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Session 2008 - 09
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General Committee Debates
Marine and Coastal Access Bill [Lords]

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 7 July 2009


[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair]

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [Lords]

10.30 am

Clause 24

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I am delighted to serve under your stewardship once again, Mr. Gale. For the benefit of members of the Committee, I will explain the purpose of the clause. As we have discussed in previous sittings, and as was discussed at length in the other place, science and evidence more widely will be important to the Marine Management Organisation. In recognition of that importance, clause 2 puts the MMO under a duty to take into account all relevant facts and matters when making decisions, including scientific evidence, evidence relating to the social, environmental and economic elements of sustainable development and any other facts and matters that the MMO considers appropriate. To ensure that the MMO has access to scientific advice, it will be required to appoint a chief scientific adviser and establish a science advisory committee. It is worth putting that on the record once again, and I hope that members of the Committee are happy with that explanation for the purpose behind clause 24 and for the changes that have been made in the other place to strengthen it.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 25 and 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

Power to charge for services
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): I wish briefly to ask the Minister for some clarification, or at least reassurance, on the charges that might be applied, particularly with regard to clauses 25 and 26. Subsection (1) of clause 27 refers to the reasonableness of the charges, but it would be helpful if the Minister were to clarify how those who will be charged by the MMO will be reassured that those charges are reasonable, how they will be set and the basis on which they can be tested and challenged if considered unreasonable by those on whom they are imposed.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I am happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman’s query and offer some reassurance. As he knows, clause 27 will enable the MMO to make a reasonable charge for any services it provides on a cost recovery basis, so subsection (2) makes specific provision for it to charge fees for any functions it might be requested to exercise on behalf of a Welsh Minister or the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. Examples of other types of service for which the MMO might charge include making available the results of research, and providing advice, assistance or training facilities.
Charges will be based on the Government’s principles of cost recovery, as I mentioned, and proportionality, and will be linked to the cost of providing any particular service. Licence fees will vary according to a scale depending on the nature and size of the activity undertaken, so it is right to consider the issue of proportionality, which the hon. Gentleman raised. We see that as the way that the system would work. In that way, smaller enterprises carrying on small-scale activities are likely to be subject to lower fees than the larger-scale operations carried out by bigger businesses. It should be noted that the power to charge for the licences will flow from an order under part 4, rather than from clause 27. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I reassure him that there will be a scaled approach to the charges, which recognises the different scales of businesses and of activities that could be undertaken. I hope that how the charges will work is now clearer to him, and that he can take back assurances to those who raised the matter with him.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 28 to 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 3 agreed to.
Clauses 40 to 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

Exclusive economic zone and Welsh zone: consequential amendments
Huw Irranca-Davies: I beg to move amendment 22, in schedule 4, page 236, leave out from beginning of line 35 to end of line 8 on page 237.
This amendment would delete paragraphs 6 to 8 (amending the Fishery Limits Act 1976). These provisions are redundant following a decision to deal with the issue in the transfer of functions order that will be made to transfer fisheries functions in the Welsh zone to Welsh Ministers.
I am glad to set the scene. Part 2 of the Bill defines various areas to be set up, including an exclusive economic zone under clause 41. That will allow the UK to assert its rights and assume its obligations under the 1982 United Nations convention on the law of the sea and will remove inconsistencies in the current maritime zones that we claim. Areas within the British fishery limits, the renewable energy zone, the pollution zone, and the gas importation and storage zone will be replaced by the one EEZ, simplifying the UK’s management of the offshore areas and bringing the UK into line with accepted international best practice.
Clause 42 introduces the UK marine area, which defines the geographic area referred to in the Bill for the purposes of managing our waters. It defines the UK marine area in relation to the existing territorial waters— 0 to 12 nautical miles—and offshore from 12 to 200 nautical miles, or to where the UK enjoys sovereignty. The Bill also makes it clear how the “marine” works in relation to tidal action, locks and harbour basins.
Clause 43 introduces a new Welsh fisheries zone, which will encompass the territorial sea adjacent to Wales, and offshore waters from 12 nautical miles to the median line. An Order in Council will set up the zone and define the precise boundaries, which will allow fisheries management functions to be carried out seaward of the territorial waters, and will provide for simplified management. That brings Wales into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland for fisheries management.
Amendment 22 is a simple, minor, technical amendment, the purpose of which is to remove provisions amending the Fishery Limits Act 1976 to take account of the creation of the Welsh zone. Those provisions are no longer necessary, as the required changes will be achieved by a transfer of functions order, which is to be made under clause 43, transferring fisheries functions in the Welsh zone to Welsh Ministers.
Amendment 22 agreed to.
Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 149

Establishment of inshore fisheries and conservation districts
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Huw Irranca-Davies: Part 6 will replace the sea fisheries committees with new bodies in England called inshore fisheries and conservation authorities, which will have a duty to manage sea fisheries sustainably, balancing socio-economic benefits with protection of the marine environment. They will have more money and strengthened powers, but will keep local involvement in decision making. IFCAs will be very different organisations from the sea fisheries committees that they replace. Significantly, IFCAs will have a new duty to protect the marine environment and to promote its recovery from the effects of sea fisheries exploitation. In view of discussion in the other place, we have added a duty in clause 153, which states that IFCAs must take the steps that they consider necessary to contribute to achieving sustainable development.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I do not mean to catch the Minister out, but is he suggesting that our inshore waters are currently subject to unsustainable and damaging levels of exploitation?
Huw Irranca-Davies: No. That is a generalised and blanket statement that is sometimes heard, but it is inaccurate and wrong. The transition from sea fisheries committees to IFCAs will strengthen the role of those authorities to take account of sustainable exploitation. All hon. Members want to see the sustainable exploitation of our seas. That is what the IFCAs are designed to achieve and that is the purpose of my introductory remarks.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): The Minister will recall that on Second Reading other hon. Members and I raised the concerns of recreational sea anglers regarding the composition of the current sea fisheries committees, which were heavily biased towards the commercial sector. What assurances can he give the Committee that recreational sea angling, and environmental interests in general, will have stronger representation on the new IFCAs?
Huw Irranca-Davies: I confirm that it would be appropriate in many, if not all, instances to have sea fisheries interests represented on IFCAs because of the way in which they are integral to the management of the marine and fisheries environment in their areas. The Bill certainly allows for that, so I am very pleased to give my hon. Friend that assurance.
Martin Salter: Can I invite the Minister to correct himself? Did he not mean that it would be appropriate to have recreational sea anglers represented on IFCAs?
Huw Irranca-Davies: The correction is absolutely right; my apologies for that.
In terms of membership, there will be statutory seats on each IFCA for the Environment Agency, Natural England and the MMO. Around a third of seats will be allocated to single and upper-tier local authority members. The balance will be appointed by the MMO, and members with fisheries and marine environmental expertise will make up the balance. The MMO will be given guidance on appointments to ensure that the membership of IFCAs fully enables them to deliver their new duties. Funding arrangements will be strengthened.
Andrew George: The Minister has just touched on the question of membership. He will be well aware that that is an issue of great sensitivity and potential controversy, because even within the fishing industry there is not a single view or single interest. Therefore, the MMO will have to discharge its duties in regard to the selection of those representatives from the industry with a great deal of care to ensure that those conflicting interests are properly reflected. He must acknowledge that that is going to be extremely difficult to achieve in many areas.
Huw Irranca-Davies: Many aspects of the Bill, including the composition of the IFCA committees, are predicated on the idea of bringing together people whose interests are sometimes compatible and sometimes conflicting. That is always going to be challenging; I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it will be a challenge and that the MMO has to take great care to make sure that things are right. The make-up of the IFCA committees and how they carry out their duties has a lot to do—I will come on to this in a moment—with local accountability and making sure that wide interests are represented, as well as the interests of local authorities.
Martin Salter: Another issue that has been raised by environmental groups and, again, by recreational sea anglers is the presence on IFCAs of local authority representatives who also have an interest in commercial sea fishing activity. Where local authority reps or other representatives on IFCAs have other interests that may be pertinent, will they be declared? We do not want to end up with an imbalance as a result of people wearing two hats.
10.45 am
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