Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation
Monday 25 February 2002
[Mr. John Cummings in the Chair]
Draft Adjacent Waters Boundaries (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 and Draft Sea Fisheries (Northerin Ireland) Order 2002
The Chairman: I am aware that there have been problems with the distribution of the map that should have been appended to the explanatory note. However, I am advised that the map is for illustrative purposes only and does not form part of the order. The order was laid correctly, and it is therefore in order for us to discuss it.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Desmond Browne): I beg to move that the Committee has considered the draft Adjacent Waters Boundaries (Northern Ireland) Order 2002.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Sea Fisheries (Northern Ireland) Order 2002.
Mr. Browne: Mr. Cummings, I welcome you to our deliberations this evening. Although there is something distinctly fishy about both of the orders, I hope that they are not fishy enough to detain us for long. The draft Adjacent Waters Boundaries (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 was laid before the House on 7 February. Its effect is to determine the Northern Ireland zone for the purposes of section 98 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. In doing so it establishes the boundaries between the parts of the sea within sea fishery limits that are to be treated as adjacent to Northern Ireland and those parts that are not to be so treated. A substantial part of the order mirrors the boundary within the Scottish zone that was created under the Scottish Adjacent Boundaries Order 1999.
Within the Northern Ireland zone, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will exercise the powers relating to fisheries to be devolved to it from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under the Sea Fisheries (Northern Ireland) Order 2002.
Before detailing those powers, I shall refer to the map that has been provided, rather tardily, for illustrative purposes. There was an administrative error in the production of the map and I apologise to the Committee for its late production. However, as you have pointed out, Mr. Cummings, the important aspects of the order are the co-ordinates that are set out in the schedule. Those co-ordinates, and not the illustrative map, set the extent to which the order applies.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the map is not a lot of use for our purposes? For example, due to its scale, the line is wholly inadequate. In addition, will he confirm that
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the boundary marked on it is certainly not loxodromic?
Mr. Browne: I will certainly not confirm all the things that the hon. Gentleman invites me to confirm, although I should be grateful if he would repeat his last words.
Mr. Blunt: Paragraphs (3)(a) and (3)(d) of the order explain that the boundary follows a loxodromic line joining the co-ordinates numbered, respectively, 1 to 8 and 9 to 126 in the schedule. Will the Under-Secretary explain to the Committee what loxodromic means, and confirm that the lines on the illustrative map cannot be described as loxodromic?
Mr. Browne: An illustration can always be criticised for being only an illustration, and that is what the hon. Gentleman seems to be referring to. It was never intended that the mark, which was provided for illustrative purposes, would be anything other than an illustration of the effect of the co-ordinates, which are set out in detail in the article. It is obviously open to him to draw those co-ordinates to scale on a map, which is the only way in which it can be done with precision.
I am advised that a geodesic line may be the technically accurate term, but it is not well understood. A loxodromic line was used in the order because it allows fisherman to draw the boundary on their charts using a straight line between the specified co-ordinates. If that assists the hon. Gentleman, I am glad to be able to help him.
The second order transfers functions relating to sea fisheries from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland. Although most fisheries matters were devolved to the Northern Ireland Administration, the responsibility for making some subordinate legislation remains with Ministers in the UK who are responsible for fisheries. We intend to devolve subordinate legislation, such as the licensing of fishing vessels in Northern Ireland and the rules governing their operation, the ability to legislate for technical conservation matters such as defining the mesh size of fishing nets that may be used by Northern Ireland fishing vessels and the minimum landing size of a variety of fish species. That list is intended to be illustrative, and it is not exhaustive. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 includes a provision to devolve responsibility for those fishery functions by amending certain statutes, which is all the order will achieve.
Article 3 sets out the main pieces of primary legislation to be amended, namely the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1967, the Fisheries Act 1981 and a number of other Acts relating to sea fisheries. Articles 1 to 3 set out in detail how those Acts are to be amended and which powers are to be transferred from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland. In broad terms, the order will transfer to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development functions relating to sea fishing in the Northern Ireland zone, sea fishing by Northern Ireland fishing boats and various statutory provisions relating to sea fisheries as amended by
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articles 6 and 7. I stress that that is a purely technical provision transferring functions relating to sea fisheries; no new powers are being created.
Mr. Blunt: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Cummings. I am sorry that these proceedings are more complicated than they might otherwise have been, but the Committee has not had time properly to prepare. When I received the order and had a chance to examine it, I noticed that the explanatory note states:
''The part of the sea within the British fishery limits which is to be treated as adjacent to Northern Ireland under article 3 forms the Northern Ireland zone. A map showing the line of the boundary described by article 3 for illustrative purposes only is appended to this note.''
No map was appended to the note.
Last week I instructed my office to seek out that map, but it failed to do so. The reports back to my office indicated that that map did not exist. I suspect that in response to my inquiries—I am happy to be corrected on this point if it turns out that my office has been misinformed—a map has appeared today. I made inquiries about the map in the Vote Office and the Library, and at 4.40 pm—15 minutes before our proceedings were due to commence—the Vote Office managed to obtain for me a map that had been flown in from Northern Ireland today.
Any examination of the map will plainly show that it is of little use to our proceedings; it is extremely small-scale, and the lines drawn on it are neither loxodromic nor geodesic because of its scale and the fact that it is computer-generated. The lines are simply a reflection of the quality of the printer that generated the map.
I have not the slightest idea of the situation from the map's co-ordinates, so I wanted to wait, examine the map in detail and, if necessary, seek outside advice on whether the Committee should properly assess issues such as in which parts the map has been drawn by the Government. I have not been in a position to do that, although I waited in the hope that when the map arrived, it would be of a proper scale.
Before we proceed, I invite the Committee to allow the Government to return to the House with a map to a proper scale. That would give hon. Members the opportunity to seek advice from experts who are not solely in the domain of the Government, and satisfy themselves that there are no problems with the line. I am not satisfied, and should like to move that the Committee do adjourn for enough time to consider the matter.
I beg to move that the Committee do now adjourn.
The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 8.
Division No. 1]
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Francois, Mr. Mark
Allen, Mr. Graham
Browne, Mr. Desmond
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs. Jackie
Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul
Stringer, Mr. Graham
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
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Question accordingly negatived.
Mr. Blunt: I am sorry; the result of that division has demonstrated the Government's usual contempt for this House and its ability to exercise oversight. We are simply asking for time to examine a line on a map to satisfy ourselves that it is drawn in the correct place. The Government have not produced a map within the time that they stated; the explanatory note is incorrect. It is frankly unsatisfactory that an uncontentious matter, which should nevertheless be examined by hon. Members, has been driven through in such a fashion.
It was clear from the Minister's opening statement that the technical detail escapes him, as it escapes me. I am sure that he does not know the difference between a loxodromic and a geodesic line. If he is kind enough to give the definition of a loxodromic line, the Committee will be delighted to hear it.
Mr. Browne: I thought that I had explained the difference, but I will do so again more simply. A loxodromic line is drawn in a straight line between two co-ordinates, whereas a geodesic line, as I understand it, is intended to follow the curve of the earth and may come out curved.
Loxodromic lines are used in this case because they were used in the Scottish order and will fit perfectly with the line that was drawn in the Scottish zone. That is simple enough. If the hon. Gentleman had sought that simple information, he could have had his expert draw the line on an Admiralty map or any other map in order to be satisfied. It is just a question of going from one co-ordinate to another.