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MPs criticise inquiry response

MPs have criticised the Government’s response to their report on the Treasury’s sustainability work as “deeply disappointing”.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) last year accused the Treasury of putting short-term priorities ahead of sustainability and potentially increasing future costs and harming investor confidence.

Landfill tax was one of the examples quoted by the EAC, with members saying they had found no evidence the Treasury was working with Defra to find new ways of boosting recycling.

The Government’s response rejected some of the criticism, particularly the suggestion that the Treasury “rode roughshod” over other departments’ objectives.

On waste management, it said: “Landfill tax has successfully reduced the amount of waste going to landfill and the Treasury has set out rates to 2019.

“The Treasury continues to work with Defra to consider further options to meet the Government’s recycling targets. The Government is investing £3bn from 1997 to 2042 in grant funding to private finance initiative local authority waste infrastructure projects.”

But the EAC was unsatisfied with this response, saying it was not clear how the Treasury would do anything different in future as a result of the committee’s inquiry, and called for it to “respond again”.

Chair Mary Creagh said: “The Treasury is one of the most powerful departments in the Government, and its approach to sustainability can have a huge impact. Our report found that the Treasury’s current approach required improvement and made recommendations about how this could be done.

“In the Treasury’s response it is not clear whether it has considered our recommendations or whether it will do anything different as a result. This is deeply disappointing given that our report found the Treasury’s performance is far from outstanding.”

She also called on chancellor Philip Hammond to demonstrate support for innovative environmental industries and related jobs in his budget on 8 March.

Meanwhile, Creagh has called on environment secretary Andrea Leadsom to tell her when Defra’s 25-year plan for the environment will be published. In a letter in her position as chair of EAC, Creagh says she is disappointed the original deadlines have slipped.

“First, the framework was delayed from summer last year to the autumn following the referendum, the change in prime minister and your appointment as secretary of state. When you appeared before the committee last October, you said the framework would be consulted on ’quite soon’. You told the CLA in December that it would be ’soon’.

“In January this year you told the Oxford Farming Conference that green papers would be published, but gave no timescale. We are now nearly in March and the framework has still not been published and there is no indication of when it will be.

“It is essential that the 25-year plan for the environment and its framework is not delayed further. Can you inform me of the dates you expect the framework and final plan to be published?”

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