Press release

Public bodies announcement

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Defra has been examining its network of arm's-length bodies (ALBs) to increase accountability, improve efficiency and reduce their number and cost.

As part of the Government’s commitment to radically increase the transparency and accountability of all public services, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, today summarised plans to substantially reform a large number of public bodies and also announced further proposals.

Defra, like all other departments, has been examining its network of arm’s-length bodies (ALBs) to increase accountability, improve efficiency and reduce their number and cost. Defra had previously announced proposals regarding the future of more than 30 bodies in the summer, including the Commission for Rural Communities and the Sustainable Development Commission. Decisions on the rest of Defra’s arm’s length bodies have been published today.

The intention of Ministers is to simplify the ALB landscape, both for the department and its customers, and increase transparency and accountability. This includes restructuring the provision of scientific advice and a number of existing advisory bodies will be replaced as new arrangements are made.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“Defra’s current delivery network contains over 90 arm’s-length bodies and there have been difficult decisions to make in order to achieve the best value for money in this challenging economic climate. The announcement today confirms that the number of Defra’s arm’s length bodies will reduce by over half.

“But the changes announced today also reflect the government’s view that it should only carry out those functions which only government can do, while harnessing the power of civil society and the private sector to help deliver Defra’s objectives.”

In reaching the decisions on the future of the department’s ALBs, Ministers have been guided by the strategic objectives set out in Defra’s Structural Reform Plan which was published on 16 July:

  • to support and develop British farming and encourage sustainable food production;
  • to help to enhance the environment and biodiversity to improve quality of life; and
  • to support a strong and sustainable green economy, which is resilient to climate change.

The following changes to Defra’s public bodies have been announced today:

British Waterways will move from being a Public Corporation to a charitable body within civil society by April 2012. This decision reflects our confidence in British Waterways to work with local communities and others to build a sustainable future for the waterways under a charitable model. The move will give waterways’ users and the communities that live alongside a greater involvement in how they are managed and improve the long term financial sustainability of the waterways.

Defra has been working closely with its largest environmental arm’s length bodies - the Environment Agency and Natural England - to ensure a radical and comprehensive package of measures which will transform them into leaner, more efficient front line delivery bodies focused strongly on the Government’s ambitions for the environment and the green economy.

There will be significant change across the organisations, to create a new delivery model that is the most effective and cost-efficient way to deliver, and exert leverage, in support of the Government’s objectives. Both Environment Agency and Natural England will:
dramatically reduce their back office costs while keeping to the minimum possible reductions in delivery;

  • work more closely with other arm’s length bodies to eliminate any duplication in the work they carry out;
  • implement demonstrable culture change and lead on innovative new ways of working which embrace Localism, Big Society and an improved customer focus;
  • stop activity that Government does not need to do
  • stop policy making and lobbying activities.

We are going to abolish the statutory requirement for a number of the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission England’s regional advisory committees to ensure that we have the flexibility and level of local engagement we need. These committees will be replaced by non-statutory advisory groups, with scope to provide expert local advice where required. The new framework will be designed in close consultation with the existing committees and others to ensure the benefits of the current approach are not lost in transition. A defunct statutory committee, the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee, will also be abolished.  These changes will not affect the Environment Agency’s Regional Flood Defence Committees.

The Welsh Assembly Government is considering moving Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales to form part of a Welsh Assembly Government Environmental Body.  The Forestry Commission will be retained. The Government’s Strategic approach to forestry in England will be set out later in the Autumn when the Secretary of State intends to consult widely on proposals for reform. The Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee (HGTAC) will be abolished in law as it no longer meets.  The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board will be retained and discussions with industry about its future will be initiated, including looking at non-public sector options.

Science and advisory bodies - Recognising their excellent work for Defra, the department has reviewed the role and functions of its scientific and technical advisory bodies to determine the scope for rationalisation where it is relevant and appropriate to do so. The number of Defra’s scientific and technical advisory NDPBs is to be reduced significantly, with the majority of them becoming expert committees to the department. This will improve transparency and accountability, provide for stronger co-ordination whilst allowing Defra to have continued access to independent, authoritative and cost-effective advice to support its policies.

Defra’s Science Advisory Council will be retained as an NDPB, and will support the CSA in oversight of all relevant Defra scientific committees.  It will continue to provide independent advice and challenge to the Chief Scientific Adviser and Ministers on the science underpinning a range of Defra policies. Defra will also retain the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment and the Veterinary Products Committee as arm’s length bodies.

The following public bodies will be reconstituted as Expert Committees: Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances, Advisory Committee on Packaging, Advisory Committee on Pesticides, Air Quality Expert Group, Darwin Advisory Committee, Farm Animal Welfare Council, National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources, Pesticide Residues Committee, the Veterinary Residues Committee and the Zoos Forum.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee will be abolished and its functions transferred to the Department of Health to ensure closer working with the relevant committees on public health.

The Advisory Committee on Organic Standards will be abolished. Defra, with the agreement of the Devolved Administrations, is now the competent authority managing organic control bodies. The Animal Health and Welfare Strategy England Implementation Group and Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards have already been dissolved.

Defra is also currently reviewing the scope to transfer functions from a number of its tribunals into the Ministry of Justice’s tribunal service.

Defra has also been considering reforms to Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) which have a different status to the other bodies considered in this review. IDBs will be reformed to improve efficiency and accountability, simplify procedures, and to lay the foundations for these bodies to have a continuing and potentially wider role in their local communities.

The Secretary of State, Ministers and Defra’s Management Board have been working with Defra’s family of delivery bodies to identify how savings can be made while maintaining spending on priority areas.  The outcome of the Spending Review will be announced on 20 October and at that point we will be able to confirm further details on Defra’s plans for 2011 - 2015.

Defra will continue to look closely at its network of arm’s length bodies and further changes may be required in light of the spending review and for those bodies highlighted as currently being under consideration. We will also be working to implement the changes to our arm’s length bodies carefully and in an orderly fashion.
The final summary showing the status of all Defra’s ALBs included within the scope of the government-wide review is published below:

No Longer an NDPB / Public Corporation Merge Retain & Substantially Reform Retain Under Consideration Total

53

0

3

23

6

85*

Remaining Public Bodies after Reforms:

32

*Defra has 92 bodies in its delivery network, of which 85 were included within the scope of this review.
In addition, we are also substantially reforming  over 160 Internal Drainage Boards to improve efficiency and accountability, amend functions, and increase the involvement of local communities. Some of the regional committees belonging to the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission are also being abolished.

The full list of Defra bodies considered by this review is provided below:

**Public Body ** **Proposed Reforms **

Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances **No longer an NDPB **- Reconstitute as a committee of experts

Advisory Committee on Organic Standards **No longer an NDPB **- Abolish body and functions

Advisory Committee on Packaging **No longer an NDPB **- Reconstitute as a committee of experts

Advisory Committee on Pesticides **No longer an NDPB **- Reconstitute as a committee of experts

Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Under consideration - **Initiate debate with industry about future of body, including non-public sector options **

Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees (x16) No longer an NDPB - **Abolish bodies and functions, as previously announced **

Agricultural Land Tribunal Under consideration - **Currently considering, by the end of 2010, scope to transfer jurisdiction of this tribunal into MoJ’s tribunal service **

Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales No longer an NDPB - **Abolish and bring agricultural workers under national minimum wages legislation, as previously announced **

Agricultural Wages Committees (x15) No longer an NDPB - **Abolish bodies and functions, as previously announced **

Air Quality Expert Group No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Animal Health and Welfare Strategy England Implementation Group No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions **

British Waterways No longer a Public Corporation - **Abolish as a public corporation in England and Wales and create a new waterways charity - similar to a National Trust for the waterways **

British Wool Marketing Board Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Broads Authority Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government; but review governance and increase accountability **

Commission for Rural Communities No longer an NDPB - **Abolish and reinforce Government’s capacity to reflect rural interests in policies and programmes, as previously announced **

Committee on Agricultural Valuation No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions, as previously announced **

Commons Commissioners No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions, as previously announced **

Consumer Council for Water Under consideration - **Decision to be taken as part of OFWAT review launched on 26 August. Outcome of the review will be set out in the Water White Paper, due for publication in June 2011 **

Covent Garden Market Authority Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Darwin Advisory Committee No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Environment Agency Retain and substantially reform - **Reform through structural, process and cultural change to become a more efficient and customer focused organisation; and clarify accountabilities. Further announcements after the spending review. The Environment Agency in Wales may move to form part of a WAG Environmental Body. **

Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions **

Farm Animal Welfare Council No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Food from Britain No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions **

Forestry Commission Retain and substantially reform - **Details of reform will be set out by Defra later in the autumn as part of the Government’s strategic approach to forestry in England. The Forestry Commission in Wales may move to form part of a WAG Environmental Body. **

Gangmasters Licensing Authority Retain - **Retain on grounds of impartiality **

Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel Retain - **Retain on grounds of impartiality **

Inland Waterways Advisory Council No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions, as previously announced **

Internal Drainage Boards (x 160) Retain and substantially reform - **Improve efficiency and accountability, amend functions, and increase the involvement of local communities **

Joint Nature Conservation Committee Retain - **Retain on grounds of impartiality **

Marine Management Organisation Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of government **

National Forest Company Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of government **

National Parks Authorities (x9) Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of government; but review governance and increase accountability **

National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Natural England Retain and substantially reform - **Reform through structural, process and cultural change to become a more efficient and customer focused organisation; and clarify accountabilities. Further announcements after the spending review **

OFWAT Retain - **Review launched 26 August to ensure it is fit for future challenges. The outcome of the review will be set out in the Water White Paper, due for publication in June 2011 **

Pesticide Residues Committee No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal Under consideration - **Currently considering, by the end of 2010, scope to transfer jurisdiction of this tribunal into MoJ’s tribunal service **

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and functions as previously announced **

Science Advisory Council Retain - **Retain on grounds of independence, and broaden remit to strengthen co-ordination of all Defra science advice **

Sea Fish Industry Authority Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Sea Fish Licence Tribunal Under consideration - **Currently considering, by the end of 2010, scope to transfer jurisdiction of this tribunal into MoJ’s tribunal service **

Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee No longer an NDPB - **Abolish body and transfer functions to Department of Health **

Sustainable Development Commission Under consideration - **Future of body currently being considered in light of Defra’s decision to withdraw funding at end of 2010/11; as previously announced **

Veterinary Products Committee Retain - **Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government **

Veterinary Residues Committee No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **

Zoos Forum No longer an NDPB - **Reconstitute as a committee of experts **