IMPLEMENTATION AND OVERSIGHT
301. We asked witnesses who should implement and
oversee a marine strategy in the UK. The NERC Chief Executive
suggested that the "marine strategy would feed into [the
Defra minister for marine affairs], and a body like ERFF or IACMST
could orchestrate the scientific component, and perhaps have a
wider feed into the policy area".
We agree with this two level approach. On a day to day level the
marine science strategy would be best implemented and managed
by an executive body such as the agency advocated throughout this
Report or by a successor body to the IACMST, with substantially
greater powers, reporting to a Government minister. Which minister
was a matter of debate during our inquiry. Dr Vincent of the JNCC
told us that "there is a certain lack of clarity, at least
I am not very clear, as to which minister is responsible for marine
science in the sense that the portfolio seems to shift backwards
and forwards between the Defra Minister and what was the Office
of Science and Innovation".
He suggested that if this were clarified, the relevant minister
should then give "a much greater policy steer or support"
to the IACMST.
In oral evidence, the Government witnesses were confident about
the position. Jonathan Shaw MP told us "I am the Minister
for Marine Science".
However, the same panel of witnesses suggested that the champion
for marine science should be the Defra CSA and not the Minister.
302. On marine issues, more generally, the lead department
is generally Defra but many others have an interest in marine
issues and the Department for Transport is co-ordinating policy
on the European maritime Green Paper, which gives a dual focus
within Government for marine and maritime matters. Defra told
us that this is because of the Department of Transport's lead
role on maritime transport which is "the key component of
the Green Paper".
Given that the Green Paper covers a far broader spectrum of activities
than transport, we believe that the role taken by the Department
for Transport is more of a historical accident and should be reconsidered.
303. We agree with witnesses that Defra
is the most appropriate department to take responsibility for
the marine strategy and to host the champion for marine science.
We believe that it is essential for a Minister, rather than a
Chief Scientific Adviser, to take charge of the marine strategy
in order to give marine science a sufficiently high profile across
Government. This would also increase accountability to Parliament
for the development and implementation of the new strategy. Appointing
a Defra Minister as champion for marine science and maritime strategy
would require some realignment of responsibilities within Whitehall
but could lead to a stronger voice for marine issues on the international
stage as well as at home. It is unacceptable that responsibility
for the greatest geographical area in the UK (its seas) should
be a minor part of a junior ministerial portfolio.
304. We recommend that the UK Government develop
a strategy for marine science, setting out priorities for fulfilment
in the next ten years and identifying how these will be met. This
strategy should be developed in full and open consultation with
the science community, the private sector and all those with an
interest in the health and exploitation of the oceans, including
those involved in education. We further recommend that the marine
science strategy be part of a larger holistic strategy or plan
for maritime affairs, covering the range of uses of the sea, current
and future. The priorities and objectives in this strategy should
be underpinned by scientific data and evidence. We recommend that
the strategies be the day to day responsibility of a new marine
agency, an executive body with powers to require the co-operation
of Government departments. At the top of this new structure, we
recommend the designation of a Minister for Marine Science within
Defra, who should act as the Government champion for the whole
305. Under this new arrangement, it would be illogical
to leave the Department for Transport in charge of Government
policy on the European maritime Green Paper. We recommend that
this responsibility be passed to the new marine agency.