Reviews but little action

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The Independent Online
The harsh truth about Labour in government and the environment is that this is a second-tier issue. While promises were made that this would be "the greenest government ever", economic growth, cutting employment, and using any revenue increase available to improve education and the health service all get higher priority. That, after all, is what the voters want.

But ministers have moved rapidly to start implementing manifesto promises on the environment. Among the most significant could be the creation of a new parliamentary "green audit" committee similar to the powerful Public Accounts Committee, with a broad remit to inquire into progress on sustainable development.

The new government promised a far better working relationship with Europe, but it has just suffered a defeat over animal rights in its attempt to ban the use of steel-jawed leghold traps by the fur trade.

Joining environment and transport together in one "superministry" headed by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott seems, so far, to be a win for the environment in the scaling down of the road-building programme. But despite Mr Prescott's intention to shift people from their cars to public transport, little has so far been done to facilitate change. London Transport remains underfunded, bus wars still erupt and ministers have yet to fulfil their pledge to re-regulate the railways.

Most announcements so far concern policy reviews. These signal that the Government cares about an issue without actually having to do anything - apart from think and plan - for many months.

Nicholas Schoon and

Randeep Ramesh