Skip to main content

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 9 September 2010

15. What further plans her Department has to reduce the number of non-departmental public bodies for which it is responsible. (14186)

The Government are committed to making substantial reforms to public bodies to increase accountability and reduce costs. I have been looking closely to ensure that we deliver our priorities in the most efficient and effective way, and to enhance the role of the big society. I announced reductions in the number of bodies before the recess and will make further announcements this autumn.

Given the overlap of responsibilities and roles between the Environment Agency and Natural England, does my right hon. Friend agree that there could be scope to merge the two bodies and that considerable savings and efficiencies could result?

My hon. Friend will have to await the final announcements that will be made this autumn. However, we have already had constructive discussions with Natural England and the Environment Agency, which has been very helpful in our quest for savings that will not involve compromising the front line. Reducing duplication between those organisations will obviously be one way of achieving that.

Given the recent suggestion that the Government will scrap the Commission for Rural Communities, the Sustainable Development Commission and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, how on earth can Ministers come to the House and claim that this will be the greenest Government ever, and how will the functions performed by those bodies be taken over?

If the hon. Lady examines our structural reform plan closely, she will see that we have incorporated the important issues of environmental protection and sustainable development in the Department’s mainstream work. They are among its top three priorities.

The Commission for Rural Communities was established a long time ago. I am sure that the hon. Lady would acknowledge that there is a considerable depth of understanding of the issues of rural communities on this side of the House, and that DEFRA is the rural champion at the heart of Government.