The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is committed to transparency and openness in its work and conduct. This page contains information on the way the Office engages with Parliament and its Members, the way we carry out our investigations and the way we acquire and disclose information. It also provides a disclosure of interests held by the Commissioner.
Interaction with Parliament
The Commissioner's assistance to Parliament is his highest work priority and is governed by a Code of Practice developed through the Officers of Parliament Select Committee. This document is available for download to the right of this page.
Prior to a report being released, the Commissioner and his staff offer briefings to various affected parties. These include Ministers to whom recommendations are being made and spokespeople from other political parties. The Commissioner will also appear before Select Committee in relation to published reports and submissions made on bills, inquiries or petitions. The Commissioner will meet with any Member of Parliament to discuss environmental issues.
A wide variety of meetings between the Commissioner, his staff, and other stakeholders - including officials - take place throughout investigations.
The investigation process
The Commissioner’s role is to give independent advice to Parliament on environmental issues. Advice is generally provided in the form of reports on investigations, and submissions to select committees. More information on how we conduct our investigations is available here.
Gathering of information by the Office
The Environment Act 1986 gives the Commissioner and his employees wide powers to gather information. As a general principle, the Commissioner believes that access to information is a critical element in protecting the environment.
Consequently, in the course of his investigations, the Commissioner and his staff gather a wide range of information from both official and private sources. Technical advice may be contracted from experts, and information is gathered from people with particular knowledge of, or interest in, topics under investigation by the Commissioner.
The Commissioner has the power under section 19 of the Environment Act to require that he be provided with information not available to the general public. However, the Commissioner and his staff are required under section 20 to maintain secrecy in respect of all information gathered in the execution of their duties, “except for purposes connected with the administration of this Act or with the carrying out of the provisions of this Act”.
These provisions are designed to give members of the public or people acting in a professional capacity the confidence to speak frankly in assisting the Commissioner with his investigations. Whilst the Commissioner and his staff may use or disclose such information to carry out the Commissioner’s functions under the Environment Act 1986, they cannot do so for any other reason.
Sometimes known as "the whistle-blowers' Act", the Protected Disclosures Act came into force on 1 January 2001. It allows employees to, in some circumstances, disclose information to the Office about serious wrongdoing in or by their organisation. The Protected Disclosures Act protects people's identity where possible. It may penalise an employer who takes action against them for making a protected disclosure.
For details on what can be disclosed and how to disclose it, we recommend you refer to the Protected Disclosures Act, consider obtaining legal advice, and familiarise yourself with the information and guidance available from the Office of the Ombudsmen. You can call them on their freephone (0800 802 602) or visit their website.
If you wish to make a protected disclosure to the Commissioner, please telephone us on 04 471 1669. Ask to speak to a Director of Research and Analysis who will advise you of the next steps to take.
Access to information held by the Office
The Commissioner’s advice to Parliament generally takes two forms: reports on investigations, and submissions on bills, inquiries, petitions or sometimes policy proposals. Upon tabling or submission, all of the Commissioner’s reports and submissions are made publically available on this website.
The Commissioner is subject to the Official Information Act 1982. However, the Environment Act’s requirement that the Commissioner and his staff maintain secrecy in respect of all information gathered in the execution of their statutory duties may prevent the Office from providing such information to the public.
If you would like to request any other information from the Commissioner, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to us at PO Box 10-241, Wellington 6143.
Disclosure of interests
A disclosure of interests held by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Simon Upton, is available here.
In respect of individual investigations, the Commissioner’s staff are required to disclose to the Commissioner any potential conflicts that might be raised by the subject matter of the enquiry.