidency
put global environmental governance reform on the agenda for the
French EU informal Environment Council. It was agreed that the
EU should consider options further.
While the Government appeared to agree with
the spirit of the Report, it rejected many of the specific recommendations.
It would be useful to have an update on the Government's position
vis-à-vis the possibility of establishing a new national
agency to 'champion' parks (recommendations 175-178).
The Government's Response to the Select Committee's
report acknowledged that some aspects of parks management needed
to be improved. The Response also advised that the Government
does not consider there is a compelling case for the setting up
of a new Agency to 'champion parks', and that it will set out
future proposals for improving the quality and management of parks
in the White Paper on urban policy. This remains the Government's
position. The White Paper will be published in the autumn.
It would also be helpful to know what action
the Government has taken in respect of the recommendations at
paragraph 92, which calls for steps to be taken to stop the loss
and neglect of park ornaments and ornamental buildings.
English Heritage are expected to address the condition
of public parks in their report to Ministers on the Historic Environment
Review which is be delivered in November. Consultation on the
Review has just ended, and the review steering group is presently
considering the responses. It is already clear that among issues
the Review is likely to address is the condition of public parks,
and the need for resources to made available for regular maintenance.
The loss and neglect of park ornaments and ornamental buildings
will be considered in this context. The Government's response
to the Review would follow early next year.
Finally, it would be helpful to know what proportion
of the Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities Programme run
by the New Opportunities Fund has been spent on projects involving
NOF invited initial expressions of interest from
organisations interested in becoming an Award Partner in January
2000, with a closing date of 31 March for the return of completed
bids. There has been an exceptionally good response to the programme,
and the Fund is currently assessing over 98 bids worth over £608
million to operate delegated grant and umbrella schemes. The Fund
expects to announce it Award Partners in September, and to fund
the first projects in 2001. Although final figures are not available
at this time, it is envisaged that a substantial number of successful
schemes may involve improvements to parks.
The Government should report progress on the
Committee's recommendation in paragraph 20, further to paragraph
11 of the Government response.
BRE Fire Note 9 was offered to the British Standards
Institute in March 1999 in order for them to consider converting
the test method to a full British Standard under the Universal
Acceptance Procedure (UAP). The document was referred to the relevant
committee where it was agreed to circulate the test method for
comments. A working group was established to review these comments
and consider the document further. The working group has met three
times and the general view is that the document is technically
However, it appears likely that a separate test method
(a part 2) will be required to assess the fire performance of
'curtain wall' type systems. The production of a part 2 test method
will not effect the publication of the part 1 standard for use
with rainscreen and rendered systems, the area of primary concern
following the Irvine fire. The issue of the inclusion of a pass/fail
criterion has also been a cause of discussion and a conclusion
on this matter has not yet been reached.
The current timescale for publication of this standard
is still unclear although the objective of the relevant working
group is to produce the document by the end of the year. Whilst
it is disappointing that the standard has not yet been published
it should be noted that reference to BRE Fire Note 9 does appear
within the new Approved Document B (Fire safety) 2000 edition.
This document came into force on 1 July this year and suggests
that Fire Note 9 is a suitable alternative to meeting the provisions
for the external surfaces of walls.
The Government should report progress on the
Committee's recommendation in paragraph 22, further to paragraph
13 of the Government response.
On 12 April officials wrote to the Local Government
Association, the Association of London Government and the Housing
Corporation, asking them to draw the attention of local authorities
and registered social landlords to the fourth recommendation of
the House of Commons Environment Transport and Regional Affairs
Committee and to the Government's 23 March response.
The DETR's guidance "Collecting, managing and
analysing stock information", was not published in May as
planned; it is now due to be published on 30 August.
On 17 July 2000, the DETR published details of the
new Housing Health and Rating System and associated technical
guidance. The Rating System is designed to replace the current
Housing Fitness Standard and will apply to all existing dwellings.
The System uses a risk assessment approach to assess health and
safety risks including fire risks associated with external cladding.
Legislation will be required to use the System for enforcement
purposes. However, once this legislation is in place, it will
be possible to take enforcement action against high risk properties
which met the Building Regulations when constructed but do not
now meet current Building Regulation standards.
The Government should report progress on the
Committee's recommendation in paragraph 24, further to paragraph
17 of the Government response.
The Home Secretary remains committed to the rationalisation
and simplification of fire safety legislation but, up to now,
it has not been possible to secure parliamentary time for a Bill.
The Home Office has now established the Fire Safety Advisory Board
which met for the first time on 3 August. The Board has established
a working group which is to develop detailed proposals for legislative
reform and report back to the main Board in early November. The
working group will give priority to examining whether, in advance
of primary legislation, it would be possible to make use of planned
legislation in the next session on regulatory reform to secure
some of the desired improvements.
Department of the Environment, Transport and the
2 October 2000