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The purpose of legislation, as the Minister said when we began, is to institute political measures that will materially improve people’s lives, our culture, the strength of society and—as a necessary condition, we now know—the natural state of our planet. Therefore, as with climate change legislation, this Bill’s Explanatory Notes might well have started with a clear statement to the effect that the state of the marine environment is unsatisfactory and getting worse. This was clearly stated on 25 June by Mr Richardson of the European Commission. It is an endless puzzle to me that the NGOs that give us much useful advice do not make this important point. We are well below what Mr Richardson described as a state of ecological health. To the first line of the Bill, which says that the purpose of the Bill is to,

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I would add the words, “in order to return the seas to ecological health”. That is the purpose of the Bill. Of course, many Bills do not have that kind of direct statement, but surely legislation should say why it is needed. Mr Richardson’s other important point on that day in our pre-legislative committee was, positively, that through strong, scientifically directed measures, ecological health could be restored. That is, obviously, the purpose of the Bill. Indeed, the UK has excellent marine scientists, engineers and technologists, who will be able to achieve this goal. The Bill might state this more clearly.

It is important to recognise that the situation that we face in the deteriorating marine environment is shared by most other major countries. Around the United States, the condition of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is serious, as is that of the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Yellow Sea in China. I was in Hong Kong last week, where the serious nature of the problem there was depicted. We are in the same position as other countries. All these countries recognise, too, that this situation is compounded by such effects of global warming as the acidification of the sea, sea-level rise and so on.

In dealing with climate change and previous environmental problems, legislation has been strong and visible through measures that have been introduced, with clear areas of responsibility and leadership. In that respect, the Bill creates the Marine Management Organisation. The question is whether the MMO will provide the kind of leadership and co-ordination that other major environmental agencies have had and continue to have in the UK. I am thinking of organisations such as the Environment Agency—it was good that we had a former director of the Environment Agency here this afternoon—the Food Standards Agency, the Met Office and now the climate change committee.

The issue was discussed with the Secretary of State at the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. He gave an ambivalent answer on whether the head of the MMO would be the champion of the seas. However, on 3 June, the acting head of the MMO gave a very encouraging response. He described the MMO as being a champion of the seas and said that it would have a co-ordinating role with technical agencies such as the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural England.

This responsive co-ordination leadership role is particularly important, as we are in a situation when things are changing. One of the features of sea-level rise is that it leads to much more rapid changes in, for example, the bathymetry—the depth of the ocean. We cannot rely on checking this once every 100 years, as sometimes is the case; we need to have satellites to do it every year, as the Dutch and Belgians are doing in studying their coastline. As my noble friend Lord Whitty and the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, recognised, measures for adaptation and mitigation along the coast will have an important impact on the environment. Therefore, the MMO will have a high-level, responsive and co-ordinating role. There have been noises saying that this is the job of the Minister, but I believe that Ministers are very busy and will not be able to do it. We need to have the kind of official leadership that we have seen in these other bodies.

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The other feature of the MMO raised strongly in the pre-legislative scrutiny committee was that it should be a champion for the freeing-up of the exchange of data. The only way in which people will understand and be able to respond is if we have the data. The committee heard from witness after witness that currently there is considerable blockage by fees and bureaucracy.

What level will the new head of the MMO be in the Civil Service? Will he be grade 3, 2 or 5? That makes a big difference. Unless he or she is at this kind of level, he or she will not be able to have the role that all sides of the House want.

If we cross the ocean and look at the United States, we see that it has a very senior official responsible for the oceans. I know his name, but nobody knows the names of the people responsible for marine policy in the UK. Until recently, Vice Admiral Lautenbacher, a prominent person, dealt with these major issues. As other noble Lords have said, it is important that the UK, with its strategic interests in oceans globally as well as regionally, should be moving in this direction. The United States also has an ambassador for the oceans and fisheries in the State Department, who goes around speaking the truth, as it were, about the terrible state of some of the ocean areas of the world. The Foreign Office has not reached that point yet.

The evidence in the United Kingdom and Europe is that marine officials are not being encouraged to speak out, even about these technical issues. Mr Richardson of the European Commission commented after his rather strong—for a European civil servant—statement about the state of the marine ecology that this was his last official engagement and that he was retiring that day. That spoke volumes.

My second question is whether, since the MMO is a non-departmental public body, its director will be able to speak out responsibly on marine environmental issues in the way in which the directors of the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency are able to do. That does not detract from ministerial responsibility; obviously, Ministers are responsible for strategic issues and particular issues of public interest. I will give noble Lords some context. When I was appointed head of the Met Office, the first question that I asked the Permanent Under-Secretary at the MoD was whether I could speak out on scientific, technical and operational issues. He said, “Yes, but if I hear you on the radio complaining about your budget, you will be fired”, so it was very clear. I hope that the MMO will have similar freedom.

The Bill, following many years of discussion and the excellent report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, proposes to set up a network of marine reserves as the means to restore our marine environment. This policy, as witnesses explained, will have to be administered flexibly but within a clear strategy. There will be some parallels with the national parks, which have been a great UK success—many countries have followed them. The parks have had to operate in a diplomatic way with allowance for many different types of activity, depending on their effects on the environment. We have been hearing about those policies with regard to the sea this afternoon.

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There will have to be continuing monitoring, as the sea is changing rapidly, using remote sensing and extensive communication with stakeholders, including the public. A meeting will be held in Portcullis House in January or February on remote sensing and monitoring the marine environment, as that issue came up in the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. We now have new techniques.

It is also important to notice how successful reserves have been in other countries, where they have been welcomed by fishing interests. For example, fishermen in New Zealand line up their boats alongside the edges, as it were, of these marine reserves. The lobsters and so on are developing well in the marine reserves and the fishermen have a good basis for working. Therefore, if administered well, these reserves can be of great benefit both for nature and for fishing interests.

Some organisations are calling for a target in terms of the area occupied. I agree with the Secretary of State’s remark to our committee that the targets will need to be considered by the organisations involved and agreed by the Minister. Surely the outcomes from these policies can be defined in the legislation—for example, in terms of the ecological health, to use the EC word, of the whole coastline. Will the Minister consider introducing indicators as part of the objectives in, for example, biodiversity and the state of the fish species and ecological health generally? Will the MMO and/or Defra be responsible for establishing targets for the improvement of such indicators? The point is that we know what they are now; they are going down at the moment, in the words of the officials. We want to hear every year where the indicators are going and when, we hope, they start improving. The blue signs on our beaches have been an important indicator of how this kind of approach can work. Giving responsibilities for broad objectives for environmental monitoring and improvement is the surest way to effective and transparent administration. This legislation is a start, but it needs to become clearer.

Finally, as a former councillor, although not a maritime councillor, I am quite sure that the local authorities should be closely involved in establishing coastal footpaths. I welcome the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I hope that that can be worked into the Bill.

6.28 pm

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, this is a large Bill. It has been through lengthy consultation and scrutiny phases, and it covers many key areas of interest. The debate so far has been fascinating. A number of the major issues that the Bill covers have been dealt with and a number of queries have been raised. I look forward with great interest to hearing the poor Minister responding to all these queries at the end of our debate.

My focus is in the area of conservation of cultural heritage and the maritime historic environment. This is in part because in the Council of Europe I serve on the committee for culture, education, science and sport and we have looked at such issues as marine archaeology, historic wrecks and training in the skills required to safeguard that part of our heritage. A wealth of

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international research and experience is available in this area. If, as the Minister said, we are the first country to introduce such ground-breaking legislation—I am sure that that must be the case—I can assure your Lordships that there will be a great deal of international interest in our debates and in the way the Bill goes through in its final form.

My focus is also partly because we had anticipated that a heritage protection Bill would appear in the Queen’s Speech, which of course might otherwise have been the appropriate vehicle to provide protection for marine heritage. Failing that, it will have to be provided in this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said at the outset that the Bill is two Bills run together. Perhaps when it leaves your Lordships’ House it will be three Bills run together.

Those are the reasons for my focus, which has been borne out by the fact that hardly anyone in the debate so far has mentioned this particular and very important area. I appreciate that there are references in the Bill to sites of historic and archaeological interest. I think that they are mentioned in Part 4, concerning marine licensing, in Parts 6 and 7, in relation to fisheries, and in Part 9 on coastal access. Yet, they are mere references and are inadequate. I hope that that can be rectified during the passage of the Bill and we can have rather more definition.

As there is no clear definition or inclusion of them in the Bill, I take as my starting point the English Heritage definition of the marine historic environment as,

I would add that there are other objects beyond shore level that include historic wrecks and finds of that nature. The question is, therefore, whether the marine conservation zones, which have been designated primarily to protect marine biodiversity and for wildlife conservation, can also be prayed in aid to cover heritage issues. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

It seems to me that in not including sites of historic and archaeological interest within the definition of marine conservation zones the Government are missing a golden opportunity to extend protection to our marine cultural heritage similar to that given to sites on land. The lack of consideration given to cultural heritage issues in the Bill is of great concern to various organisations such as English Heritage and other agencies and NGOs.

In addition to making the definition clear, it will be necessary to ensure that the Marine Management Organisation is adequately resourced and empowered to acquire the essential spatial data to enable satisfactory completion of all marine planning and licensing requirements for such areas. I should be grateful if the Minister could respond to that issue.

Attention must be given to ensuring that the policy objectives set out in the proposed marine policy statement include cultural heritage to support adequate marine management. There should also be formal recognition by marine conservation zones of statutory duties such

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as those provided by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 or the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 to ensure that conservation objectives are set that support integrated management.

In spite of the fact that time was short between the announcement of the Bill and Second Reading today, I think we have all probably received helpful briefings from a number of organisations concerned with the repercussions of the Bill. In my own focus area, as well as English Heritage, I should like to refer to the help of the English National Parks Authorities Association and the National Trust, which have provided expert views. Other briefings on nature conservancy, energy and fisheries underline what a wide-ranging Bill it is and what a lot of detail there is to process. I thank the Minister too for providing briefing in the form of slides and the draft document on the Marine Management Organisation, which will be useful today and for the remaining stages of the Bill.

Aside from my particular focus on maritime heritage, I will refer briefly to two other points. One is the question of access, which I suspect will occupy many hours in Committee. I must admit at this stage to considerable sympathy for the case made by horse riders. Why should they not have the same right of access to coastal areas as walkers? The other issue was raised at the outset by my noble friend Lord Taylor. It concerns the scope for lack of consistency given the rights of the devolved Assemblies to make variations to the arrangements. Alongside the variations between devolved areas we also have the problem of the timeframe as the Bill allows Natural England and the Secretary of State to fulfil the duty in stages over a number of years. That means that the duty can be fulfilled on certain parts of the coast before others. There is no set time limit for completion of the duty, which seems to me to be a recipe for inconsistency and confusion. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify how that will work.

As other noble Lords have said, the Bill is welcome. It is very important that we focus on this crucial part of our heritage and I hope that my focus area will receive its due consideration.

6.37 pm

Lord Greenway: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming the fact that we are at last discussing this important Bill, which has been eagerly anticipated for a good number of years. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, it has been a long time in gestation and has been the subject of a number of consultation processes culminating in the publication of the draft Bill earlier this year.

As the Minister and a number of noble Lords have said, I had the honour of chairing the pre-legislative scrutiny committee of both Houses that was set up last May to take a close look at the draft Bill. Our report was published at the end of July. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the members of the committee who are taking part in the debate this afternoon. I know that others are unavoidably unable to be with us today, but we look forward to hearing from them during the later stages. I express my special, personal thanks to our principal Clerk, Charlotte

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Littleboy, from the other place, who was ably backed up by our own Ed Ollard, together with a whole body of other Clerks and assistants. Without their application and diligence, the committee would never have been able to complete its deliberations within the specified time frame. I also thank our three specialist advisers, Professor Laurence Mee, Dr Susan Gubbay and Captain Dennis Barber, whose wide-ranging expertise and advice was greatly appreciated.

If I might return to the committee’s allotted time frame, of which mention has already been made. Our report made no bones about the fact that we considered a little over eight weeks insufficient time for proper scrutiny of a very large draft Bill. Twelve weeks is regarded as the customary minimum. We were only able to fit in eight sessions of oral evidence, and we had numerous pieces of written evidence as well. The Government have—I think—taken cognisance of the fact that we were not given enough time, and I hope that this will not happen in future.

The Joint Committee’s major concerns related to a seeming lack of duties in the Bill; a lack of parliamentary scrutiny of marine plans; a lack of transparency; and funding, which has been mentioned by noble Lords. Our report contained 96 recommendations, and, while it would have been too much to hope that all would have been accepted by the Government, I am gratified that a good many of them appear to have been accepted. I take it that there will also be more acceptances coming forward in secondary legislation and further guidance.

I will say a brief word about funding. It was made clear to us during our deliberations and, since then, in guidance and impact assessments that there is money put aside to ensure that the Marine Management Organisation and others will be able to do their job properly and will have enough staff. An addition sum of, I believe, £80 million has been put aside to cover the increase in the size of the Marine Management Organisation as things developed. In view of what has happened in the economy over the past month or so, are the Government confident that such sums will still be available?

Like other noble Lords, I shall mention the most controversial part of the Bill and the only one that led to some dissent in the Joint Committee—Part 9 on coastal access provision. This is a manifesto commitment that has been tacked on to the Bill by the Government in the absence of any other suitable vehicle. I have always felt that the coastal path is strictly a land matter and not a sea matter. In some ways, I am disappointed that it is part of this Bill. The provision was looked at in great detail by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in another place, as well as by the Joint Committee. As we heard earlier, both concluded that an independent appeals mechanism was needed, although this has been resisted by the Government. I have no doubt that we will return to this in Committee. The Joint Committee also thought that compensation might well need to be payable in certain cases, but it must be done in a transparent way. Again, that is something that we might return to. I mentioned funding just now. Is £50 million enough? It might be enough to set up the coastal path, but who will be responsible for maintenance thereafter?

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The Secretary of State said:

“For the first time in our history all of us will be able to walk the length of the coast and get close to the sea right around England”.

In answer to a question that I posed to him, if my memory serves me correctly, he watered that down slightly by saying that at least it would be a joined-up route. It quickly became clear to us that there would be a large number of detours in this route, for reasons of safety, particularly with regard to commercial undertakings such as ports and oil refineries, certain MoD land and areas such as wetlands, which could be potentially dangerous, as well as risking damage to wildlife habitats. At the moment, parks and gardens are exempt. We will have a lot more discussion about private gardens. What interested me was that, of the few small examples that we were shown of the proposed path, even in a place where one would have thought that the path would have been able to go very close to the sea, it was in fact a quarter of a mile or so inland. I hope that the public will not be disappointed when they see where the route will go.

Coming back to what I regard as the true marine part of the Bill, I welcome the proposal to set up a new organisation to manage our marine environment, the Marine Management Organisation. I was led to understand that this was perhaps just a working title. Have the Government had any further thoughts on this? Might they come up with something rather less prosaic? I have argued in this House for a separate ministry of the sea, but it always fell on deaf ears. The Marine Management Organisation is definitely a step in the right direction.

A number of noble Lords, such as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, have spoken about a “champion of the seas”, but the Government have made it plain that the MMO will be a delivery body rather than a campaigning body and that, if any championing is needed, it will be done by Ministers. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I think that this is a pity. Ministers tend to come and go, sometimes rather quickly, and they also have other responsibilities, whereas the chairman of the Marine Management Organisation, who will have to be chosen with extreme care, will be in an admirable position, with all the information and knowledge that accrues to the organisation, to act as a champion and, if not a champion, as a guardian of our seas.

We are an island nation, and our marine interests are many and varied. It will be no easy task for the new body to carry out its duty of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development by drawing together all the disparate strands of the marine sphere. It will also have to deal with other government departments, devolved Administrations, local authorities and local interest groups such as coastal partnerships, as well as taking into account existing and future commitments under EU and international directives and agreements. Its effectiveness is crucial, and I hope that the arrangements being made by the Government to transfer staff and resources will be sufficient and that the transitional arrangements will be as smooth as possible.

The committee thought that the marine policy statement should be produced by the Government as soon as possible, and the Government are aware of

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that and have agreed to produce it within two years of the Bill becoming law. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I was interested to hear the Minister say that broad agreement had been reached between the devolved Assemblies. That was one of the worries that we had in the Joint Committee, because it was not clear to us what was happening in Scotland. If things have moved forward and general agreement has been reached, I can only welcome that. The marine policy statement, as the Minister said, filters down into local marine plans. I very much welcome the Government’s acceptance of our recommendation concerning the need to ensure compatibility between marine and terrestrial plans.

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