Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill

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Mr. Meacher: As the hon. Gentleman has just stated, the new clause requires the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to prepare codes, and applies section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Although we would look favourably on a need to produce guidance on the operation of the Bill, we consider that repeating the provisions of section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act is unnecessary, and a simple provision requiring the Secretary of State to issue guidance would suffice.

Guidance issued under section 33 cannot be easily revised, because it has to go through the unusual process of approval and debate by both Houses of Parliament. The modern practice—under a modernising Government, I hope—is to undertake full public consultation before laying such codes for annulment. If we propose an amendment relating to guidance, we are likely to opt for a simpler procedure. Where guidance on a Bill such as this is issued by Ministers, I can assure the Committee, not least after all the discussion that we have had this morning, that a draft would be issued only following full public consultation, including consultation with the conservation agencies and other Government Departments. On that basis, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

Mr. Simon Thomas: I thank the Minister and am grateful for what he has said, because I was becoming rather concerned that the code of guidance for the National Assembly for Wales would have to be set by the two Houses of this Parliament. The course that he has set out seems to be very appropriate. Will he say something about the present codes for the habitat directive sites, Natura sites and others? Does he intend to codify the codes?

The Chairman: Order. That is not strictly relevant to the new clause. However, if the Minister wishes to respond, I shall allow him to do so.

Mr. Meacher: The best thing is to say that I shall look into that, because it is a technical question. Our intention is not to go in for general codification, but I shall consider the general point made by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and write to him.

I, too, crave your indulgence, Mr. Gale, to respond to a question that was raised on an earlier clause by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), because this might be the last time that I speak in this Committee. He asked a fair question about the degree of overlap. It is difficult to judge without full assessment of the potential number of MSSIs. We expect a limited overlap with European marine sites, because those are usually designated to protect species and habitats different from those likely to be covered by MSSIs. However, the potential for overlap with coastal SSSIs is greater and requires more consideration.

We are concerned about the question of overlap and want to limit the complexity involved. We shall give full consideration to avoiding the problems that can arise from overlap, but we think that they will be limited. I am grateful for your indulgence, Mr. Gale.

Mr. Randall: I am not surprised to be given such an answer, and I am happy to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: I thank members of the Committee for the courtesy and good humour with which they have conducted today's deliberations. On their behalf, I thank all the Officers of the House for their assistance, without which our work would be difficult, if not impossible.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at nine minutes past Twelve o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. Roger (Chairman)
Barker, Mr.
Chapman, Sir Sydney
Clark, Mrs. Helen
George, Andrew
Jones, Mr. Jon Owen
Meacher, Mr.
Palmer, Dr.
Quinn, Lawrie
Randall, Mr.
Robathan, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Simon
Tipping, Paddy

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