Examination of Witnesses(Questions 220-239)|
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
220. Dr Griffiths said that we are ahead of
the game, which is a phrase that always fills me with foreboding
when it comes to matters European because we go in and say we
are ahead of the game and we usually end up with a disaster through
over-confidence and complacency. If we are ahead of the game why
is the British estuary not among the 15 pilot estuaries so we
can learn some lessons?
(Dr Skinner) For the reasons I gave earlier, we made
the judgment that we would use our resources for what we thought
was the best thing to do to make sure that the Directive was best
for the United Kingdom in terms of the standards. I also said
that is not excluding the fact that we would want to do more work
on learning the way that the Directive is going to work. I think
the emphasis is going to be on the institutional arrangements
and how they fit together rather than on estuarial studies on
a technical nature on which we can learn from others. The whole
concept of the CIS studies is that they are shared resources,
you do not have to do them all in your own place. That is a judgment
(Baroness Young) We are doing pilots on rivers and
estuaries that are aimed at specific issues that we think we need
more information about. The current study on rivers on the economic
aspects is an example of that. It is better to target the work
we are doing towards the things where we were least confident
that we knew what we were talking about, rather than doing a wholesale
pilot like the European ones, where we take all of the aspects
and do them all. Almost certainly in the near future we will be
putting forward proposals for a pilot which would take account
of these public engagement issues. If there are other issues at
that stage we feel we do not quite understand we would probably
want to build those in at the same time.
221. It is difficult to combine the two. While
you are exuding complacency to us, Water UK is pretty critical
of you. It says that it would like to know whether DEFRA and the
Agency believe they have the necessary resources to oversee the
implementation of the largest, the most expensive piece of water
legislation in history. The Institution of Water and Environmental
Managers are concerned whether the Agency will be adequately resourced
by government funds for the early identification of basins and
districts and whatever will result in the increase of charges
to abstractors, et cetera. Do you accept you are being slow to
commit resources to transposition and implementation of the Water
Framework Directive? If you do, why?
(Baroness Young) First of all, if I can say we are
not complacent. We are a bit like swans, we may look very serene
on the surface but we are paddling like hell underneath the water.
There is an immense amount of work and investment going into this.
We have to distinguish what is for DEFRA to do, including the
transposition issue, and what is for the Agency to do. We always
have limited resources. We have had to choose what we thought
the best priorities were and discuss them with DEFRA and put our
limited cash in that direction. We are building up the amount
of resources committed to this in line with the amount of funds
that DEFRA is aiming to give us. We do believe that we will hit
the deadlines in the early stages of the programme. What happens
beyond that will depend very much on the settlement we get in
the Spending Review and also the availability of money from a
variety of other public purses. It will be resource driven, this
will impact on the quality of work brought forward.
222. Their concerns that deadlines will not
be met are not justified but if they are not met it is DEFRA's
(Baroness Young) The biggest issue for us is not whether
the deadlines are met but whether we get through the work and
are moving forward the environmental objectives. That is something
that we still are dependent on seeing our Spending Review 2002
outcome on. We have not had our settlement, we do not know what
it is going to look like, a lot of what we are going to be able
to do over the next two years will depend on that.
223. Am I right in saying as the nominated competent
authority you currently do not have a budget you can put a number
to do the work you are currently paddling desperately to do?
(Baroness Young) We have a budget. The level of that
budget for 2003-04 onwards is still dependent on the Spending
Review. That is the budget just for us, we then have to look at
all of the other costs to the Directive, which are costs in other
public programmes, costs in the work that needs to happen beyond
224. Putting that aside for the moment, in paragraph
41 of your evidence where you say, "As competent authority
. . ." you have a comprehensive and awe inspiring list of
things that you are supposed to do. How much is it going to cost
you to do all of those things?
(Dr Skinner) As of today we are not the competent
authority, we are advising DEFRA.
225. It says in paragraph 41 "As competent
authority the Agency will be . . ." Do you have a doubt as
to whether you will be appointed.
(Dr Skinner) No, the document says that the government
intends to make us the competent authority, although it will not
take effect until they make the regulation, which is probably
some months, if not more, away. We have been planning on the basis
that we will be the competent authority and those statements are
made about the duties which we will have to carry out.
226. You have to have negotiations with your
(Dr Skinner) We do not have the resources now to do
all of the things in paragraph 41.
227. How much have you asked for?
(Dr Skinner) We have asked for money in the next two
year round which doubles the figure we currently have.
228. What is it?
(Dr Skinner) 4.5 million
229. Are you saying that to do paragraph 41
it costs 4.5 million?
(Dr Skinner) No, the activities in paragraph 41 go
beyond the next two years.
230. What I am aiming at, I am struggling to
see who is in charge, who is the person responsible at the moment
within the Environment Agency for delivering the Water Framework
Directive or who do you think will be in charge? Who is Mr or
Mrs or Ms Water Framework Directive?
(Baroness Young) It is Baroness Water Framework Directive,
also with my Board. The Environment Agency will have statutory
responsibility for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
We are a government agency with a responsibility to ministers.
There are some elements of the policy and funding that will be
the responsibility of DEFRA.
231. If it is the agency who in organisational
terms is carrying out the programme? There must be somebody who
this is devolved to to be pulling it all together.
(Baroness Young) I am responsible to my Board. The
Director of Environmental Protection reports to me, he has Dr
Skinner working for him as Head of Environmental Quality and the
Project Manager is Dr Griffiths.
232. If I came to your office, Dr Griffiths,
and said, show me the outline plan, can you pluck off the shelf
a document that shows me a nice critical path, milestones, timetable
all worked out?
(Dr Griffiths) I would be pleased to do that.
233. That is all done. It is costed out year
by year as to what you think is going to be estimated?
(Dr Griffiths) We have estimated.
234. Are you confident of getting the resources?
(Baroness Young) It will depend on the negotiations
with DEFRA on the Spending Review.
235. One of our witnesses last week said you
were struggling a bit for cash, he told us about a thing called
BRITE, Better Regulation in the Environment. It seemed to be that
the Treasury were leaning on you because they thought you were
a tad too expensive. Do you have the money or not? What is BRITE
(Baroness Young) I think BRITE is a bit of a red herring.
BRITE was not about saving money, it did not save any money. BRITE
is about restructuring the way we run our environmental protection
services to make them more efficient and consistent and to really
respond to some of the comments and suggestions that have been
made by our stakeholders as part of our five yearly review. It
is not intended to save money, it is intended to rebrigade our
staff and resources in a different way and particularly to provide
more ability to quality control the work we do, to make sure that
it is nationally consistent and to put more money at the frontline
where it really counts. It is not a money saving proposition at
all, it is about better regulation, improving environment and
is about how we do the job better.
236. Will it as an exercise enable resources
or is it a requirement to enable resources to be freed up from
other areas to help fund the work we have just been talking about?
(Baroness Young) The Water Framework Directive is
a new duty. We need to negotiate with DEFRA about getting funding
for these additional duties and we are in that negotiation at
237. I am going to suggest to the Chairman that
it might be useful for the Committee to have a note from you laying
out the staffing requirements and the budgetary requirements,
because when we come to talk to ministers we want to be assured
you are properly funded to do all of the tasks that paragraph
41 of your evidence indicates that you are required to undertake,
because I have a bit of a nervousness about that.
(Baroness Young) For the moment we are spending 2.5
million. We have estimated that we need 4.5 million in 2003-04,
4.5 million in 2004-05 and 6 million in 2005-06. In the range
of duties in paragraph 41 some of them really only kick in beyond
that. Our project plan will be able to give you a feel for that.
238. Is that written into your baseline at some
point in the past or does that represent net expenditure for the
(Baroness Young) That is additional.
239. Those are the actual costs and they are
all additional. If government is going to do the job properly
it has to find that money for you, and I presume for everybody
else following their own statutory responsibility they are going
to chip in their tuppence worth to this exercise.
(Baroness Young) We should make the point, much of
the delivery of the Framework Directive is about bringing together
existing activities that many organisations are already involved
in. Quite a lot of the work we are already doing is already funded
from our baseline or funded from charges or from water company
charges or from the Common Agricultural Policy subsidy, or wherever
the money comes from, will all be part of the kitty for the implementation
of the Framework Directive.