1.The Committee has asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for a memorandum on the following point:
Summarise the objections made to the increases in the hourly fee rate and the new travel fee referred to in paragraph 8.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum and, in particular, identify whether any consultees asserted that the new fees are above reasonable cost recovery rates.
2.There were 76 responses to the consultation. The “Summary of responses and Government response” dated June 2018 (the Government response) summarises the comments made by respondents. The section entitled “Question C: Do you have any views on the proposed changes to the fees structure for marine licence applications and the proposed level of fees for Band 2 and Band 3 applications?” summarises the comments made in relation to the new hourly fee rate and the new travel fee. There were 61 responses to this question.
3.19 respondents of the 61 who replied to this question made no comment in relation to the increase in the hourly rate.
4.Eight respondents out of 61 commented that they understood the need to increase the hourly rate to ensure that fees reflect the actual cost of determining a licence application.
5.12 respondents out of 61 strongly objected to the proposed increase in the fee rate from £94 per hour to £122 per hour.
a) Four respondents commented that the revised hourly rate is comparable to or in excess of that charged for similar commercial activity, with one respondent commenting that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is over-valuing staff time.
b) Two respondents commented that the 30% increase in the fee rate would be well above the rate of inflation.
c) The other five respondents provided more general comments about the scale of the increase and suggested that it was too high.
6.The remaining respondents who replied to this question made comments in relation to issues other than the level of the increase in the hourly rate.
7.13 respondents of the 61 who replied to this question provided comments on the new travel fee. (Comments on the hourly rate element of the travel fee are summarised in the “Hourly Rate” section above.)
a) Two respondents were concerned about the lack of a cap on travel expenses.
b) Four respondents raised concerns about paying for staff time whilst they were travelling to meetings, especially where this time was not being used to work on the relevant application.
c) Five respondents commented that they would expect the MMO to travel in the most cost-effective manner possible, and provide the applicant with information on travel costs.
d) One respondent commented that travel should be charged at a discounted rate, and one respondent commented that this change would alter the way in which he/she engaged with the MMO.
8.The Department notes that the Government response confirmed that the MMO will offer travel as a final option and that the MMO will agree all travel arrangements with applicants in advance. The MMO also committed to publish updated internal and external guidance to ensure that the circumstances in which travel costs are charged are clearly understood.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
18 September 2018
Published: 19 October 2018