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Departmental Public Expenditure

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the effects of the change in his Department’s budget following the most recent Comprehensive Spending Review on its ability to meet its target to halt biodiversity loss by 2010; (177552)

(2) what assessment he has made of the effects of the change in his Department’s budget following the most recent Comprehensive Spending Review on Natural England’s work on (a) local biodiversity partnerships, (b) national trails, (c) bridleways, (d) areas of outstanding beauty and (e) national nature reserves;

(3) when the budget for 2008 and onwards for Natural England will be (a) decided and (b) announced.

We are currently considering allocation of the Department’s resources for 2008-09 and have started discussions with Natural England on options for its CSR budget. However, it is too early to set out what the implications will be for individual areas of work.

Securing a healthy natural environment remains a top priority and is one of my Department’s two high level goals alongside tackling climate change. Natural England will be a key contributor to this work. We expect to be in a position to confirm Natural England’s financial settlement for 2008-09 by the end of February 2008 and will then be working with Natural England to finalise its next corporate plan, which will set Natural England’s priorities and the outcomes to be achieved.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effects of the change in his Department’s budget following the most recent Comprehensive Spending Review on (a) staff morale, (b) staff numbers, (c) spending programmes and (d) grants to non-governmental organisations, including (i) Butterfly Conservations, (ii) The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (iii) the Wildlife Trusts, (iv) Plantlife and (v) the Bat Conservation Trust. (177555)

The changes to the Department’s budget following the CSR settlement in October 2007 have not yet been finalised. New budgets for the CSR period will be announced before the beginning of the next financial year and until these are decided it is not possible to make an assessment of the various issues listed. The exception being on (b), staff numbers, where there are no pre-determined targets across the CSR period. However, staffing levels will be kept under review to ensure that DEFRA maintains a flexible and efficient work force within its administration budget, which will be reduced by 5 per cent. in real terms per annum in common with other Government Departments.