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Aarhus Convention

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to inform the public of their rights under the Aarhus Convention. (85491)

The Government recognise that the Aarhus Convention is an important statement, at international level, of the rights of the public to be involved in decisions which have significant environmental effects. The UK’s ratification of the convention, in February 2005, demonstrates our commitment to the importance of these principles. A comprehensive guide can be found on the DEFRA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/internat/aarhus/index.htm

In addition, DEFRA’s environmental information unit (EIU) provides advice on the convention and the Environmental Information Regulations. The EIU has produced leaflets and posters publicising peoples’ rights to access environmental information and provides detailed guidance on the DEFRA website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/opengov/eir/index. htm This also links to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs), the code of practice and the Aarhus Convention.

The code of practice, (which was laid in Parliament in February 2005) and guidance have been revised to take responses to a public consultation into account.

Additionally, the unit offers support to Government Departments and public authorities on EIRs. This support includes workshops to discuss how they can raise awareness within their authorities and provides an opportunity to share good practice. In 2003-04, the Government’s sustainable development unit worked with the Department for Constitutional Affairs supporting the freedom of information (FOI) roadshows programme and gave talks to public authorities around the country explaining how to handle FOI and EIR requests.