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The simplifying and speeding up of the licensing process has been looked for in the marine sphere for quite a number of years, and it is to be very much welcomed. The Government talk about the MMO being a one-stop shop but, as has been mentioned, we have the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will deal with the larger developments such as port developments and the larger wind farms above 100 megawatts. It is important that the relationship between the Marine Management Organisation and the Infrastructure Planning Commission is as watertight as possible. I know that the Government are working on that, and perhaps the Minister can tell us a bit more about that. I am not certain how many wind farm developers will opt for sites below 100 megawatts, on the basis that the larger the site, the greater the subsidy. We will have to wait and see. The Severn barrage, which has been mentioned by noble Lords, would certainly come under the Infrastructure Planning Commission and not under this Bill.

Another activity that will need licences is dredging. Maintenance dredging is a vital aspect of our ports and harbours as well as the leisure industry, for boat yards, marinas et cetera. These previously unlicensed activities will be subject to requiring licences under the Bill before any decision is taken to exclude them. The anticipated increase in applications is still causing some concern, despite the one-year grace period proposed by the Government.

Another main plank of the Bill broadly welcomed by all concerns the establishment of marine conservation zones. I am pleased that the Government have acknowledged the need for these to be managed within a wider network of ecologically coherent marine protection areas rather than stand-alone sites. In the case of limited knowledge, some may need to be designated on the precautionary principle. All sites should be designated on best scientific evidence, but they will obviously vary in the degree of protection required. It is right and proper that a due balance is struck between conservation and the legitimate activities of users of the sea, whether from the commercial, energy or leisure sectors. The right of passage of commercial shipping must be taken into account, a point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and I know that the leisure boating organisations are also concerned. What will be the position, for instance, of heavily used waterways such as those separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland?

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The Government were reluctant to follow the committee’s recommendation to place a timetable in the Bill for setting up a network of conservation zones—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone—but I welcome the inclusion of a duty on Ministers to report progress on developing the network of marine protection areas to Parliament in 2012 and at least every six years thereafter. This will be linked to a further duty, following on from another of our recommendations, on the nature conservation bodies to monitor and assess the condition of marine conservation zones.

I will not say anything in relation to fisheries; that has been well covered. The role of enforcement officers was another thing that taxed the Joint Committee. We were concerned about where these people would come from, and I am gratified to see that the work will be initially undertaken by existing British sea fishery officers, who will be transferred to the MMO. The Government seem to be aware of our concern and are taking a closer look at the training of these people.

The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, also mentioned the omission of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from the draft Bill. This was another of our concerns, and we wondered whether it might be involved in enforcement. Although it is primarily concerned with safety at sea, there will be significant geographical areas of overlap in the spheres of operation, and I wonder if the Minister can shed more light on what progress, if any, has been made with regard to the role of the MCA.

I reiterate my support for this important Bill, which is probably in a much better state in view of the many consultations and the long gestation than many of the Bills that come before your Lordships’ House. I look forward to an interesting Committee stage, during which, I hope, it will be possible to tease out more details of the Government’s intentions. There is no doubting the enormity of the task that lies ahead of the Marine Management Organisation and, to a certain extent, other government departments. The former will have to locate some tricky tightropes. The Bill is, however, a most promising start to the better planning, conservation and management of our seas.

6.54 pm

Lord Cavendish of Furness: My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and, having heard him and the tributes that have been paid to him, I can see how well deserved they are along with the thanks owed by your Lordships to him and his colleagues who have done so much work.

This is an important Bill and one that in the round I support with enthusiasm. Even where I have misgivings, I think it is capable of improvement. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, I found the Minister’s enthusiasm infectious. We can all share the sense of vision that he provided and I congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill. I am delighted that a number of my noble friends and other noble Lords have been critical in detail: they have mastery of which I am not capable and my approach will be rather broader-brush.

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This measure will have a profound impact on my family, my family business and the lives of everyone who lives near me on the shores of Morecombe Bay in Cumbria, especially the farmers and the local fishing community. I therefore declare an interest, or rather a series of interests. I have a beneficial interest in several miles of estuary coast—the salt marshes, adjacent land and associated rivers. Ownership of this interest extends in certain areas and very unusually to what would normally be perceived as the seabed. The only other case of this in the country is my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

A further interest ties in with land ownership: as a family company we have been involved with bringing farmers together, especially since the foot-and-mouth crisis, with a view to producing specialist food of high quality. There has been a considerable investment in production and marketing. A case in point would be the lambs which are finished on the salt marshes. They produce an unusual meat, which deservedly commands a premium. The process is supported by environmentalists and there are parallel initiatives with non-intensive beef on the immediate hinterland of the coast. It is thought good practice for such cattle to poach newly formed wetlands, to make them rougher still. There are a number of these initiatives which, although they do not amount to a great deal, give encouragement to farmers in what is still a very discouraged sector. Those interests could be damaged by this Bill but, if handled with intelligence and sensitivity, they need not be damaged.

For the next point I want to raise I am required also to declare an interest. I am involved with the work of the South Cumbria Rivers Trust, of which I am president. The trust warmly welcomes this Bill, especially in so far as it affects migratory salmonids and eels. The trust is mainly concerned with what happens in river and lake habitats. Among the river trusts throughout the country, a hugely valuable stock of knowledge and understanding has accumulated through their own work and through the partnerships they have built with the Environment Agency and others. I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury speak on that subject.

A great gap in knowledge occurs through not knowing what happens at sea. We feel that, as a consequence of this measure, that gap will be closed to the huge advantage of both river and still-water fisheries and associated wildlife. Among the numerous species whose exploitation will apparently be controlled under this measure are sand eels. If I am right about this, there is much to celebrate. Apart from the benefits to bird life, the restoration of sand-eel populations will give an enormous boost to migratory fish, especially to sea trout, which is one of the species worst affected by over-harvesting of sand eels. I would not claim to be an expert on the common or European eel. Suffice it to say that it is thought to be 90 per cent less common than it should be in our inland fisheries. It is not clear why that is the case, but again exploitation, and especially exploitation of the juvenile population, seems to be the chief suspect. These small, transparent creatures, sometimes known as glass eels, are regarded in some countries as a tremendous delicacy and therefore command huge prices.

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I am sorry to go on about this minority fish, but at various stages of its life the eel is an important source of food for all sorts of species. Young eels are an important part of the brown trout’s diet and adults have an even greater significance. It is believed that the whole cycle of predation has been distorted by the shortage of eels. For example, the otter will take an eel in preference to a game fish. If it cannot get an eel, the balance is upset. The protection that many experts believe will be offered to eels by the Bill may not appear significant on the face of it. However, when one starts to consider the downstream effects of restoring the balance of just one species, one sees that the benefits to the natural world increase exponentially to the point where it becomes highly significant.

While I am hugely encouraged by the advances offered by the Bill, they will count for nothing if glass eel exploitation is not controlled in the rivers. The Environment Agency is quiet on the matter, by which I mean its website has collapsed, as it very often does. I do not know what its current position is on this, but it used to offer very cheap licences to harvest these creatures. I believe that the Environment Agency has powers to act under Clause 7, but will it be compelled to act? It would be pointless if one part of the Bill was negated by the absence of action in another area.

My final personal interest stems from my company’s efforts to control access to the foreshore in order to protect local fishermen when the gangs famously raided the cockle beds of Morecambe Bay, and our subsequent attempts to co-ordinate local fishermen into forming groups which could regain the initiative and fish responsibly and profitably thereafter. It has been slow and frustrating work. They are rather tribal and whenever we have a meeting they finish up by saying how much they hate each others’ guts. I still hope to draw them together. It seems to me that the Bill makes it far easier for such groups to come together and for sustainable fisheries to result from that.

I am bound to say how deeply shocked local people were at how the local agencies of the state effectively turned a blind eye to the most monstrous abuses perpetrated by these foreign cockle gangs. Laws and regulations in respect of trespass, marine regulation, health and safety, conservation, trading standards and anti-social behaviour were all wantonly broken pretty much with impunity. Many local people felt that this contrasted with the officiousness with which authority bears down on the smallest and often unintended transgression on the part of ordinary, mainly law-abiding people. I say that because the success of this measure—and it deserves to be successful—will depend as much on the way in which it is applied as on what appears in the Bill. That point was made powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I say this with regret, but the clear perception is that the plethora of powerful agencies that impact on our lives in rural Britain gets daily less lovable, and therefore less loved, and worse, less trusted. The weaker and more vulnerable the citizen, the more harassed he feels.

Only last week, a man listed for me 32 different badged officials who are entitled to come on to his coastal farm in order to inspect one aspect or other of his very straightforward agricultural operation. It is to

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be hoped that this Bill will not spawn another army of public sector officials; it will be largely self-defeating if it does. Still, it is interesting to reflect that if the Bill had been in force in February 2004, the lives of 23 Chinese cockle pickers might have been spared. It is hugely significant.

Given the interests I have declared, I hardly think I would be believed if I were to say that I warmly welcome the part of the Bill dealing with coastal access. I am concerned that there has been a missed opportunity and that a continuous coastal walk is perhaps not what people most want or need. That is based on my own experience and on the evidence I have trawled through. It is my contention that with the very limited budget proposed more could be done for the majority of people who want more access to the coast and a better experience when they get there.

I acknowledge, of course, that the term “coastal access” has a very attractive ring to it, and that when people are asked what they would say to being offered vastly increased rights over other people's land, their reply is likely to be something of a no-brainer. The reality, of course, is that much of our coast is ugly, dangerous, inhospitable and virtually incapable of being maintained in a safe state. I looked through much of the pre-legislative scrutiny. Like my noble friend Lord Taylor, I do not know why it falls to Natural England to do the job set by the Bill. I should have thought that nothing in Natural England’s predecessor's existence suggested that it was qualified to do it, and the new lot have hardly got their feet under the table. As a former local government person, and therefore prejudiced, I should have thought that local government had the experience, authority and, in large measure, the trust to do the job.

This should be a good moment to face up to the self-evident truth that man and the natural world are terribly ill-suited to each other's company. Perhaps that is the rationale of the Bill; both man and the natural world have legitimate but conflicting claims. There can be no “winner takes all” and therefore a balance has to be struck, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, pointed out. The measure might work but leaves out owners and those who derive their livelihood from the land. The notion that marathon walkers will help the economy through tourism is a canard. However, benefits could accrue to the economy if we stopped the war of attrition against farmers. Given the state of the pound, it is time to consider whether we could not become a little more self-sufficient as regards food production.

The overwhelming majority of people who will wish to walk the coast will be law-abiding and welcome. In 35 years, I cannot think of a single complaint made locally against the Ramblers; I certainly have none. I suppose that I could make the mild suggestion that the loveliness of the countryside is not enhanced by the much favoured synthetic primary colours that seem to be the uniform of many walkers. The problems in the country are twofold. The first lies with those who take advantage of the new rights to come on to private land with the intention of poaching, vandalising and stealing. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is not in his place because when I objected that crime was a

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threat during the right to roam debate, he made quite a joke of it. His light-hearted encouragement has borne fruit; rural crime is increasing. He is entitled to laugh if I lose a few thousand pounds worth of kit, but for a struggling farmer it is a very serious matter indeed, and it happens.

I have an even greater worry concerning the damage innocently inflicted on land by people who do not understand the dynamics of the country and leave gates open with catastrophic effects. Fire is another great danger. Asking for a robust appeal system, as has emerged in consultation and in the pre-legislative scrutiny, sounds too much like special pleading from me, and I shall leave that to others. I have tried, and so far failed, to find a continuous route over my stretch of the coast. The nearest I came to it, according to a back-of-envelope calculation, would result in there being little change from the whole £60 million allocated if it were to be a safe and happy experience. Others might do better. A sensible solution in my case would be to upgrade the old and absolutely beautiful coastal way a little way inland, enhancing, as I have already suggested, the access to various places which are fit for purpose on the coast. That would be much more cost-effective. However, I keep an open mind. The important thing is for these matters to be discussed. It would be disastrous if measures are imposed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who, sadly, is not in her place, spoke about risk. I agree with her that we have become far too risk averse. However, it is one thing for her to advocate risk and quite another for her risk to become my liability as she sinks in my local quicksands. I will be tremendously keen to pull her out if I am there. I have rescued at least six people from the quicksands or from being overwhelmed by the tide. Local fishermen have got lost in the fog and become disoriented. This very weekend, I watched a 9.4 metre tide—imagine where that comes to in your Lordships’ House—which came in not when it was scheduled to, but as I have never seen it come in before. It has to be accepted that it is a dangerous environment.

Can the Minister tell the House what liabilities landowners and land users face as a result of the Bill? In the private sector we have to have a risk assessment merely to blow our noses. Has the Minister done his risk assessment and what was the result? Does he accept that lives will be endangered through this Bill?

I shall close on a positive note. The Bill offers a huge potential for good and I wish it safe passage.

7.10 pm

Lord Burnett: My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my interests declared in the Register. Also my law firm has a planning department and acts for a number of aggregates companies, some of which are marine aggregates companies.

Like many other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and his committee on the excellent work that they have done. This is a lengthy Bill and the committee had much work to do in a very short time. The Bill has been welcomed, although, as my noble friend Lord Greaves and others have said, there is much more to come by way of secondary legislation and guidance. Nevertheless, the Bill is intended

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to be a framework and we should endeavour to ensure that it is clear, certain and consistent. Policy objectives should be well thought out, evidence-based and co-ordinated.

The creation of the Marine Management Organisation to lead and to be responsible for the integrated and co-ordinated management of the UK seas is welcome. The MMO must be funded properly, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said, so that it attracts to itself individuals of high calibre and experience to fulfil its important roles. The fact that membership of the board of the MMO is to be drawn from a wide representative pool is also welcome. The burden of work during the transition period should not be underestimated. The MMO will have to deal with, for example, the marine aggregate licence renewals and the round 3 renewables programme, to name just two matters.

The development of a strategic marine planning system has broad support. The marine policy statement should be clear and robust in setting the policy environment, priorities and objectives against which plans should be developed. The plans are unlikely to be right first time and they should be capable of being amended on proper and cogent evidence and during the plan period. We cannot risk the awful interregnum that used to exist with local plans, when they were set in stone for the plan period, which meant that planning policy was stifled and any changes in the plan period were extremely difficult to process. Licences should have sufficient flexibility to take into account, for example, the different environments being worked, whether offshore or estuarial, and the different problems and risks involved.

The proposed designation of marine conservation zones is welcome. Proposals should be formed by an evidence-led approach and should take into account the socio-economic interests of the immediate area and the country as a whole. Noble Lords have referred to the difficult balance to be struck between planning and development. It is not easy. We certainly need to protect our environment, our seas and our estuaries. That is a high priority. We also need to ensure that producers can operate reasonably and responsibly.

7.14 pm

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, on his excellent work with his committee. I declare an interest as a commissioner of the harbour authority in the port of Fowey in Cornwall. I welcome the little bit stuck at the end of the Bill—Schedule 20 —which, if enacted, will bring into force changes to the Harbours Act 1964 in respect of harbour revision orders. I have made several attempts to promote a Private Member’s Bill to get that changed. Your Lordships have always been very kind and passed it, but it always got stuck at the other end. It is good to see that those provisions are now in this Bill and I trust they will stay there.

I shall focus on two specific issues: offshore energy and marine navigation aids. On offshore energy, the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, spoke about the planning issues, but it is worth reminding your Lordships that

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the government target is that 15 per cent of all our energy requirements by 2020 should come from renewables. At the moment, I think that the figure is 2 per cent. It looks as though much of the difference between those two figures must come from offshore energy.

Although welcoming the Bill, the energy producers are worried about whether the proposed marine planning framework will take full account of sustainable development needs. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, the word “sustainable” has a very wide definition. If the Marine Management Organisation is to act as a marine planning authority, it will need not only an effective remit, but a necessary level of energy expertise. The Minister has said that it will be the strategic delivery authority, which is good. To do that effectively, however, it needs to have teeth and expertise in energy. Will the MMO be fit to deliver? Clearly, it should have conservation expertise, but it also needs to have experience of energy and to be committed to tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development to that end. I do not think that any of these major offshore or less major offshore developments for energy will happen without that.

I am unclear about the relationship between the independent planning commission and the MMO. I trust that they will be able to draw on the same advice and expertise. Perhaps my noble friend could explain how the two fit together. The same issue cascades down to the national policy statement for renewable energy, which we debated at length under the Planning Bill, and the marine policy statement. I hope that they will have similar policies and that the marine policy statement’s objectives will not be too vague. I suggest that they must provide enough certainty for companies to wish to invest and to have some comfort that they will be able to get a return from their investment. I look forward to comments from my noble friend on that issue.

I turn to something that is not in the Bill but which I think should be, although I have not worked out how; perhaps it could be added to the functions of the MMO in Chapter 2. This concerns lights and navigation aids to ships using UK ports. Such ships pay into the General Lighthouse Fund for the maintenance of the lights in the UK and, of course, they contribute to the cost of maintaining lights in the waters of the Republic of Ireland, which is an anomaly dating from when the Republic gained independence in the 1920s. However, under that principle, I do not see why ships coming into UK ports do not contribute to the maintenance of lights in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany or Norway. If our shipping lines are going to act as charitable institutions, why stop at Ireland?

I have raised this issue once or twice before in this House, as have other noble Lords. It is good that eventually the two Governments—the Government of the Republic and our Government—commissioned the Brooke report, which was published on 3 March 2008. The Review of Funding for the Commissioners of Irish Lights concluded:

“The analysis of the impact of the current funding arrangements and the findings of this report suggest that the GLF”—

the General Lighthouse Fund, to which all ships coming into UK ports contribute—

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