"Green Book" promised for next year's Budget

The Government has confirmed that it will not be publishing a "Green Book" on the environmental consequences of its first Budget - but has promised to do so for next spring's Budget.

Labour's environmental policy blueprint, In Trust for Tomorrow, published in 1994, committed the party to publishing a Green Book to accompany the conventional Red Book which elaborates on the Chancellor's Budget statement (ENDS Report 233, pp 3-5 ).

No Green Book was published for Labour's first Budget in July, and the Government left itself open to criticism by quantifying the environmental implications of only a few measures while failing to do so for negative features such as the reduction in VAT on domestic energy and the abolition of the gas levy.

On 18 July, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Dawn Primarolo, brushed off a written parliamentary question about when a Green Book would be published by saying that the Budget "was not a full Budget".

However, on 10 July, former Environment Minister Tim Yeo teased Ms Primarolo during oral questions in the Commons by asking "why, when an official front-bench Labour spokesman before the general election promised that, alongside the Budget Red Book, a Green Book would be published, setting out the Budget's environmental consequences, has no such book appeared?"

Ms Primarolo will have been familiar with the issue because she herself tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill in March 1996 which would have required the publication of a Green Book. The amendment failed, but not before she said that "it is time that, having preached to industry [about environmental reporting], the Government put their own house in order and began the process of economic assessment and environmental protection" (ENDS Report 254, p 32 ).

Replying to Mr Yeo, Ms Primarolo said: "We have every intention of keeping that promise [to publish a Green Book] from the first full Budget."

The timing of a future Green Book remains uncertain. In 1990, Labour's then junior Treasury spokesman, Chris Smith, tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which would have required the Chancellor to prepare an environmental assessment of each clause of the Bill. This approach was transmuted by In Trust for Tomorrow into a commitment to publish a Green Book "alongside" the Red Book.

However, Ms Primarolo's amendment to last year's Finance Bill would not have required publication of a Green Book until at least seven months after the Budget - arguably weakening the pressure imposed on the Treasury by the other two approaches to think through the environmental implications of the Budget in advance.

Also unclear is the scope of future Green Books - in particular, whether they will address only the overtly environmental measures in the Budget or mainstream policies as well. Inter-departmental discussions on this issue are believed to be under way.

Separately, the Government has been urged - in particular by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-wing think tank - to establish a Green Tax Commission to provide ideas for environmental tax reform. Ms Primarolo announced on 18 July that it has "no present plans" to do so, and will instead consult on potential environmental taxes "on a case by case basis".

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