Prescott sharpens axe for `timid' pollution chief

MINISTERS are trying to get rid of Britain's pollution watchdog for not making life difficult enough for them. They believe Lord de Ramsey, a land-owner and hereditary peer, is too timid in championing the environment.

In a highly unusual move, the Environment Minister Michael Meacher summoned him earlier this month to try to persuade him to resign as chairman of the Environment Agency. John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, also wants him to go. Another attempt to get him to quit is said to be made shortly.

The 56-year-old Winchester-educated baron, a friend and neighbour of John Major, who was appointed to the newly created job during his premiership, has come under sustained fire this autumn for his running both of the agency and of his estate at Abbots Ripton, near Huntingdon. A former chairman of the Country Landowners' Association - paid pounds 52,000 a year for a two- and-a-half day week - he has nearly two years to go of his five-year term at Britain's biggest quango which is responsible for control of both pollution and flooding.

In September, Friends of the Earth called for Lord de Ramsey to be sacked after he let part of his land to be used to test genetically modified beet and sold some for housing.

Last month five MPs called for his resignation after an independent report condemned the agency for its "poor" handling of the Easter floods disaster in the Midlands.

He has also been criticised for receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds in subsidies from the European Union without declaring his interest as a farmer in the House Of Lords register of members' interests.

But environment ministers are mainly concerned that he has failed to put enough pressure on them and to make the agency into a tough enough champion for green issues. Agriculture ministers are also unenthusiastic.

Tony Juniper, deputy campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The agency under his leadership is a pale shadow of what it should be." It had "a highly patchy record" of prosecuting polluters.

Lord de Ramsey declined to comment but the agency defended its record, saying that prosecutions had increased. Spokeswomen said he had declared an interest as a farmer when he had spoken in the Lords, but was not required to do so in the register. The genetically modified beet covered only a small area and the housing was of a high standard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral