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Part 1 is the MMO section. As many noble Lords have said, there is concern about what sustainable development means in terms of this critical responsibility of the MMO. What is its duty and who will decide if it is delivering within that concept? Who is going to make sure that the robust policies that the MMO is going to have to pursue are being properly fulfilled? Where is the parliamentary scrutiny? That was another point made by the Joint Committee. The contributions of a number of noble Lords on that issue were particularly significant, but the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, put his finger on the difficulty, the complexity and the interrelationship of all the species that operate in sensitive ways in the ecosystem of our coastline and our sea immediately off the coast. A difficult responsibility will be laid on the MMO, and I worry about the extent that we, as parliamentarians, will be able to monitor what it is doing, particularly during the transitional phase, to which reference was made by a number of noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said that he is not clear whether the MMO is to be a champion that will campaign or whether that is a ministerial role. That is not clear at the moment, and I hope the Minister will come back to that. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, suggested that there will be a need for expertise on renewable energy within the MMO. That is a significant issue, and when it is added on, we move on to other areas of concern to do with climate change.

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I always learn something in a debate in your Lordships' House—that was not always my experience at the other end of the building—and I was fascinated to hear of the debate in 1853 about the Gulf Stream referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton—I must get the right Lord Hunt. That debate may not have examined the issue that I, living down in the far wild west of the United Kingdom, worry about because I have been told that the Gulf Stream may reverse so that global warming will make it colder to live in Cornwall. That is extremely worrying. If that was dealt with in 1853, that was well ahead of our current science.

Considerable concern has been expressed about the timescale for marine policy statements. One noble Lord suggested that the Minister previously said that he expects them within two years. That will be quite an achievement. What will the process of consultation and monitoring be if it is to be as speedy as that? Until it is there, it will be extremely difficult to see how the marine plan new developments will take place and how they will be compatible with and march alongside the terrestrial planning development schemes coming forward from planning authorities and the IPC. That has been a familiar cause for concern this afternoon.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, in relation to Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, in the case of Northern Ireland and my noble friend Lord Livsey in the case of Wales, mentioned that the interrelationship of marine policy statement development and the devolved organisations and Assemblies will be extremely difficult to achieve in that timeframe, let alone the interrelationship with the Republic of Ireland, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said.

I regard marine conservation zones as most critical in this part of the Bill. I hope the Minister will be able to indicate a timescale. As I understand it, by 2012 we will have all sorts of international obligations within the European Union and beyond, and therefore we need to have in place a pretty substantial network of MCZs by then. Building in the national visual experience to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, referred and the subsidiarity, the local input, during that process will be extremely difficult to achieve. I note that the CPRE suggests that the existing criteria for MCZs need to take into account a wider concept of the seascape—its word—of areas of sea and contiguous coastline and assorted land and tidal features on grounds of natural beauty and cultural, geological or archaeological heritage. The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about the heritage was very fair on that because it is difficult to divorce those kinds of issues from the natural heritage. For example, the Jurassic Coast of Devon and Cornwall, the national parks and the world heritage sites all have a human element. Indeed, on the coastline of Cornwall, we still have some amazing relics of our great industrial revolution, which was long before the English one. The English were dancing about in woad when we were getting on with the business of developing tin mining. There will be issues that go beyond the present scope of the Bill, and I would like reassurance that they will be dealt with.

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Renewable energy has come up constantly in this debate. It is extremely topical. Wave hubs—there is a wave hub experiment taking place off the coast of Cornwall—the Severn barrage or the reef project, which may be much more advantageous from an environmental point of view as well as from an economic point of view, and major offshore wind farms are being suggested. I took very seriously the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty—I am sorry he is not in his place—about the difficulties that might come from Part 6, which deals with inshore fisheries and conservation districts and authorities. There will be a tricky relationship—I think the noble Lord described it as a jurisdiction problem—in that context. It will be extremely important to make sure that there is good input from local fishing communities. Having represented them in the past, they are not usually backward in coming forward with their views. There must be the right machinery to make sure that their input is taken seriously by the new IFCAs.

Just in passing, it may have been the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who said that she thought the enforcement provisions in Part 8 did not look as substantial as they should be. We will learn from other legislation, particularly from experience in other forms of conservation and environmental legislation, what can be effective. Certainly, the reference to “intentional” damage sounds to me a bit weak. She suggested, in common with Natural England, that the word “reckless” would be a more effective way on which to base enforcement. There must be experience there that we can take advantage of.

On Part 9, we now reach the vital issue of coastal access. I have not heard repeated in the House this afternoon the extremely important point made by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee of the other place,

“We are uneasy that the Bill places so much emphasis on simply trusting Natural England to ‘get it right’”—

in terms of determining the alignment of the route and extent of spreading room—and that,

“The lack of a formal appeal process is a fundamental weakness of the Bill”.

I know from my experience of that place that they will not let go on that point, so we might as well try to get it right at this end before the Bill goes there. Otherwise, with a government majority on that Select Committee, they will be determined that that point is not lost. I hope the Minister will take that on board. There will be important roles to play for local, elected representatives. Again, a number of noble Lords this afternoon have referred to the fact that there is expertise in our local authorities, particularly in the top tier ones. Cornwall is now going to be a unitary authority. There are going to be people there, not only in touch with local opinion on these issues, but with a lot of experience. If we just sweep that away and say that the quangos will do the work, the legislation will not work. It will not be bought into by the local communities that are most affected.

How soon can we expect definitive maps of the coastal access issues to be defined and agreed? Will there be government funding? We know from our experience from the CROW Act, and before that from the ways in which local authorities were given responsibility

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for public rights of way and bridleways, that they had a very significant responsibility but not the funds to fulfil that responsibility. That, too, seems to be an extremely important issue. Maintaining the coastal footpaths, as we have discovered with the South West Coast Path, can be an expensive business and needs to be constantly reviewed.

At the tail of his contribution, the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, was talking about the advantages and disadvantages of taking the marine section away from the coastal access section. There are advantages and disadvantages. I think we have got to live with the fact that they are together. We have got to get on with it. There is some real advantage in taking a comprehensive view of what is happening along our coastline, from both a human point of view and from the point of view of those other species with which we share it. That, in a way, is the logic for this combined Bill.

That this House is ideally placed rigorously to scrutinise a Bill of this sort, has been referred to. The devil will be in the detail. My noble friend Lord Greaves made that point at the outset. I like to think not of the devil being so much in the detail, but of sea monsters, like those which used to grace the medieval charts. There may well be unexpected conflicts. There will be some confusion. There are hidden threats in this Bill, where there are conflicts of interest. Simply because it does not raise great issues of political dogma does not mean that we need not take it very seriously indeed. As others will know, sometimes it is the Bills that do not have great political divides across this House or the other place that need even more attention; for example, the Child Support Agency was not controversial politically, but it has caused a great deal of problems since its introduction.

As with the CROW Act, the Planning Act and the Commons Act, we must do our very best to identify these detailed problem areas and expose them to a full scrutiny in the way that your Lordships’ House does so well before the Bill finds its way down the corridor to the innocent, na├»ve mariners in the other place, who, lost without party dogma, may find it rather difficult to navigate this legislation.

8.05 pm

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, I should declare that I have been a member of the BASC, the Salmon and Trout Association and the Game Conservancy Trust among others and I am a former councillor. This has been an excellent debate. I should like to thank all those who have contributed. It is good to see that nearly half the contributions have come from these Benches. This is the second Bill this year that I have been involved in that has had the benefit of pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee. I should like to add my voice to the many to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and his committee on their excellent report.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Geddes that it would have been preferable, if not courteous, to have heard the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, higher up in the pecking order. What he had to say was of great interest to this House. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about coastal access, but I will come back to that later.

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As my noble friend Lord Taylor has said, the Bill is extremely thin on detail, in places deficient. Indeed, one could go further and say that it appears to give the fewest possible restrictions on anything the Government might choose to do in future, or on anybody who might be given the delegated powers. The Government have declared their intention to make everything clear in a blizzard of orders, guidance and memoranda of understanding, which will follow at some unspecified date in the future. This suggests to me that, after years of talking about their commitment to marine conservation, the Government still do not know the answers. Are they really expecting this House to give them these enormous powers without some better idea of what they intend to do with them? We will have to tease out their intentions in Committee. All of us, on all sides of the House, are desperately keen for a sensible marine policy that will promote sustainable development over all UK waters. However, there has been precious little indication that the Government are yet in a position to deliver that.

As has become clear in this debate, so much of the Bill is unclear. We will have a very full Committee stage seeking answers to our many questions.

There are fundamental questions about the role of the Marine Management Organisation. Two government organisations have likened it to a “champion of the UK seas”—a powerful, scientifically rigorous body that could make a real difference—or possibly just as one more public body, well intentioned but powerless to make headway against the myriad special interests that dominate this sector. Surely we already have enough quangos involved in this area.

At the moment, the outcome rests entirely on the guidance that the Secretary of State may, or may not, produce. That is unacceptable. There need to be strong and clear duties in the Bill. The promotion of sustainable development needs to be the overarching duty and needs to be clearly defined. The MMO’s relationship with European, international and other UK bodies needs to be clarified. The Joint Committee report listed a bewildering array of bodies where there will be unclear and overlapping remits. If the Minister is unable to say how he intends the system to work, how can he expect effective memorandums of understanding to be drawn up?

The relationship with the Infrastructure Planning Committee was touched on when the Planning Act proceeded through this House last Session. We will certainly return to this in Committee. I was particularly interested in the contribution of my noble friend Lady Byford when she highlighted the possible conflict of this Bill with other legislation, namely the Planning and Energy Acts, and which should prevail. However, where it is clear that the MMO is the boss, safeguards must be written in to ensure a proper system of consultation. The MMO must also be suitably advised. Does the Minister intend to ensure that there are sufficient resources for a scientific advisory panel?

Consultation and clear relationships will also be needed when it comes to the devolved powers. It would be ridiculous for the MMO to establish marine policy up to the border with Scotland, only for an entirely inconsistent policy to be continued from there

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on, as ably argued by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. I have no doubt that these devolved matters will be discussed at length at later stages of the Bill. There is a need for compatibility and co-operation with the devolved powers, not only with Scotland but also with Wales, as argued by my noble friend Lord Glentoran, whose future contributions will also be invaluable when it comes to Ireland.

The marine planning statements are another part of the Bill where detailed questions need to be asked. I understand that the Minister was seeking to have as much consistency as possible between this Bill and the Planning Act, in that there will be parliamentary scrutiny of the statements, which is reassuring. However, questions remain over the timetable of the statements. We hope that will happen as soon as possible as so many other provisions appear to hang on them. Once again, there is a remarkable lack of clarity as to their compatibility with the devolved equivalents.

On marine plans, we shall be looking carefully to ensure that they cover the entirety of the UK's seas, not just one or two experimental plans. There appears to be no timetable for the production of these plans. The compatibility between the plans and their neighbours, both across national and local boundaries, will be critical. There seems to be no exploration of the interaction between the various neighbourhood plans, both marine and land-based.

On marine conservation zones, once again there is no clarity on whether there will be management plans or, if there is a management structure, who will designate them, and on what grounds. Will it be the MMO or another body? If another body, will it have the necessary marine scientific expertise, and how on earth will the enormous overlaps of responsibility be handled? What will be the MMO’s role? How long will it take before the zones are set up, and will the Government set up a scheme once and for all, or will the system be constantly added to?

The body that is given the responsibility for designating these zones has a very difficult task ahead of it. My noble friend Lord Geddes talked about the practicalities of balancing the needs of shipping with the aims of protective zones and the need actively to mark the zone boundaries. New restrictions are never popular and I hope that there will be a suitable system of consultation and stakeholder involvement to ensure that those who use the sea are able to contribute to the protection of it, from anglers to sailors and from fishermen to commerce. My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury talked of the need for zones to protect sand eels and their valuable role in the maritime food chain, to name but one interested party. Decisions must clearly be made on proper scientific evidence.

It is even unclear what zones are being contemplated. Are we talking about a network of no-take zones seeking to protect fish stocks, flora and fauna and aggregates? A network is certainly needed and we are glad to see it is one of the few things specifically referred to in the legislation. But why are we not looking at setting up a flexible and dynamic system of zones that can encompass all sorts of sites worthy of all sorts of protection, in addition to a network? Here

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I have in mind zones set up to protect our maritime heritage, whether of cultural, historical or architectural interest, as so ably argued by my noble friend Lady Hooper.

These zones will certainly need periodic review, not just on a national level, with the appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, but also on a local level. There must be allowance for the adjustment of zones that are not achieving what they were intended to, for small adjustments or even for the decision that the matter needing to be conserved is out of danger and restrictions can be limited or lifted.

There is also a great deal of confusion over where the zones will or can be set out. It is clear from the Scottish Parliament’s briefings that it considers anything up to 200 miles fair game, but this confidence does not seem to be shared by the Government. Will the Minister explain the legal powers that the UK Government have to impose restrictions in the seas between six and 12 miles and between 12 and 200 miles? How will the zone restrictions be enforced? Will they be subjected to a strategic environmental assessment?

Finally, I should like to turn to coastal access. As my noble friend Lord Taylor said, we support the principle. Our concern is, once again, that of feasibility. The implementation of the CROW Act has given us a good idea of some dangers and pitfalls that need to be avoided. For example, the lack of proper consultation in establishing the CROW Act led to numerous appeals—more than 3,000, I believe—with all the associated cost and delay. It is extraordinary that the Government have decided that the solution is to abolish the right of appeal.

We would like to ensure a proper consultation and the statutory involvement of local authorities. This would ensure that the number of appeals is greatly reduced. Disputes will always happen unless a procedure is established whereby a fair balance is struck between private and public interests. I hope that my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu will feel able to contribute to the Committee stage. He demonstrates his ability to balance having 100,000 visitors to his lovely estate with managing its magical wildlife habitat. In the same vein, I am sure that the experience of my noble friend Lord Cavendish in Morecambe Bay, and with sand eels, will bring a valuable contribution to this Bill at a later stage.

There are many possible points of dispute. The route of the path is only one, although it will be one of the trickiest. There is also the need to avoid certain sites because of danger to the public, such as MoD land, industrial sites, mudflats and salt marshes, or because of damage to the environment such as nature reserves, or because of private rights, such as people’s gardens or parks—an already contentious area, especially when you consider spreading them. Will the path, or alternative paths, be mapped clearly, showing the spreading room?

The use of the path has already been questioned. Will it be footpath only? Will horse use be voluntary or compulsory on parts of the path? Will that make those parts of the path a bridleway, with all the accompanying problems of motorbikes, quad bikes and 4x4s? What about dogs?

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There are no doubt many other matters, but I will stop there. I have tried to highlight some of the issues that we think will need change or clarification. There are many that I have not had time to touch on. No doubt, they will all be discussed in Committee. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

8.19 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, let me say that this has been a very good debate. The many matters that have been raised will ensure that the Committee stage is lively, interesting and no doubt informative. Noble Lords welcomed the Bill in general but went on to find aspects they asked questions about or disagreed with; that is entirely fair and consistent with the scrutiny of legislation in your Lordships' House. However, I think that ultimately there is consensus about the importance of the Bill as a whole and about its importance in protecting the marine environment and allowing its rich resources to be used effectively and to the great benefit of the people of this country. My noble friend Lord Davies of Coity put it very well indeed.

The noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Geddes, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and other noble Lords were critical of what is now described as a framework Bill. It is a very long Bill to be thus described, although I readily accept that there is much to be done to fill in some of the questions about the guidance and orders that will follow it. There are two ways of looking at this: I consider that it has the necessary flexibility to allow for changing circumstances and to gain experience. The first point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made was that it had taken a long time for the Bill to come before Parliament. The time that it has taken has allowed it to become even better ordered than it would have been, but marine Bills do not come before Parliament very often. That is one reason why one is justified in having certain flexibility in a framework Bill to allow the legislation some flexibility for future development. The orders that will come from the Bill will themselves be subject to scrutiny. I have no doubt that the amendments that we will discuss in Committee and on Report will tease out some matters about which noble Lords want to be informed.

I join other noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, not only for his excellent contribution to our debate but for the work of the Joint Committee and its members. I noted his comments on the short time allowed. All I can say is that the quality of the committee’s work has not been dimmed because of the shortness of the time in which it had to operate. I am extremely grateful to him and to the members of the committee for their work.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to something I am completely unaware of—a departmental turf war in Whitehall. I have the great honour to be a Minister in both the Department of Energy and Climate Change and in Defra, and, although the Bill is sponsored by Defra, the matters that it covers concern the Government

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as a whole. Of course, there will be some trade-off and tension, but we think that this model will enable us to get the correct balance, which is very important.

We heard from my noble friend Lord Whitty and the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, about one of the Government’s aims in relation to climate change—increasing the use of renewables—in which marine and wave power and offshore wind have a part to play. That must be right; we have a very challenging target. Equally, we want to do that in a way that will not damage the environment. The establishment of the Marine Management Organisation and the relationship that it has with the IPC and national policy statements gives us the best way to deal with that essential balance. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who is not in his place, talked about many of the pressures that one faces with the marine environment. He was absolutely right to do so.

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