In the news: Barbara Young

February 1, 2002

The chief executive of the Environment Agency, Barbara Young, this week welcomed the watershed report into food production and farming that called for reform of the European Union's common agricultural policy.

The report, by the Policy Commission on the future of farming and food, wants subsidies to be redirected from producing crops to protecting the countryside. Baroness Young of Old Scone said the independent report presented a "real opportunity" for agriculture and urged farmers to "really look at this report closely".

Since taking post in December 2000, Baroness Young has overseen two winters of serious flooding in parts of the country. During this time, she has sought to strengthen the Environment Agency's powers, campaigning for increased fines for pollution offences. She has described the fines handed out by magistrates' courts as "piffling" and said: "The message I draw is that environmental crime doesn't count."

A central problem remains for the Environment Agency. Strictly speaking, it is responsible for the wider environment, pollution from industry, water quality and sea defences. But there has been widespread debate over whether it is there to apply existing legislation or to champion environmental causes. Baroness Young argues that the agency's primary role is to enforce existing legislation.

A high-profile Labour supporter, Baroness Young conducts her work from the 25th floor of Millbank Tower, also home to the Labour Party.

Her previous work as chairman of English Nature singled her out as a forceful environmentalist. She was also chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for eight years.

Before that, her background was in health.

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