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We have for too long believed that we can take bits out of the natural order of things and protect them, and not think about the total system. I must tell the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) that to say that not knowing enough about something means that we should not do it is a very frightening concept. We
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would actually never have taken any conservation measures, because the truth is that the less we know about conservation, the more we may be doing very serious damage.

In fact, we have done a huge amount of work, as a result of which the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran has moved her amendment. The Government will have to explain extremely carefully why they do not want what is so obviously a necessary addition. Indeed, not to go for the ecosystem approach is to ignore all the sensible views of environmentalists, because the amendment would remind us of the real nature upon which the species that we are seeking to protect depend.

I hope very much that the Government, at this last moment, agree that the measure is a necessary step. If they do not accept the amendment, many people outside this place will believe that they have gone only halfway to understanding the issues before us. The measure is a natural addition and I hope that they accept it. If they do not, I hope there is a Division in which the House supports what is a crucial part of the defence of our marine habitat.

Paddy Tipping: It is a great pity that there is such a limited amount of time to talk about marine conservation. It lies at the heart of the Bill and has been discussed throughout the Bill's passage, which has been an awful long time.

Amendment 1 is about the importance of socio-economic criteria in deciding MCZs. The amendment would make it clear that socio-economic factors should be taken into account only when they are the final factor in deciding between two zones.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark) and the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) made strong cases for a network of marine sites-a holistic approach-and my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) talked in very blunt terms about science. May I draw the Minister's attention to a letter about the importance of science that her colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), who has responsibility for the marine and natural environment, wrote to the Wildlife and Countryside Link on 22 October? He said:

Ann McKechin: I confirm that we stand by every sentence in that letter.

9.45 pm

Paddy Tipping: I am grateful that the Minister has put that point on the record, because it reinforces the importance of science in the designation of MCZs. I hope that she will ensure that the four regional areas that will make MCZ proposals will look closely at her words, because a discussion of the Irish sea regional project said:

26 Oct 2009 : Column 122

and so on. That does not imply, however, that it should be science and the designation of the marine landscape that is most important. Will the Minister ensure that her words are heard by the regional bodies? In particular, will she make it clear that any draft guidance that goes to those bodies is just that-draft? I understand that the guidance on designation will be released in March next year, but not in draft form. These are important issues of great sophistication, and to issue edicts from on high without further discussion will not be helpful. However, I am grateful that the importance of science has been stressed tonight and placed firmly on the record.

Andrew George: I am disappointed and angry that this central element of the Bill has been allowed so little time. I urge Ministers to use whatever powers they have to allow us an extended debate tomorrow if at all possible.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), and I support his amendments. I also congratulate the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark). I have tabled five of the nine amendments, but I shall not detain the House too long. I also support amendments 1, 2 and 3. I know that the Minister's response to the suggestion in Committee of a more highly protected area was to say that it would create a two-tier system, but I urge her to reflect on the fact that in land use planning, there are areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks, listed buildings of various designations, article 4 directions and conservation areas-none of which diminishes the other designations.

Like the hon. Member for Sherwood, I think that the designation of MCZs should be fundamentally based in science. Yes, socio-economic factors may be taken into consideration, but they should be taken into account to a far greater extent in implementation. If the hon. Member for Great Grimsby looks at my amendments on the designation of conservation objectives within the MCZs and the byelaws that might be introduced under them, he will see that it is entirely appropriate that socio-economic factors-especially those of traditional fishing coastal communities whose livelihoods will be affected, whether to their benefit or detriment-should be considered when managing and implementing conservation policies. That balance is missing in the Bill at present. Throughout our debate on the Bill, both Ministers have perpetually argued that there is a balance to be had between socio-economic and conservation matters, but it applies only with a "may" in relation to the designation. Beyond that, socio-economic factors are entirely ignored.

Mr. MacNeil: One minor point is that the science is often not unchallengeable, but the question that often arises, particularly in my coastal area, is who commissions it. There is an inequality of resources available to fishing communities to challenge the science, which is often driven by conservation bodies.

Andrew George: That is a fair point, but on the other hand scientists increasingly depend on fishermen to gather their science. There is an increasing coming together of scientists and fishermen to glean a far better understanding of what is happening in marine conservation.
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Indeed, that is one of the fundamental raisons d'être for finding sanctuary around the south-west coast. However, unless it is entirely peer reviewed there will inevitably be debate about the science, so I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman says.

I will bring my remarks to a close now. What is missing from the Bill is a balance that allows socio-economic factors to underpin the implementation of conservation measures beyond designation.

Mr. Doran: I will be brief. I want to reinforce the point that a balance is important. The Bill is extremely important for our whole environment, not just the marine environment. At the same time, however, the balance has to take into account the view of stakeholders-a point that I made in the previous debate.

I am in the fortunate or unfortunate position, depending on what side of the argument one is on, of having a number of stakeholders based in my constituency. I have a fishing industry, which is mainly fish processing now, although there are still remnants of a fishing fleet. I also represent part of the European energy capital, Aberdeen, where we have the headquarters not just of the north-east European oil and gas industry, but of a part of the oil industry that now controls operations throughout Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. Developing out of that, we also have the renewables industry. Indeed, we are becoming a centre for all sorts of marine energy, including wave, tidal and offshore wind. All those views need to be taken into account and it is important that the economic and social arguments are properly understood.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I am pleased to be a signatory to amendment 3, although it is a great shame that the issue was not picked up in Committee.

Essentially, the argument is about whether the word "habitat" goes far enough in protecting our marine environment or whether it should be added to with the word "ecosystem". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "habitat" means

whereas "ecosystem" is defined as

The word "ecosystem" is used to describe natural living systems. An ecosystem consists of plants, animals and micro-organisms in an area and their functioning together in combination with the physical character of that area. Necessarily, ecosystems are frequently complex. An ecosystem includes not only the physical habitats in an area and all the species that live in them, but the full range of interactions among all the different species in an area. Amendment 3 would add a new paragraph (d) to clause 117(1). Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms are continually engaged in a set of relationships with every other element, living and non-living, in the habitat in which they live.

That has huge legal implications. Friends of the Earth has obtained legal opinion that argues that the common fisheries policy can be challenged as a result of that definition. Under EU law, the EU can forbid fishing in an area when the prohibition is for the purposes of both nature conservation and the protection of the
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marine ecosystem as a whole. Thus, if fishing were damaging the fundamental fabric of the marine ecosystem in an area and a member state wished to protect the marine ecosystem as a whole, that member state could establish a marine reserve covering that area and prohibit all damaging activity.

Mr. MacNeil: I am listening to what the hon. Gentleman is saying about ecosystems, but does he accept that they are, of necessity, dynamic with cycles of years and sometimes decades, so they are not fixed in time? Duff science often creates the understanding or belief that ecosystems are fixed in time, and are the same over years and decades.

Mr. Hollobone: I accept that ecosystems can move around. I am sure that there is scientific debate about that, but it would be nonsense to say that ecosystems must always be in the same place.

Another important point is that this part of the Bill gives Her Majesty's Government a power, but not a duty. It would remain at the Government's discretion whether to implement the law if the amendment were accepted. I see no reason why the Government should not be brave enough to accept the amendment. They would not have to implement the measure, but they would have the power to do so if they were enlightened enough to accept the amendment.

Ann McKechin: I confirm to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) that the Minister's letter of 22 October will be put in the House of Commons Library. I also confirm that the guidance on designation of MCZs will be finalised and published in March next year.

We have had an interesting short debate, and it is interesting to note that when we had the debate in Committee, it finished early. In the short time remaining, I want to talk about amendment 3. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark) to withdraw her amendment for two reasons. First, it is difficult precisely to define what the phrase

means. Secondly, it is unnecessary, given the construction of clause 117. I firmly agree with the purpose of the amendment in that we want to ensure that we take an ecosystem-based approach to creating a UK network of marine protected areas. I am pleased to assure her that the Bill provides for the ecosystem to be conserved as a whole.

It is clear from clause 117(5) that we should not interpret the provision narrowly. Sites may be designated to conserve the diversity of flora, fauna and habitat, and those features need not be rare. We may conserve sites that simply represent our marine environment. There is a vital and direct link between that provision, which relates to individual marine conservation zones, and clause 123, which places a duty on Ministers to contribute to the creation of a UK-wide network. The network must meet certain conditions, including the fact that it must contribute to the conservation and improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area.

How can the provision not relate to the ecosystem as a whole if we are bound to consider the conservation and improvement of the marine environment in the UK
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marine area? I cannot understand how, when selecting individual sites, we could ensure that the network protected sites that represent the range of features present in the UK marine area without thinking about what features and habitats are present in the UK marine area, and the extent to which they are already protected.

Linda Gilroy: Will my hon. Friend confirm that, as the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in Committee, failure to make a designation decision on the basis of scientific evidence would mean, first, that the designating authority did not take account of reasonable considerations; secondly, that they would have acted unreasonably; and, thirdly, that the decision could then be considered for judicial review?

Ann McKechin: I am pleased to confirm that that is indeed the case, and I am pleased to put that on the record.

Hon. Members will recall that in Committee the Government gave a commitment to use seven principles for creating an ecologically coherent network of sites, including representivity, replication, viability, adequacy, maximum connectivity, protection, and use of the best available evidence.

Mr. MacNeil: Will the Minister give way?

Ann McKechin: No, I have only one minute left.

My other concern about the amendment is more technical. We have had numerous debates throughout the Bill's passage both here and in the other place about definitions and the precision of language. Unfortunately, the phrase

does not define the boundaries. It does not define the boundary of an estuary or a bay, for example, or that of the North sea with the Irish sea, and does it include the North Atlantic? That is why I ask my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran to withdraw her amendment-

10 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Mr. Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the amendment be made.

The House divided: Ayes 158, Noes 246.
Division No. 230]
[10 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baldry, Tony
Baron, Mr. John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browning, Angela
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clark, Ms Katy
Conway, Derek
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David

Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Drew, Mr. David
Duddridge, James
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Herbert, Nick
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Lynne
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Chloe
Smith, Sir Robert
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walley, Joan
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Philip Hollobone and
Mr. Graham Stuart

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary

Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, rh Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris

McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Helen Jones and
Steve McCabe
Question accordingly negatived.
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