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New Clause 9

Denotification in relation to european marine sites

'(1) If any part of a marine site of special interest ceases to be included in such a site because it is included in a European marine site, the appropriate nature conservation body must notify—
(a) the confirming authority;
(b) so far as reasonably practicable, each competent marine authority which exercises functions in relation to the site;
(c) any other competent marine authority which in the opinion of the body should be notified;
(d) any other person who the body is directed by the confirming authority to notify.
(2) The body must also publish the notification, on as many occasions as the confirming authority may direct, in—
(a) the London Gazette;
(b) at least one local newspaper circulating in an area near to the site; and
(c) such other publication as the confirming authority may direct.
(3) A notification under this section has effect from the date on which it is published in the London Gazette.'.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Application to crown

'(1) This Act binds the Crown, except that nothing in this Act affects Her Majesty in her private capacity.
(2) Byelaws made under section 6 may apply to Crown land only if the appropriate authority (within the meaning of section 101(11) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (1949 c. 97)) consents.
(3) Crown land means land an interest in which—
(a) belongs to Her Majesty in the right of the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster;
(b) belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall;
(c) belongs to a government department; or
(d) is held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department.
(4) The Crown is not criminally liable as a result of any provision made by or under this Act.
(5) Subsection (4) does not affect the application of any provision made by or under this Act in relation to persons in the public service of the Crown.'.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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12.30 pm

Mr. Meacher: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

It is customary for a Bill to be specific about the extent to which it applies to the Crown, and the new clause provides the necessary explanation. It indicates that the Bill shall bind the Crown but that the Crown should not be criminally liable, and that includes liability under byelaws, which may only be made on Crown land with the consent of the appropriate authority. It defines what constitutes Crown land, using a definition akin to that in section 67 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The new clause deals with an important aspect of the Bill because most of the sea bed in territorial waters belongs to the Crown, and both Departments and persons holding office under the Crown are defined as competent marine authorities in the amended Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 1

Marine sites of special interest

Amendment made: No. 30, in page 1, line 1, leave out Clause 1.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Clause 2

Duty to compile and maintain a register of marine sites of special interest

Mr. Meacher: I beg to move amendment No. 31, in page 3, line 18, leave out from beginning to "available" in line 20 and insert—

'(1) Each appropriate nature conservation body must maintain, in such form as it thinks fit, a register of marine sites of special interest.
(2) The register under subsection (1) must include the co–ordinates of each marine site of special interest and a chart illustrating its boundaries.
(3) A copy of the register maintained under subsection (1) must be'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 53, in page 3, line 21, at end insert—

'in a land–based location as conveniently near as is reasonably practicable to the marine site of special interest.'.

Mr. Meacher: The purpose of the amendment is to make drafting improvements to clause 2, which relates to the duty of the nature conservation bodies to compile and maintain a register of marine sites of special interest. It also adds the need for the register to include the co-ordinates of each site and a chart illustrating site boundaries to ensure that they are clearly identifiable.

A copy of the register must be available for public inspection. It is reasonable to expect the appropriate nature conservation body to keep a copy at each of its local offices that cover the area relating to the MSSI. With that assurance, I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) not to press amendment No. 53 to a vote, because it is not necessary.

Mr. Randall: I am a little confused about how people who are unaware of the presence of an MSSI will be made

15 Mar 2002 : Column 1171

aware of its existence if the information is not held by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office or included on maritime charts. They might not know that they should visit the offices of English Nature or whatever. I am not suggesting that the information should be included immediately. I am not sure of the system, but perhaps it can be added when the charts are revised. In addition, why is there no duty on English Nature or the Countryside Council for Wales to notify the Hydrographic Office of the boundaries of MSSIs?

Mr. Dismore: It is important, perhaps for the same reasons as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) adumbrated, that people know where the boundaries of the marine sites are located. Having the maps in the headquarters of a nature conservation body in London is not much use if a site is off Cornwall or Yorkshire. It should not be beyond the wit of man to make the charts available in the local headquarters and on the internet so that people can look them up even if they are a long distance away.

It is important that we make every effort possible to ensure that everyone who lives, works or participates in recreational activities in an area knows where the boundaries lie. The best way to do that is to give the sites as much publicity as possible locally.

Mr. Swayne: The point is simply that such measures are desirable. We have just discussed the provisions of new clause 3 in relation to offences. An offence of damaging an MSSI is not committed if the person who does the damage does not know that the site is part of an MSSI. To provide that the information has to appear on all the available charts is elementary. There should be a duty to notify the information to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office so that it can be put on the charts.

Mr. Meacher: The debate has centred on ensuring that people have access locally to information on the existence and boundaries of the MSSI. I fully accept the points made.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge asked whether a copy of site boundaries would be shown in the Hydrographic Office, and whether that information would be placed on maritime charts. We certainly expect English Nature to forward a copy of site boundaries to the Hydrographic Office, although whether to mark the boundaries on Admiralty charts would be a matter for the Hydrographic Office. It would be helpful if that were done, but I do not think that it should be a statutory requirement.

I entirely agree that such information should be available locally. In my opening remarks I said that I certainly expect the appropriate nature conservation body to keep a copy at each of its local offices covering the area relating to the MSSI. Such provision would give persons in the vicinity who are likely to use the relevant waters a perfectly adequate opportunity to acquaint themselves fully with the fact that an MSSI is present locally and with its precise boundaries. I do not disagree with amendment No. 53, but its provisions are already covered by the Government's proposals.

Mr. Swayne: The question is simple. Would it be a defence for someone in a leisure craft who had damaged

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an MSSI by some operation, for example, by weighing anchor, to argue that there was no offence because he did not know that the area was part of an MSSI because the Admiralty chart he was using did not contain the information?

Mr. Meacher: My belief is that that would not constitute a defence because the person in question had not taken all reasonable steps to acquaint himself with the information he needed. One cannot rely with certainty on the contents of Admiralty charts, although as I said it would be helpful if the information were included. I would expect such a person to contact other bodies that could provide a guarantee and certain clarification. On that basis, I hope that Government amendment No. 31 is acceptable to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3

Competent marine authorities: duties

Mr. Dismore: I beg to move amendment No. 54, in page 3, line 24, after "take", insert "all".

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