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I hope that the same does not apply to this legislation. However, I think that the general welcome given to this Bill indicates that we are in a different era. As noble Lords will recall, a number of vested interests opposed aspects of the earlier legislation, and many of them had valid arguments. We have to recognise that the interests of conservation and habitat as well as those of agriculture and other businesses have to be taken into account when we are defining access provisions. However, those interests must not be allowed to override or detrimentally compromise the clear and visionary objective of providing access to our coastal paths. We in the south-west have led the way in establishing a path around almost the entire south-west coast, and that has not proved all that difficult or conflictual. We have to extend that to the rest of the country. I therefore congratulate the Government on this aspect of the Bill.

Like other noble Lords, who are rather closer to fishermen than I am, I have a number of points on fisheries, which present some difficult jurisdictional issues. On balance, the Bill’s institutional provisions probably improve the current confusion about responsibilities, but they by no means entirely remove it. I would prefer the Environment Agency—although this is not necessarily its view—to have a larger role in overseeing all aspects of fisheries, estuaries and inshore seas. However, I recognise that, in default of such a change, the Bill makes some useful proposals. The first is to modernise the sea fisheries committees whose performance has been differential across the country and jurisdictions often unclear. The new IFCAs, with enhanced duties, should cover the effective monitoring and management of stocks. It is vital that their formal membership and staff are sufficiently on the ball to contribute to proper ecosystem-based approaches in this area.

There are also demarcation issues. There will have to be proper working arrangements between the new IFCAs and the Environment Agency, particularly with regard to fisheries and estuaries, so that there is a clear boundary upstream, where the EA is the responsible

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body for all fish species, and downstream where the IFCAs manage the sea fisheries. It is important that the IFCAs, like the EA, should have an explicit duty to promote sustainable development. I think that that requirement runs through the Bill as a whole. Although it is difficult to define sustainable development, that is a clear theme and context in which all the organisations should work. That should be consistent across all the organisations on which the Bill lays down duties.

I should like to raise another issue which may not be within the direct scope of the Bill, and I apologise to the Minister for not raising it with him in advance. One aspect of sea fisheries responsibility and some failures of the regulatory framework were brought to our notice by the tragedy in Morecambe Bay. There was confusion about which authority was responsible for regulating cockle-picking activity. The sea fisheries committees had some responsibility, as did the Health and Safety Executive, the police, the local authorities and, in a minor capacity, the Environment Agency. The totality of that operation clearly failed in that case. There have since been better efforts at co-ordination and enforcement has improved. However, does the Bill make clear where jurisdiction for regulating mud-flat activity now lies? If not, what regulation covers it?

More generally, I welcome the measures to modernise legislation on migratory and freshwater fisheries legislation. It is some time in coming. Like other noble Lords I can recall discussion of the salmon and fisheries review eight or so years ago, which is when I first realised how much fisheries expertise there is in this House. I hope that we can draw on that expertise in considering this legislation. However, jurisdiction issues arise even in this Bill, and I am not sure that the fish completely understand that. One example which has been drawn to my attention is that the Bill will extend the Environment Agency’s responsibilities to lampreys and smelts but not to shad except in various minor capacities. There is a broader confusion about who manages the various flows of fish. I hope that the flexibility which the Bill provides on future jurisdiction changes is sufficient, because we are unlikely to get further primary legislation to correct it. Co-operation between the authorities is important, but it is even more important to set out clear responsibilities in the first place.

My last group of points relates to the Bill’s planning provisions and the potential conflict with renewable energy, a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, has just spoken. I accept that the creation of a new Marine Management Organisation is probably sensible. That organisation will need both a clear demarcation and close working partnerships with other organisations, including the Environment Agency, Natural England and the sea fisheries bodies. That is obvious. However, it will also need close relations with the planning authorities on land.

One planning issue where such controversy and lack of jurisdictional clarity may well arise is renewable energy installations. A clear reference to the climate change objectives has been omitted from the Bill. There have already been objections to offshore wind farms from, on the one hand, conservation bodies, and, on the other, shipping, fishing and MoD interests. That is partly why such a limited number of wind farms have been commissioned. Admittedly, those

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objections and inhibitions are greater on land than they have been offshore, but nevertheless the degree to which we have been able to invest in renewable energy has fallen foul of our planning system. That will be even truer in developing tidal and wave-based energy generation located at sea.

Although, on balance, I agree with my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity in his scepticism of the Severn barrage, I think that we need greater clarity in how we deal with such major propositions—which have an immense impact on the ecosystem but which could also make an immense contribution to greener energy. I am not sure that the Bill fully achieves that clarity. Conservation and other issues are clearly important in the siting of wind, tide and wave installations, but, again, it is a question of balance and how the balance is achieved. The same applies to a limited extent to some of the aspects of installations designed to adapt to climate change, in particular flood defences, as well as to aspects of installations meant to mitigate climate change.

We will therefore need to clarify a number of jurisdictional issues during the Bill's passage. Other noble Lords have already referred to pollution controls; I would also include waste controls as an example of where it is not always clear where the geographical or jurisdictional dividing line arises.

Those, however, are essentially matters of detail which the Government already have in their sights. We in this Chamber may be able to contribute in that. I think that all noble Lords should be able to support the Bill’s vision and the work which has gone already into it through the pre-legislative process and consultation, albeit the time for that has in some ways been curtailed. It has led to a much better Bill than would otherwise be before us, but we can make it better still. I congratulate the Government on having got so far, but this House will have quite a job to do in later stages in tidying up these untidy points.

5.49 pm

Lord Geddes: My Lords, I wholly endorse the last remark of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. This House will have quite a job in tidying up the Bill, laudable though it is. It will lead to the largest shake-up in the protection of the marine environment in this country’s history. We are an island. That is a truism. Because of that, the measures have a significance beyond those that normally might be considered more important. As the Minister said, the Bill is ambitious and wide-ranging. It is certainly both of those, but as many noble Lords have already said, it is also more than a bit scant on the detail and the devil is always therein.

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Moran, I am disappointed at the unfortunate position in which the authorities seem to have put the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. Having chaired the Joint Committee with considerable aplomb, I hoped that he might have spoken number 4 and not number 17 on the list, which is where he is. It would have helped the House a great deal to get the chairman of that committee’s reaction to the Government’s responses.

I will concentrate on just two or three fairly significant points but do not intend to even attempt to trawl right through the Bill. Defra’s first major response to the

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Joint Committee concerns its request for more guidance to be put in the Bill. Defra has rejected this. This is a great misfortune and I hope that the Minister—who has heard this already from others—will hoist that on board.

Regarding the marine conservation zones, the committee’s views on the need to strengthen those seem to have struck a chord with Defra. It has promised to bring forward a range of provisions to give greater powers and enforcement measures regarding these marine conservation zones, but again we come to detail: this needs watching by ports and shipping in particular. Although Defra has taken care to flag up the importance of always considering socio-economic factors—indeed, it suggested that the weight behind such priority might influence the choice of MCZs—it has promised some control over ministerial powers to designate MCZs. However, one has to be extremely careful that, with great respect to the noble Baroness, the pendulum does not swing too far for the environment versus the practicality. I keep coming back to that word “practicality”. It is a balancing act, but I am sure that the Minister is only too aware of that.

Continuing on these marine conservation zones, Defra still does not appear to want any clear markings and identifications of site boundaries. It looks, therefore, as if harbour authorities will be expected to advise shipping on the zones’ locations. I will not elaborate on that, but that seems an unsatisfactory position, not least because any of those who might infringe would simply say, “We did not know where the zone was, so how could we possibly have broken the law if the zones were not specifically identified?”.

As has been said, MMOs must be adequately resourced. There is a real fear, reading through the Bill, that they will not be. They must have harmonious working relationships with other regulatory and public bodies, not least the Infrastructure Planning Commission. With regard to marine spatial planning, what is said in the Bill seems eminently sensible, but it is so important that marine plans are consistent with other planning instruments, including the national policy statements. A statutory review procedure for testing marine plans, prior to their approval by the Secretary of State, should be created, to ensure that all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to outline how the regional marine plans impact upon their interests.

There is another small but important point on the MMOs. The interchange in roles between the Marine Coastguard Agency and the Marine Management Organisation is still being discussed. To my reading and with my experience, they still seem unclear.

We come to coastal access—and unlike the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, I will try to stick to the sequence of the Bill. With an estimated budget of £50 million, spread over 10 years, there are serious concerns that the coastal access project will prove to be underfunded and, as a result, of poor quality. I hope that those fears are not justified because I like the idea of such access. But again one comes to the detail. What happens, for instance, with a major port with designated expansion areas—let us say, already approved by the local authority? Will the coastal access be allowed to go through those

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putative areas for port enlargement or not? If it will be, what happens when the port gets enlarged? There are so many detailed questions which need to be answered.

Defra, as I understand it, has rejected the proposal to allow Natural England to put forward coastal access schemes only by approval through an affirmative resolution of Parliament. As some noble Lords have said already, and as I am sure others will say after me, is seems dangerous to put an enormous onus on Natural England. I am not at all sure that it is the right body to fulfil that task.

Finally, on appeals, Defra has rejected the introduction of the appeals process for landowners and occupiers. I confess that its arguments on that are flimsy at the very least. Any appeals process is fundamental to the rights of the citizen. I know this has already been mentioned this afternoon. It must surely be for Parliament to approve a firm mechanism in primary legislation rather than allowing Defra and Natural England to come up with an order that may suit their convenience but which diminishes the current rights of land owners and occupiers under the dreaded CROW Act. How I hate that particular acronym—the acronym itself, not what is behind it. Equally, there is no framework for compensating landowners who might suffer financial loss. That needs to be looked into.

I apologise to the Minister if I have appeared critical. I have been. However, I repeat that the Bill is to be hugely welcomed. It needs a lot of work, but we are a maritime nation and it is in our interests to protect our marine environment. I wish the Bill well, although it may go through some slightly rough water in its passage.

5.59 pm

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I certainly welcome the Bill, but, as has been said time and again during this debate, there is no question that there will have to be quite a number of amendments to it. The White Paper initially set out some principles on the planning system, the licensing of marine developments, the protection of natural resources and the changes to the management of marine fisheries as well as the introduction of the Marine Management Organisation. There is a danger that the Bill, with its 301 pages, could become a nightmare of acronyms, and we must be very careful how we use them. My late father, who died when I was three, was a master mariner. I wish that he could be here now because I am sure that he could advise me.

I want to put the Bill into a Welsh context. It provides that the objectives of the MMO for sustained development and for the organisation’s management will be set by the Secretary of State. That will not be the case in Wales, where the proposals will be for Welsh Assembly Government Ministers. With regard to marine conservation zones and IFCAs, there will be quite a number of different aspects from the fallout of the Bill in Wales. I am sure that the principles will be the same, but the mechanisms may not be.

I welcome the speeches made, particularly those by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury. I, too, am a very keen fisherman.

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However, I think that they said everything that needs to be said. There is a huge conservation issue there. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned shad; perhaps if we have a Severn barrage, they will become extinct in that area. All sorts of similar issues have already been covered.

I wish to concentrate on the Welsh Assembly Government’s views as well as those of the Countryside Council for Wales, which has studied the Bill in great detail. The Welsh Assembly Government have produced a consultation document, which proposes,

which, as has been said, have not functioned all that well, particularly recently—

The potential problem is funding these functions as they will be carried out in Wales. There are particular concerns regarding by-laws which may well be lost as a result of the Bill and need to be re-enacted. There may be a case for providing statutory instruments for Wales to secure existing by-laws for fisheries.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s proposal for the management and enforcement of sea fisheries in Welsh waters states in its first paragraph that,

I welcome the creation of that Welsh marine area. Indeed, many of the matters to which I refer are the business of the Welsh Assembly, not necessarily Westminster. However, it is necessary for me to enlighten Members here as to what is going on. The coterminous nature of Wales and England means that the same functions and principles will have to be carried out. I sincerely hope that there will be a great synergy between these functions in both Wales and England.

I have a huge amount of material about this issue, but I hope that I have pointed out some of the principles which will be taken into consideration in the Welsh Assembly. I refer in particular to the conservation aspects: the marine conservation zones will be very important, as will the IFCAs, which will occur in Wales.

Some noble Lords may remember that almost exactly 12 months ago I was fortunate enough to win the ballot to have a debate on the possibility of a Severn barrage. The Wales Environment Link is concerned about how the devolved functions of a Marine Management Organisation in Wales will be carried out. It believes that a statutory requirement on the appropriate authority in Wales to designate MCZs, as well as on an English authority, will be necessary. I have a great deal of sympathy with that view.

During my speech on the Severn barrage a year ago, I said that the Severn estuary,

That is just for good measure. Those are the sort of planning issues which will have to be addressed in England and Wales, should we have a barrage.

A key question arises on conservation and the powers of the MMO and IFCAs in relation to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. The IPC was only recently established in the Planning Act 2008. Which body will have the final say on environmental protection? Will it be the MMO or the IPC? If we consider the possibility of a Severn barrage being constructed, we have to think about the implications in planning terms.

If the Bill contains strong enough powers on nature conservation, we may be able to address concerns regarding the MMO and the IPC on a level playing field. But I fear that at present there is not a level playing field in this respect. That is one of the key reasons why we have to strengthen the Bill considerably to achieve an outcome which is fair, objective and not submerged under a steamroller from the IPC.

6.10 pm

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I must declare an interest: I was lucky enough to inherit one of the most beautiful beaches in England. I am happy to support this Bill. Everybody, I think, agrees on the importance of the coast for environmental reasons, but rarely do people understand why such beautiful areas still exist. They are there today because our ancestors let nature take priority over building and development. Today we can enjoy these areas thanks to our forebears’ policies. Some noble Lords will obviously have been, in their time, to seaside resorts that are not beautiful.

I welcome the Bill, which is concerned with safeguarding the marine habitat. Our coastline is continuously and irreversibly affected by climate change, so conservation regulations must relate to the predictably changing environment and not simply aspire to maintain the status quo. However, there are some important principles at stake. If an individual’s right to the private enjoyment of his land is taken away by the state, there should at least be some independent appeal system and provision for compensation. At present, this Bill puts Natural England in the role of prosecution, judge and jury, with the agency’s masters at Defra determining any appeals. This sets a dangerous precedent and is hardly democratic.

Marine conservation areas must recognise the needs of commercial and leisure use, as well as safeguarding the marine habitat. As someone who welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to his estate, and provides footpaths for them, I am concerned about attempting to create unrestricted and continuous coastal routes, including estuaries. It would be better to recognise that now and make provision for it in the Bill. This could also assist land occupiers and businesses whose livelihood is threatened if a coastal footpath goes straight through their premises, rather than taking an alternative route. I applaud the clause concerning waterside businesses, such as marinas, boatyards, harbours,

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gardens, caravan sites and historic houses. They will welcome the potential simplification of essential licensing through speedy and inexpensive procedures—for example, granting permission for maintenance dredging. Finally, whatever route is arrived at must be suitable for year-round use. Creating alternative routes in winter will cause uncertainty and difficulties of signage.

The principle of this Bill makes for a complex piece of legislation. It is important to consider fully the detailed implications, rather than rushing its implementation. However, I support the Bill, which, once implemented sensibly, will see the end of friction that has occurred from time to time with some bodies. I think that we all want the Bill to be a success. Maybe “partnership” is the right word to talk about.

6.15 pm

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, whose work to preserve part of the coast in Hampshire has been an inspiration. I welcome this Bill, as do other noble Lords, as well as the process of pre-legislative scrutiny. Some were disappointed that not all our suggestions were taken up, but if you are a realist you would not expect that anyway. Nevertheless, some were taken up.

I declare an interest as an academic interested in the atmosphere and the ocean. I am also a former head of the Met Office. On the timescale of this House, marine issues are evidently becoming important, as this is the second major debate on marine issues in the last 10 years. If one wants to go back to a serious debate on marine issues, perhaps one must go back to April 1853, when Lord Wrottesley gave a long and learned disquisition on the nature of the Gulf Stream. I do not think that I have ever read a better description of the Gulf Stream. The point about his great analysis was that we did not understand the Gulf Stream as well as the Americans did, which is why their ships were able to cross the Atlantic faster than ours—they followed the Gulf Stream exactly. To catch up with the Americans, we needed the Met Office. That was the debate that established the Met Office. The first head of the Met Office was the illustrious Admiral Fitzroy. I shall come back to the United States and the prominence of marine officials in a moment.


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