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Session 2008 - 09
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Public Bill Committee Debates
Marine and Coastal Access Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. Roger Gale, Mr. Greg Pope
Ainger, Nick (Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire) (Lab)
Benyon, Mr. Richard (Newbury) (Con)
Brown, Mr. Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
George, Andrew (St. Ives) (LD)
Gilroy, Linda (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op)
Irranca-Davies, Huw (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Jones, Mr. David (Clwyd, West) (Con)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab)
McKechin, Ann (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)
Salter, Martin (Reading, West) (Lab)
Swire, Mr. Hugo (East Devon) (Con)
Walker, Mr. Charles (Broxbourne) (Con)
Watkinson, Angela (Upminster) (Con)
Whitehead, Dr. Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
Williams, Mr. Roger (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD)
Wright, David (Telford) (Lab)
Chris Shaw, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 30 June 2009


[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair]

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [Lords]

10.30 am
The Chairman: Before we begin, given the weather, hon. Members may remove their jackets, or other such items of attire so as still to allow a sense of decorum. I cannot speak for my fellow Chairmen, but that ruling prevails while I am in the Chair. I have a few housekeeping announcements. All Members should ensure that mobile phones, pagers and BlackBerrys are turned off or switched to silent during Committee sittings. I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the Room. Adequate notice should be given of amendments if they are to be eligible for selection: for a Tuesday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the rise of the House the previous Thursday; and for a Thursday sitting, they must be tabled by the previous Monday. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairmen will not call manuscript or starred amendments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 30 June) meet—
(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 30 June
(b) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 2 July;
(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 7 July;
(d) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 9 July;
(e) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 14 July;
(f) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 16 July;
(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 44 to 47; Schedule 5; Clauses 48 to 51; Schedule 6; Clauses 52 to 64; new Clauses relating to Part 3; new Schedules relating to Part 3; Clauses 65 to 97; Schedule 7; Clauses 98 to 112; Schedules 8 and 9; Clauses 113 to 115; new Clauses relating to Part 4; new Schedules relating to Part 4; Clauses 116 to 144; Schedule 10; Clauses 145 and 146; Schedules 11 and 12; Clauses 147 and 148; Schedule 13; new Clauses relating to Part 5; new Schedules relating to Part 5; Clause 1; Schedules 1 and 2; Clauses 2 to 39; Schedule 3; Clause 40; new Clauses relating to Part 1; new Schedules relating to Part 1; Clauses 41 to 43; Schedule 4; new Clauses relating to Part 2; new Schedules relating to Part 2; Clauses 149 to 179; Schedule 14; Clauses 180 to 188; new Clauses relating to Part 6; new Schedules relating to Part 6; Clauses 189 to 196; Schedule 15; Clauses 197 to 227; Schedule 16; Clauses 228; new Clauses relating to Part 7; new Schedules relating to Part 7; Clauses 229 to 243; Schedule 17; Clauses 244 to 271; Schedule 18; Clauses 272 to 289; new Clauses relating to Part 8; new Schedules relating to Part 8; Clauses 290 to 296; Schedule 19; Clauses 297 and 298; Schedule 20; Clauses 299 to 304; new Clauses relating to Part 9; new Schedules relating to Part 9; Clauses 305 to 309; Schedule 21; Clauses 310 to 315; Schedule 22; Clauses 316 to 319; remaining new Clauses; remaining new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) the proceedings on the Bill shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 16 July.
May I say, Mr. Gale, what I delight it is to serve under your stewardship on such an important Committee? The Bill has been long awaited by many, not only in this House, but in the other place, where it has progressed and been improved through several months of intense scrutiny. The Programming Sub-Committee’s debate on agreeing the way forward for scrutiny of the Bill reflected the collaborative approach that was adopted in the other place and that, I hope, will prevail in the Committee as we proceed with the Bill. We have tried strenuously to avoid the necessity of putting in knives and guillotines in order to have a free-flowing debate, and I think that we now have, in a much improved Bill, ample opportunity to get right to the core of what it is about.
I particularly welcome the agreed approach to getting to the meat of the Bill and to the planning, licensing and conservation aspects before proceeding to other matters. We also plan to reserve sufficient time towards the later part of our discussions in Committee to look in depth at coastal access. I hope and anticipate that the spirit of constructive engagement will continue throughout our deliberations.
I would like simply to reiterate what the Bill is about: our relationship with the seas and the coastal environment. That is critical to us as a nation, but it also sets the scene on how we as a nation intend to lead in what we do for our marine and coastal environments. I would like to repeat my thanks not only to Members in this House and in the other place who have contributed to an excellent debate so far, but to the 15,000 or so members of other organisations who responded to the consultation on the Bill, for which they have been waited for some years. We could say that it has effectively taken six years of pre-legislative scrutiny to bring us to the Committee today.
I look forward to a constructive engagement through the course of our deliberations and hope that we can give the Bill a good debate at all stages. We on this side of the Committee are certainly willing to give it extra time and to go late into the evenings, with your approval, Mr Gale, to ensure that we have adequate time for discussion.
Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): I would like to echo the Minister’s welcome to you, Mr. Gale, and look forward to your help and guidance throughout this process. As he said, there have been lengthy discussions on the Bill in another place, but I hope that the programme motion will allow us to tease out a few key areas of debate to improve the Bill. For many people who have contacted us, the key aspect is the establishment of marine conservation zones and the nature conservation elements in the Bill. We obviously welcome some changes made in another place, such as the inclusion of the words “ecologically coherent”, if not in the Bill itself, then in the statement laid before the House. Such changes are most welcome, but there are areas where we need time to clarify just how those conservation zones will be achieved and in what time scale. There are many other aspects of the Bill that we will cover in the meat of our debates, as the Minster said.
Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): May I, too, welcome you, Mr. Gale, to our proceedings as one of our Chairmen until we rise on 16 July, as I assume we will use all the time available to us? Although I entirely agree with the Minister and the hon. Member for Newbury on the need for further probing and fine tuning, basically we are pretty happy with the Bill and its general direction. If it were implemented tomorrow, we would be pleased and proud with what we already have.
However, a number of issues need to be teased out further. I am sure that the Minister accepts that industries with interest in the marine resource and conservation bodies want reassurance on a number of issues that need clarification. I hope we will retain the co-operative and consensual approach which has been a feature of the debates on the Bill so far.
The Minister and I have a great deal in common. We are both Celts and we share a medical condition in which we take an interest. The Minister also owes me a favour because I helped him out when he was found without any trousers one day—more of which we will debate as the Committee proceeds. Beyond that, Mr. Gale, I hope not to take advantage of the favour the Minister owes me.
I hope we will persuade the Minister on a number of issues during debate on the Bill. I also hope the Minister will not approach the measure with the intention—as is often the case with Government Bills—of defending to the hilt the Government’s red lines, irrespective of the strength of the arguments. I hope rather that he will approach it with an open mind, listen to the strength of the arguments, be prepared to compromise and accept that fine tuning might result in further amendments to the Bill.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): I was going to say how much I was looking forward to serving on the Committee but the prospect of continued medical bonding between the hon. Member for St. Ives and the Minister is too horrible to contemplate. I hope that is the last we hear of it, Mr. Gale. I am sure you will clamp down on that kind of nonsense.
I reiterate that this is an excellent piece of legislation, and I welcome the commitment to the broad principles given by both Opposition parties. Many other Members and I worked closely with the Minister and his predecessor Ministers to see the legislation reach the stage it does today. I put on the record a slight concern, for the Minister’s ears in particular. A number of us—particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test and for Plymouth, Sutton, the hon. Member for Broxbourne and myself—worked long and hard on the Joint Committee. The Bill has been the subject of extensive scrutiny, and the work of the Joint Committee must not be mothballed, it has to be a point of reference. There might be times when, on an all-party basis, we will come up against Whitehall red lines, but going back to some of the deliberation that took place in the Joint Committee might give the Minister strength to push back some of the red lines that need to be a little less starkly drawn, particularly on nature conservation and sea fisheries issues that we will discuss. However, the programme motion is broadly sensible, and I think that we can meet the timetable we have set ourselves, precisely because of the extensive scrutiny that both Houses have already had the opportunity to engage in.
Question put and agreed to.
The Chairman: Before we proceed, there is another housekeeping issue, mainly for the benefit of the Officers of the House. I am conscious that there is considerable public interest in the Bill, and, as always, we have managed to find the largest Committee Room with the smallest Public Gallery. I am also aware that there might be some people representing lobbying organisations who will wish to be here for most, if not all, of the Bill proceedings. If those people would quietly identify themselves to the Officer on duty—I am not allowed to see the Gallery from here—I personally have no objection to their sitting in the Press Gallery, which, as you will note, is unoccupied.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chairman, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Huw Irranca-Davies.)

Clause 44

Marine policy statement
Mr. Benyon: I beg to move amendment 9, in clause 44, page 27, line 2, leave out ‘contributing to’ and insert ‘furthering’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 29, in clause 44, page 27, line 16, at end insert—
‘(4A) In this Part “sustainable development” means the maintenance or enhancement of the purposes underlying the designation of the MCZ, in accordance with section 117.’.
Amendment 1, in clause 2, page 2, line 5, leave out ‘making a contribution to the achievement of’ and insert
‘taking reasonable steps, consistent with the proper exercise of its functions to further’.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the MMO has a duty to ‘further’ sustainable development. This gives the MMO a sufficiently robust objective to be responsible for ‘furthering’ and not just ‘making a contribution to the achievement of’ sustainable development.
Amendment 2, in clause 2, page 2, line 24, leave out ‘contribution to the achievement of’ and insert ‘furthering of’.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the MMO has a duty to ‘further’ sustainable development. This gives the MMO a sufficiently robust objective to be responsible for ‘furthering’ and not just ‘making a contribution to the achievement of’ sustainable development.
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Prepared 1 July 2009