'I want to open our environment to new people' - Defra Secretary

Posted On: 
3rd February 2016

Environment Secretary Liz Truss calls for the modernisation of Defra and an open data revolution across Whitehall.

Speaking at the Institute for Government on Monday, Environment Secretary Liz Truss said efficiencies in government were needed to increase productivity and meet the challenges of climate change and global competition.

“I want Defra to be leading the way in the next phase of change and I believe the four key principles are about government being more integrated, more open, more modern and more local,” she said.

Truss highlighted recent developments in Defra to integrate back office functions such as HR between its various agencies and arms-length bodies. She restated the importance of the independent regulatory functions of bodies such as the Environment Agency and AHDB, but said sharing HR, IT and communications would release resources for frontline services.

Truss said this, along with efficiency programmes such as the Single Farm Inspection taskforce, meant by 2020 Defra “will have swept away £470m worth of unnecessary costs for businesses”.

She added that tools being designed by the new Environment Analysis Unit and the Natural Capital Committee would “give a consistent framework for people to take decisions nationally and locally” by facilitating natural capital accounting in areas such as woodland planting and flood management. In this vein, she said three pathfinder projects would be started later in the year, with one on the coast, one in an urban setting and one in a large rural landscape.

She underlined her desire to open up national parks to more visitors which she said were a “massive asset”, employing 10% of their workforce via apprenticeship schemes.

Taking questions from the floor, Truss refused to be drawn on Brexit in response to the Green Alliance, simply restating the PM was “making good progress” in negotiations and it was “premature” to comment.

Responding to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, she said Defra was looking to see how it could open up data and work with other organisations such as CPRE and wildlife groups, mooting the possibility of taking roadshows around the UK.

“Together we can create the smarter, leaner state that will deliver the results for Britain.”

For more information on Defra and environmental issues please contact Dods Monitoring's environment specialist Arpinder Baryana at 
Arpinder.Baryana@dods.co.ukor on 0207 593 5698.