The Treasury has snubbed a request by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to give evidence to its inquiry into the government’s proposal to set up a new environmental watchdog.
The request was, according to the committee chair, Mary Creagh, triggered by indications from former Exchequer Secretary for the Treasury, Marcus Jones, along with media reports that the Treasury was opposed to powers proposed for the watchdog to an extent that could render it toothless.
Responding on behalf of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, to Creagh’s letter to the Chancellor requesting that he or another minister should appear before the EAC, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, wrote: “Defra is the lead department for this issue and the consultation, therefore it will be a matter for Defra ministers to respond to the committee’s inquiry."
In her letter to Hammond, Creagh wrote: “It has been widely reported that the Treasury opposed giving the environmental watchdog powers like the European Commission’s to initiate enforcement action against Government. The evidence given to my Committee’s joint hearing on Air Quality by the then-Exchequer Secretary for the Treasury indicated this was the case.
Greenpeace UK political adviser Paul Keenlyside said the the government's backing for giving enforcement powers to a new environmental watchdog to be established after Brexit was "good news." he went in to say ministers had "missed a chance to reaffirm the watchdog's independence, and they should correct this at the earliest opportunity."Beyond 'having regard' for environmental principles, ministers should also be required to act according to them," said Keenlyside.