Howard takes greenery to market

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The Independent Online
A green initiative is being planned by Michael Howard, the Secretary of State for the Environment, after a Whitehall battle over his proposed new environmental agency.

He is said to have won a dispute with John Gummer, the Minister of Agriculture, over the responsibilities ceded by the National Rivers Authority to the DoE-sponsored body.

Mr Howard is planning an enlarged Environment Bill and has appointed a senior civil servant to examine methods of using the market to encourage green practices. That could mean the advent of tradeable permits, which force companies to buy exemptions from pollution controls, and an increase in the cost of landfill sites.

However, some DoE sources are cautious about the likely speed or progress, arguing that any such moves would require approval from the Treasury and a Finance Bill.

The wrangle over the powers of the new environment agency has been a source of Whitehall tension since its announcement by the Prime Minister last year. No official statements had defined how many of the rivers authority's functions would go to the DoE.

Mr Gummer had wanted to keep all functions except pollution control. But a deal, believed to favour Mr Howard, was brokered by the Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Wakeham, and has been put to the Prime Minister for final approval. The Ministry of Agriculture will still have a policy role in the agency in the areas for which it is currently responsible, such as flood prevention.