The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has launched an inquiry into the sustainability record of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) after a report found minsters were not “owning” departmental ambitions.
MPs on the cross-departmental watchdog will investigate the MoJ’s policy-making, governance, procurement and operations.
The ministry is responsible for prisons, courts and sites of special scientific interest throughout England and Wales, and has the second largest estate of all departments. In 2016-17, it recycled 56% of waste across its 1,650 sites, with disposal costing £7m.
The announcement of an inquiry, which takes the form of a one-off evidence session on 14 November, coincides with publication of a National Audit Office (NAO) report on MoJ sustainability, which said the ministry’s estate accounts for around 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water use from the central Government estate.
The NAO report concludes that the MoJ “meets or is making progress” against many of its environmental targets but there are “significant gaps and weaknesses” in its accountability arrangements, and it “is not yet meeting its ambition to embed sustainability in everything it does”.
It adds: “It is not clear that the ministry’s senior leadership ‘owns’ all its ambitions for environmental sustainability.”
The department is praised for having good arrangements to promote and monitor some aspects of environmental sustainability.
The report added: “The ministry has established a sustainable operations team, responsible for collating data on environmental performance and for initiating environmental projects, and a board-level sustainability champion. Its estates property board monitors progress against environmental targets.”
The EAC has conducted similar inquiries into sustainability in the Department of Transport, HM Treasury, the Home Office and the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
- Huntercombe Prison in Oxfordshire (pictured) won the Best Food Waste Initiative in the 2015 National Recycling Awards.