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We have improved the marine licensing provisions by requiring each appropriate licensing authority to establish an appeals mechanism. We have amended the nature conservation provisions in a number of ways to provide the greater clarity and certainty requested by the Joint Committee, including conferring a duty on Ministers to designate a network of marine conservation zones and a requirement to submit a report to Parliament on progress in developing the network of marine protected areas in 2012 and at least every six years thereafter. We have introduced a requirement for Natural England to conduct a review of early implementation of the coastal access scheme and to report to Parliament after 10 years.

I am also pleased to say that, since pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government have reached agreement with the devolved Administrations on a UK-wide approach to marine planning. This agreement ensures that the Bill truly provides a coherent legislative framework with greater clarity and certainty for all those seeking to enjoy or make a living from the UK’s waters.

I turn to the Bill’s detail. Part 1, together with Schedules 1, 2 and 3, establishes a new independent body, the Marine Management Organisation. It will act as the UK Government’s strategic delivery body in the marine area and their centre of marine management expertise. Its general objective is to deliver its marine functions in a consistent and co-ordinated manner, taking into account the effect which decisions in one area will have on any other area of activity, with the objective of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development.

The Marine Management Organisation will be a non-departmental public body and will report formally to Parliament through the Secretary of State. It will be responsible for drawing up marine plans for the purposes of the new marine planning regime as well as administering a new integrated marine environmental licensing regime, and enforcing fisheries, licensing and nature conservation legislation.

Part 2 and Schedule 4 set out the UK marine area which is used by subsequent parts of the Bill to define where certain activities may take place. It also allows for an exclusive economic zone to be designated and amends the Government of Wales Act 2006 to insert a definition of the Welsh zone. Further functions, in relation to fisheries matters, may then be transferred to Welsh Ministers by an Order in Council. This provision will bring Wales into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Part 3 and Schedules 5 and 6 introduce a new system of marine planning. This is a relatively new process, designed to address the challenges emerging from the growth in competing uses of the sea. It is designed to help public authorities and stakeholders to co-ordinate their policies and actions in the marine environment more holistically to achieve effective and long-term sustainable development.

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The planning provisions provide for the preparation of a marine policy statement which will be prepared and agreed by the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. The marine policy statement will set out the policies and priorities for the whole of the UK marine area and will take into consideration the different priorities of all the different UK Administrations.

A series of marine plans will then be prepared throughout UK waters, in full consultation with stakeholders from all sectors, to translate the policies in the marine policy statement to the local level. The marine policy statement and marine plans will guide and direct decisions in the marine environment to ensure a strong link between national policy and individual developments.

The marine licensing provisions set out in Part 4 and Schedules 7, 8, 9 and 10 will replace the licensing and consent controls currently exercised under Part II of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and Part II of the Coast Protection Act 1949. These changes will provide greater certainty about the outcome and timing for applicants for licences and will make it easier for licensing authorities to make decisions that are consistent with policy. This part also amends the relationship between marine licensing and certain legislation governing activities in the marine area. It also provides for the mechanisms and powers for enforcing the licensing regime.

Part 5 and Schedules 11, 12 and 13 provide a power across most UK waters to designate new marine conservation zones in place of the current power under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to designate marine nature reserves. We propose to convert existing marine nature reserves into marine conservation zones. The network of marine conservation zones will complement the Natura 2000 network of European sites. This will help us to fulfil the UK’s commitment, under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic—otherwise known as OSPAR—to establish a network of marine-protected areas.

The Bill also provides for new duties on public bodies to exercise their functions in ways that further the conservation objectives set for marine conservation zones and to not authorise activities or development where it carries a significant risk of hindering those conservation objectives. There will also be powers to make by-laws and interim by-laws to protect sites, and potential sites, from otherwise unregulated activities which may cause harm. A general offence is also included and will catch acts of deliberate damage to a marine conservation zone.

Part 6 and Schedule 14 provide powers to replace sea fisheries committees with new bodies called inshore fisheries and conservation authorities. IFCAs will have a duty to manage the exploitation of sea fisheries resources sustainably, balancing socio-economic benefits with protection of the marine environment.

Part 7 and Schedules 15 and 16 amend existing legislation relating to marine fisheries. They amend the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 in relation to regulating commercial and recreational fishing. They also amend the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 to modify the way that several and regulating orders,

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which are used to establish and manage shellfisheries, are made and used. They amend an existing power to allow the costs of fisheries management to be recouped from the fisheries industry more flexibly. In addition, this part amends legislation relating to migratory and freshwater fish. It gives new and more flexible powers to the Environment Agency to conserve and manage migratory and freshwater fisheries, including powers to make emergency by-laws to respond to unforeseen threats to fish stocks and powers to introduce a new regulatory system for the movement of live fish to protect national and local biodiversity.

Part 8 and Schedules 17 and 18 provide for the appointment of marine enforcement officers and a set of common enforcement powers for enforcing requirements across licensing, nature conservation and fishing in the marine area. It grants powers to marine enforcement officers to enforce fisheries legislation and deal with goods and money; simplifies the procedure for implementation of EU fisheries legislation; and confers power to introduce an administrative penalty scheme for domestic fisheries offences.

Part 9 and Schedule 19 introduce provisions to extend recreational access to the English coast and to enable the creation, as far as possible, of a continuous route around the coast, wide enough to allow unconstrained passage on foot, and recreational space on coastal land associated with the route. It also contains provisions for framework powers, enabling the Welsh Assembly to make similar provisions for the Welsh coast. Part 10 and Schedule 20 amend legislation in relation to Natural England and modify the regime governing harbours set out in the Harbours Act 1964. It also introduces navigational controls into the Energy Act 2008, in lieu of those currently contained in the Coast Protection Act. Finally, Part 11 and Schedule 21 cover procedural issues and definitions connected with earlier clauses.

Marine-related activities in the UK contribute between 3 and 4 per cent of our GDP and directly employ half a million people. Without effective planning and licensing, managed by a single strategic body—and we envisage the Marine Management Organisation—we are at risk of being unprepared to deal with the new demands that expanding industries, such as renewable energy generation, will present. Changes to the current licensing regime are needed to reduce bureaucracy and its associated costs. New enforcement powers will ensure that operators who fail to comply with licence conditions do not gain an unfair advantage. Marine and freshwater fishery proposals will provide powers to local managers that are flexible, reflect modern management and enable sustainable exploitation of fishery resources.

We all stand to gain from the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. It will give better access to the English coastline; simplify and streamline regulation; reduce costs; improve marine management and the protection of wildlife; and provide for the integrated planning and management of our seas, coast and entries. I look forward to hearing the views of noble Lords in today’s debate and to debating our proposals in future stages, should this Bill be given a Second Reading. I commend the Bill to the House.

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3.22 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we on these Benches are very happy that this Bill has finally seen the light of day. We have been calling for a comprehensive marine Bill for many years; it is long overdue. Prime Minister Blair first talked of the need for this legislation way back in 2001 and almost every year since there have been further announcements or publications, as I pointed out last week in the debate on the gracious Speech.

It is remarkable though that, despite the many years the Government have been apparently thinking about this, what we are dealing with here is far too flimsy. It is full of outline but lacks definition at critical points. The Bill has been described to me as a framework. That is a euphemism on a scale rarely heard even in your Lordships’ House. I might say that it is a pretty rickety framework. I would describe it, at most, as a collection of large but undefined powers, backed up by a lot of optimism that, given these powers, the various bodies involved will somehow work it all out. That is not good enough. The marine environment faces challenges from every side. The conservation issues alone are enormous, but are certainly not the only factors to be considered. The sea is a much loved resource for millions of people who spend their leisure time on or near it, whether sailing or angling. The coast is no further than 70 miles from anywhere in the country. It is no surprise to find that so many spend their leisure time there, whether walking, wildfowling, sitting on the beach or swimming. We need to ensure that the Bill reflects the importance of fishing and proper fisheries management. The marine environment is also critical for UK industry. It will be one of the most important factors in whether we meet our 2020 target on renewable energy. Much of the British economy depends on shipping for transporting goods all around the world.

The Government have said that they intend the Marine Management Organisation, which the Bill creates, to be the primary delivery body for managing the marine environment. However, they have not provided for that authority in the Bill. The current,

is far too vague and passive. On these Benches, we feel that there should be a straightforward duty to promote sustainable development, with a clear definition of what is meant by it. Without a guiding principle, the MMO will be like a rudderless ship—capable of a great journey, but going nowhere.

There should also be some appreciation of the many interests the marine environment must reconcile. Why is there no mention of the need to protect the diversity of marine flora and fauna, or to help attain the 2020 renewables target, or to ensure the continuing enjoyment of the sea by the public? There will be much debate in Committee about what the duties of the MMO should be. However, I hope that when the Bill leaves this House there will be much less confusion and concern over this point.

There is already a great deal of confusion and concern over whether the Government will actually allow the MMO fully to develop its potential. I assumed,

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when reading the Bill for the first time, that the MMO was to play a leading role in marine planning in Part 3, marine licensing in Part 4 and certainly in nature conservation in Part 5. However, further discussions have led to the possibility that the Government have already decided that one or more of these parts is to be carved out of the MMO's remit and given to another body.

Do the Government intend the MMO to be the primary delivery body? Does the Minister not think that, given the difficulty of reconciling the very different interests of so many stakeholders, it would be much better for one impartial body, with a clear duty to promote sustainable development, to be that overseer?

A bewildering array of other bodies is already in existence that must have a role. The Bill is particularly silent on that point too. There is a remarkable lack of detail about who should be consulted at what point and how overlapping responsibilities and conflicts of opinion should be handled. It is key that the Bill should recognise and provide for reconciliation of conflicts of interest.

Certain relationships stand out as being particularly important; for example, the role of the Infrastructure Planning Commission in marine planning, or the role that Defra will play beyond the initial marine policy statements. These certainly need to be spelt out to a much greater extent.

Relationships between the countless local authorities and stakeholders will also be critical and it is here that the question of success or failure will be decided. We simply cannot leave it until the last minute to decide how complex interactions between regional marine plans, marine conservation zones and established authorities will work. Ensuring a good working relationship between these bodies will deliver a much greater degree of buy-in and compliance than would otherwise be possible. It will also be critical for the necessary consistency and co-ordination around the UK.

Nowhere in the Bill can I find any safeguards to ensure that these measures will be implemented universally. There is nothing to establish that the marine plans extend completely across the UK seas. There are no provisions to establish what will happen at the boundaries between different authorities. There is not even a system for ensuring compatibility between what is being done on the sea and what is being done on the land.

That lack of detail is not just apparent at the local level. The Bill also contains some very powerful devolution provisions, and yet there is nothing to ensure that the devolved plans and policies are in any way consistent with each other. Of course, we all hope that everyone will develop effective and efficient working relationships but we would be almost negligent if we were to let such important powers pass through this House without making every possible effort to ensure that that will be so.

Many of my concerns over the first eight parts also apply to the ninth: coastal access. On these Benches we support the development of increased public access to the coast and will seek to ensure that these provisions

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guarantee the increased enjoyment of some of the most beautiful parts of the country. However, once again the Bill tries to wave a magic wand and declare, “It is so”. The Efra committee warned quite rightly that,

Why have the Government chosen to give the job of deciding the route to Natural England when local authorities already have experience of adjudicating on footpaths? The attempts of the Bill to identify the many obstacles the route is going to run into, from eroding cliffs, to estuaries and military land, shows just how complicated some of the decisions will be.

Excluding local authorities from a formal and influential role will also deny the route the necessary infrastructure to turn it from an expensive quirk that is used only by the extremely determined to a national resource that provides enjoyment for many. How will the route operate without sensible access roads, adequate parking, and co-ordinated public transport, and how can these be provided except by proper involvement of the authority responsible for them?

I am confident that local authorities have the expertise, the local knowledge and contacts and therefore a better chance of overcoming many of the practical difficulties of establishing the line of the path and achieving “buy-in” at a local level. They should be charged in the Bill with delivering the plans for Natural England to co-ordinate and present to the Secretary of State.

The Government have also decided, against so much advice, to avoid inserting a proper right of appeal. Let me be clear, we on these Benches do not consider a review by the Secretary of State to be a proper appeal. I should be interested to hear the Minister’s reasons for excluding such a right. Maybe he decided that Natural England would never make a wrong or unpopular decision and no one would ever have a reason to complain, or maybe he decided that the history of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act shows that such decisions are likely to be frequent and the possibility of a similar rash of numerous and expensive appeals, as happened under CROW, is something best to be avoided. I remind the House that two-thirds of those appeals under CROW were successful. It is clear that the deciding authority frequently makes flawed decisions and in such cases there needs to be a way of putting it right. Would it not be better to set in place a system for deciding the route that enabled private interests genuinely to involve themselves in the development of the route and so reduce the number of unpopular decisions, and to ensure the backstop safeguard of a proper appeal in order to resolve the wrong decisions?

As the Bill proceeds, we will be seeking to clarify where the Government envisage the all important line between the public and private interest will be placed. The question of what will be exempted is one that is already concerning many, and the inconsistent messages emanating from the department have made matters only worse.

We want to make clear that we welcome the Bill. It addresses important issues for the future of our seas and coast. However, despite the scrutiny of a Joint

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Committee of both Houses—I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, on its report and his skilled chairmanship of that body—and the report on coastal access provision by the Efra Select Committee, the Government have chosen to ignore many of the recommendations. The Bill is the poorer for the unwillingness of the Government to listen to such authoritative criticism.It means that it will need the most thorough scrutiny by Parliament as it proceeds through its various stages. In this House, I am confident that such scrutiny will be given and that an important piece of legislation will be improved as a result.

3.34 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I thank the Minister for the way in which he presented the Bill. We welcome the Bill perhaps a little more enthusiastically than did the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, although he welcomed it, too. We welcome the Bill as a whole, but that does not mean that we will not find a great deal to discuss and debate in it as we go through it, because that is the role of your Lordships’ House. If no one else is going to do it, we have to do it.

I declare two interests in relation to Part 9, as a member of the British Mountaineering Council and of its access, conservation and environment committee, and as a member of the Open Spaces Society, which are two organisations that have been lobbying Members. I thank my colleagues who are taking part in the debate today. There are at least two others: my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who is a true expert on marine conservation and who I hope will take part in the Committee stage, and my noble friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, who I hope will give some Scottish expertise. Scotland and Wales are clearly crucial to the Bill and its relationship with the United Kingdom and English institutions. I hope that my noble friend Lord Livsey will speak concerning Wales. Those are two themes running through the Bill that we want very much to scrutinise.

In a sense, this is two Bills running together: a big Bill and a smaller Bill. There is what might be called the main marine Bill, if that is not a slightly laboured pun, and then there is Part 9, on coastal access. I shall say something about Part 9, then leave it to Committee before I say anything else. I welcome Part 9, which follows an eight-year campaign since the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was passed by Parliament. I regard that with some affection, not just because it was very important but because it was the first Bill in which I took any substantial part in your Lordships’ House. There are a few survivors here today from those debates.

Nevertheless, my welcome for the fact that Part 9 has reached the statute book based on Section 3 of the CROW Act does not mean that we do not have to give it a thorough scrubbing down in Committee. There is a danger that, because it is tagged on at the end of the Bill, by the time we get to it and by the time the House of Commons gets to it a certain amount of fatigue will have set in, together with pressure from government Whips and such people to get on with it and get through in the allotted time. It would be very unfortunate

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if that happened. We will insist that Part 9 gets a proper going through, no matter how much time we have spent before then. We would certainly totally resist any attempt to push it through because it is at the end of the Bill. Important as it is, it has to work. Our job is to make sure that the provisions set out in the Bill will work and will produce what the Government want in their very good vision on this.

The main marine provisions have had a long gestation. The first real promises of a Bill were at least four years ago and the first consultations on what should be in it were three or four years ago. We had the White Paper A Sea Change, we had the draft Bill last April, we have had at least three lots of consultation, and consultation is still taking place on proposed secondary legislation and guidance. We had the pre-legislative scrutiny in the Joint Committee, of which I was privileged to be a member. I echo what noble Lords have already said about the superb way in which that committee was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway—who I am delighted to see is taking part in the debate today—despite the short time. Tribute should also be paid to the people who did the work on behalf of the committee—the staff, the advisers and all the people who gave evidence in person and written. The work of that committee has helped the Government to substantially improve this Bill, even before it came here, although I dare say that it still requires a great deal of debate. We welcome the responses that the Government have already made.

There are some concerns about this Bill from different angles. Some organisations think that it is too conservation-based and others think that it is too development-based. The Government no doubt will say that that proves that they have got the balance right, but it does not prove anything other than that we have an important job to do to sort it out and to ensure that, when the Bill leaves us, it is as good as it possibly can be. There is also a concern that, although this is a Defra Bill and it is being promoted by Defra, there are a large number of interests in government involved in it. It is important that, during the development of the Bill and once the Bill has been passed, turf wars between those government departments do not slow things down.

I was pleased that, at the beginning of his speech, the Minister became quite visionary about the importance of the Bill. This is a very important Bill indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that the seas and the oceans are the,

Many of us would agree with that. The limitations that the United Kingdom has in dealing with the seas around our shores are an indication that this Bill will not solve all the problems, but it can go some way towards doing so.

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