Supplementary Memorandum by the Environment
The Environment Agency is statutorily responsible
to Ministers (Defra and National Assembly for Wales) but also
considers itself to be accountable to those whom it regulates,
partners and key stakeholders, such as other authorities with
whom it works, and the public in general for the protection of
the environment. The following mechanisms for accountability are
1. Statutory Advisory Committees
1.1 The Agency has three statutory committees
for each of its seven regions in England and Environment Agency
Wales (EA Wales). These are Regional Environmental Protection
Committees, Regional Flood Defence Committees and Regional Fisheries,
Conservation, Recreation and Ecology. These statutory committees
meet four times a year and provide advice to the Agency on policy
and delivery aspects. There are over 2,000 members of these committees.
1.2 The Flood Defence committees are executive
and take decisions on budgetary issues such as raising levies
from Local Authority members. All the Agency's regional statutory
committee meetings and the EA Wales equivalents are open to the
public. Papers and minutes of the regional statutory committees
are made available to the public.
1.3 There are also non-statutory advisory
groups such as local Area Environment Groups which give advice
to the Agency's 26 Area Managers and their teams on local issues.
2. Consultation with Public, Industry and
2.1 The Agency consults with the public
and other key stakeholders in relation to its regulatory responsibilities,
for example, applications for licences or variations under various
licensing regimes. Under the Pollution Prevention and Control
regime the stakeholders include local authorities, the Health
and Safety Executive and Primary Care Trusts. As a matter of policy,
the Agency prepares Decision Documents for all Pollution Prevention
Control permitting decisions. These documents are publicly available
and the Agency is required to consider any objections to licences
2.2 For environmental permit applications
that are judged to be contentious locally the Agency adopts an
extended consultation approach often holding public surgeries
or public meetings to enable greater public participation in the
consultation process. This approach goes beyond our statutory
requirements. The Agency also consults stakeholders extensively
on the development of strategies, policies and charging schemes
in accordance with Cabinet Office Guidelines. The Agency works
extensively with trade bodies, non-governmental organisations,
the general public and local, regional, Welsh Assembly and Central
2.3 The Agency consulted on its corporate
strategy, Making it Happen and publishes its corporate plan and
annual report. Many consultation documents on policies and regulatory
issues are available on the Agency's website and at the relevant
local Agency office, libraries and other places open to the public.
2.4 All the Agency's Areas and Regions are
involved in working with communities and groups including farmers,
residents and tenant organisations, river users and small businesses.
This is to engage them on legislative issues such as licensing
through IPPC, EU Groundwater Directive, Water Framework Directive
and important local issues such as reducing fly-tipping, Catchment
Abstraction Management Strategies or the design of flood defences.
2.5 The Agency makes information on the
environment and on its activities widely available on its website.
Many documents are also available for public inspection on the
Agency's public registers and it provides information in accordance
with, and, where resources permit, beyond, the requirements of
the Environmental Information Regulations.
3. Board Meetings in Public
3.1 The Agency has voluntarily been holding
its Board Meetings in public all around the country for the last
three years. Apart from a few confidential papers, all Board papers
and minutes are available to the public on the Agency's web-site.
3.2 The Agency's Annual Reports and "Corporate
Scorecard" are produced for the Board so that the Board can
monitor the performance of the Agency. This important function
of the Board is performed in public. The quarterly report on progress
towards performance targets is available on the Agency's website.
Ministers and Parliament
4. Ministers and Parliament
4.1 The Agency is accountable to Ministers
and through them to Parliament. It is accountable to the National
Assembly for Wales for its activities and expenditure in Wales.
Quarterly review meetings are also held between the Chief Executive,
the Chairman and the Minister.
4.2 The framework within which the Agency
operates is set out in the Management Statement issued by the
Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and
the Welsh Assembly Government. Also the Statutory Guidance on
Objectives and Contributions to Sustainable Development issued
by the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
4.3 The Agency was subject to a Financial
Management Policy Review which concluded in March 2002. All recommendations
from this have been or are in the process of being implemented.
4.4 The work of the Agency is often the
subject of scrutiny by select committees of both Houses and by
the National Assembly for Wales. The Agency is also subject to
National Audit Office reviews.
5. Appeals and Actions in the Courts
5.1 The Environment Agency is accountable
to those it regulates via appeals and action in the Courts. In
general, rights of appeal are set out in the relevant notification
of a decision. For Third Parties, information on appeals and complaints
is set out in the Agency's Customer Charter. There is an express
right of appeal on regulatory decisions by the person regulated
to the Secretary of State or, sometimes, a magistrate's court.
Third Parties and, sometimes, operators, can seek a judicial review
of the Agency's decision by the High Court.
5.2 The Agency acts in accordance with its
published Enforcement and Prosecution Policy that contains detailed
guidelines in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors approved
by the Attorney General. Our enforcement and prosecution policy
is subject to extensive consultation and is published on the Agency's
website. Certain regulatory decisions are subject to appeal to
the Secretary of State. Prosecution decisions are a matter for
the criminal courts to determine.
5.3 The statutes under which the Agency
operates do not generally require the Agency to give reasons for
its decisions (although this may change, in respect of certain
decisions, with the implementation of the Aarhus Convention).
However, in accordance with the general principles of administrative
law, and in order to be a fair, open and transparent regulator,
the Agency recognises the need to give reasons for its decisions
where it is reasonable to do so.
6. Financial Accountability
6.1 The financial duties of the Agency are
determined by Ministers with the approval of the Treasury. Since
April 2003 the National Audit Office audits the accounts for the
Agency. A copy of the annual accounts and the report by the auditor
are laid before each House of Parliament each year. Similarly,
a report on its activities is prepared each year by the Agency,
submitted to Ministers and laid by them before each House of Parliament
and published. A separate report on the Agency's activities in
Wales is prepared and submitted to Welsh Assembly Government.
7. Complaints and Ombudsman
7.1 The latest Customer Charter was launched
in July 2003 and explains the standards of service offered to
customers for giving advice and information, responding to incidents,
applications, complaints and commendations. A new complaints and
commendations procedure is to be launched in December 2003. All
Ombudsman Complaints will be co-ordinated through the new post
of the National Complaints and Commendations Manager who will
work in conjunction with Regional Directors to manage such complaints.
7.2 Complaints about flood defence or drainage
can be investigated by the Local Government Ombudsman England
or the Local Government Ombudsman Wales. All other complaints
are handled by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Ombudsman cannot
order the Agency to provide a remedy to injustices by a complainant.
However, the Government almost always accepts the Ombudsman's