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I come to the Marine Management Organisation. My noble friend Lord Hunt set this debate the tremendous challenge of competing with the debate that led to the establishment of the Met Office. Whether or not the MMO will achieve the status and excellence of the Met, our debates will surely lay a good foundation. We can only hope. I know that there is great interest in the role and objectives of the MMO. I have no doubt that, on our first day in Committee, we will devote considerable time to discussing that. What is its role? Is it a champion of the seas, as some noble Lords asked? We see the Marine Management Organisation as the Government’s strategic delivery body in the marine area, required to have regard to all aspects of sustainable development in carrying out its responsibilities. Of course, the Government must set the strategy, but within that the MMO itself will have a hugely important role to play in informing the strategy and in the responsibilities that are laid down in the Bill.

I know that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and others pressed the Government to define “sustainable development” in the Bill. Noble Lords who have taken part in debating other Bills that have recently been through your Lordships’ House will know that the Government are rather resistant to doing so. This is not because sustainable development is not important. What we understand by sustainable development is a dynamic concept. One of the risks of putting too tight a definition in the Bill is that we may exclude many important matters. I should not pray the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, in aid, because he is not here, but he made a telling point about the need for a degree of flexibility.

I have no doubt that we will discuss in Committee the status and staffing of the MMO. On staffing and terms and conditions, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that no decisions have yet been reached, but she will understand that those are challenging issues. They are being faced by my department and the new Department of Energy and Climate Change. This always occurs when structural change takes place. On the question of status, I will not be drawn by my noble friend on the grading of the director of this organisation, but I understand his point about the need for seniority and status. I also understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, about the calibre and expertise

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of the people whom we wish to be board members. The noble Lord mentioned scientific expertise; a dose of common sense would also not go amiss. Clearly, we want the highest calibre of people around the board table, whether they are executives or non-executives. I say to my noble friend Lord Hunt that data are absolutely vital.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and other noble Lords asked about the relationship between the Marine Management Organisation and other bodies. I will come shortly to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. I recognise that, probably, of all the relationships, that is of most interest to many noble Lords. The noble Baroness is right: the MMO will have to deal with other delivery bodies and regulators to reduce the risk of overlapping functions or gaps in regulatory control. We are working on that to clarify roles and responsibilities. We intend to issue memoranda of understanding to ensure that the regulatory framework works effectively. This is not an untypical approach; memoranda of understanding work in other sectors. I have no reason to think that they will not work in this sector as well.

As for the Infrastructure Planning Commission—many of us debated this during proceedings on the Energy Bill—the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and the Planning Act 2008 have been developed in parallel. We expect and intend that the roles of the Marine Management Organisation and the Infrastructure Planning Commission will be complementary. The MMO will license most projects and developments in English territorial and UK offshore waters.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will consider applications for “nationally significant” infrastructure projects, which means in the marine area the largest ports and renewable energy installations that will generate more than 100 megawatts of power. When the Infrastructure Planning Commission is the consenting authority, the Marine Management Organisation will lend its expertise to the Infrastructure Planning Commission and will act in a close advisory role on the marine aspects of each project. After, and if, consent has been given, the Marine Management Organisation will monitor and enforce consent conditions.

As noble Lords will know, and as I said in my opening remarks, we have instituted a requirement on policy authorities to review periodically the marine policy statement. We have made the marine policy statement subject to a similar parliamentary process as the national policy statement, and marine planning organisations are under an obligation to do what they can to ensure compatibility. Clearly, we have to ensure that there is consistency between the two statements. It would be nonsense, illogical and impossible for people working or wishing to invest, or concerned about the environment in this marine area, if there were not consistency.

Marine plans are another important area. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that decisions on marine plans have to be taken in accordance with marine policy documents unless relevant considerations apply. Essentially that means that there is a long established concept drawn for terrestrial planning that allows for new scientific data and knowledge, specific

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local characteristics or a new or unforeseen circumstance not envisaged when plans or the policy statement is drawn up to be considered. I can reassure the noble Baroness that we would not expect diversion from an MPS or a plan to be undertaken lightly. Decision-makers, for example, would be required to set out reasons for departing from a plan. Obviously, we will be issuing guidance to decision-makers on that very important matter.

On the question of marine heritage and archaeology, I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, made a very important point. I very much look forward to debating that with her in Committee.

We have had a very interesting discussion about the fishing industry. I will perhaps come on to one or two points later. We hope that the impact of marine planning will offer the fishing industry, as well as other marine users, the chance to have their say about how the seas should be managed. We hope that planning will bring efficiencies for the port industry by allowing stakeholders from all sectors and government departments to come together and ensure that at the earliest possible stage a discussion on port activities and developments is considered alongside other planned developments. It should be the same for the renewables industry.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, and my noble friend Lord Whitty made some very telling points about the tragedy of the cockle fishers, the fact that we continually need to learn from that, and the hope and expectation that the legislation being brought forward today will enable us to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, was concerned about shipping. We recognise that the points he raised are very important and we will ensure that issues around shipping will be fully reflected in the marine policy statement and marine plans. We do not anticipate the establishment of a network of marine conservation zones as having any significant impact on shipping lanes.

The noble Lord, Lord Burnett, asked me about changing plans during the planned period. I refer him to Clause 50, which says that marine plans may be amended at any time using the same process as originally used to prepare the plan. As I have said, decision-makers also have the flexibility to depart from the provisions in the marine plans if relevant considerations apply.

On the question of nature conservation and the criteria for the designation of marine conservation zones, the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Hamwee, made some very important points. Let me come to the issue of social and economic consequences. The reason it is highlighted in the Bill—and draft guidance made available this summer is being updated on that matter with a view to publication in the new year—is that taking account of socio-economic issues will ensure that we minimise the impact on social and economic opportunities in the marine environment while meeting our conservation priorities. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, put it well when she talked about changing societal views and the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, spoke of the balancing act to be made. I do not think it should excite deep concern in noble Lords that those

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factors are mentioned in the legislation. It is a perfectly legitimate matter to be considered as part of these arrangements.

As for the conservation objectives set for marine conservation zones, I can let the noble Baroness, Lady Young, know that the objectives will be set in the designation orders for the zones. The designating authorities will have the power to assign those zones and they must exercise that power to contribute to the achievement of an ecologically coherent network across the UK. Designating authorities will report on progress towards achieving a network in 2012 and every six years afterwards.

I recognise that we will have an interesting debate when we come to enforcement. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that the general offence of deliberate damage to marine conservation zones is intended to capture acts of vandalism that would not be caught by other enforcement provisions. Reckless damage or disturbance would be captured through the creation and enforcement of targeted by-laws. We think that will provide greater clarity for all sea-users.

Coming back to 2012—I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, raised that issue—we are well aware of our commitment through the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Convention on Biological Diversity to contribute to a global system of marine protected area networks by 2012. We think that the duty of the Secretary of State to report by then on progress towards that is entirely consistent with that requirement.

Clearly, noble Lords are concerned about the depletion of fisheries and the need for conservation. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, among other noble Lords, raised such questions. I know that some groups have requested that the marine conservation zone mechanism should be used as a fisheries management tool and as a way of creating large no-take zones in order to promote the recovery of fish stocks. I understand that we will be discussing that more fully, but our intention is to designate marine conservation zones for conservation purposes and not for fisheries management. We think that the level of protection for a marine conservation zone will depend on the site-specific conservation objective. There should be no presumption that designation of a marine conservation zone will result in closure to fisheries.

The Earl of Shrewsbury: My Lords, let me clear my mind on this. The marine conservation zones are presumably outside the 12-mile limit and are way out at sea in the 200-mile limit, and so on. Is that the correct way to think about it?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not sure that it is but, rather than getting myself into too deep water, I shall write to the noble Earl. I am not at all sure that he has got that right. Certainly, the important point is that it would be wrong to presume that the designation of a marine conservation zone will result in closure to fisheries, notwithstanding the general concern that I share with noble Lords about the whole question of fish and conservation, which is crucial in terms both of sustainability and the environment and of the health of the fisheries industry.

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My noble friend Lord Whitty made a number of important points, which I very much agree with, about the management of inshore fisheries and the new inshore fisheries conservation authorities. Before coming on to talk about coastal access and devolution, which are two important matters, I say to my noble friend Lord Berkeley that talks are continuing between this Government and the Irish Government on the extraordinarily important matter that he mentioned. As far as the question of unilateral action is concerned, I would hesitate in encouraging us to go down that route. My noble friend knew what I was going to say. We enjoy the benefit of an integrated and safe service of aids to navigation. Clearly, we wish to enjoy the strongest relationship possible with the Irish Government, so it is sensible to allow these interesting discussions to continue, rather than threatening unilateral action within the confines of the Bill.

Coastal access is very important and, in general, noble Lords support it. I believe it to be an important and worthwhile measure. I understand that there are some serious points that noble Lords will wish to debate. My experience of coastal paths is, like others’, with the south-west path, which I have very much enjoyed walking on in the noble Lord’s former constituency. Frankly, it is absolutely magnificent; it is wonderful that so many people are allowed access to that wonderful coastline. The path is integrated with public transport, although one sometimes has to walk a long way inland to find the buses. None the less, it does work, and it is the south-west that I tend to think of when I think of the coastal pathway. I understand the points raised by noble Lords that there are different conditions in different parts of the country. One has to be careful when walking around some parts of that path route.

Why is Natural England to be given the leadership role? Why can it not be left to local authorities? Last week, in the Queen’s Speech debate, we were pressing the case for local authorities to be given absolute freedom. On Friday, in relation to waste, noble Lords wished to dictate to local government every single action that it was to take. We tend to move this way and that when it comes to the role of local authorities. It is necessary for there to be national leadership and consistency. That is why we believe that the prime duty must be placed on Natural England. I entirely accept that of course individual local authorities also have a critical role to play. This will not work effectively unless local authorities are fully involved. I very much took the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and other noble Lords about the need for local ownership. I fully reassure noble Lords that we expect and will require local authorities to be important partners in this process. Indeed, on the point raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, of how you ensure that walkers should gain access to and from the coastal path, I would say that not only landowners but local authorities play a vital role.

I understand the point about the protection of wildlife. As under the CROW Act, there will be flexibility and powers for Natural England to decide on any exclusions or restrictions. I also understand the concern about risks. I hope that we will not become such a risk-averse society that we are not prepared for people

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to walk along the coastal path. For landowners, there is a question of liability and I understand their concerns. The Bill proposes that the provision in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to limit liability related to natural features should be carried into the coastal provisions. We recognise the significance of non-natural features on the coast and we will be proposing to limit liability relating to non-natural features of the landscape as well. I hope that that will provide some reassurance.

Many noble Lords feel strongly about the right of appeal. Mention has been made of the appeal system that has been used in relation to CROW in the determination of more than 3,000 appeals. Of course, there are differences. The CROW appeal system was based on a matter of fact—whether the land was mountain, moor, heath or down—whereas the decisions of Natural England about proposing a route under this Bill are more about the application of policy to facts on the ground. We believe that the system of consultation and representations in the Bill, together with other safeguards, get to the heart of the requirement to strike a fair balance between the interests of the public and the interests of those with a stake in the land. I refer noble Lords to Clause 92, which sets out how representations can be made to the Secretary of State. I am aware, however, that we will be coming back to that point in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, asked about costs. He will have seen the projected figures in relation to coastal access impact assessment. I stand by those figures. I understand the pressures; equally, we have to ensure that the money is used in the most effective way.

As with coastal access, I suspect that we will discuss devolution in relation to every part of the Bill. Having been a Whip during some of our consideration of the Scotland devolution Bill, I very much look forward to that. As a general principle, the marine environment is a complex mixture of devolved, reserved and non-devolved matters. Devolution is a reality and this Bill contains a set of provisions that respect the current settlement. The agreement that we have reached with colleagues in the devolved Administrations means that the Bill before your Lordships’ House delivers a UK-wide system of marine planning, with all four Administrations intending to develop and agree a marine policy statement to set a

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new strategic framework for the seas. That has the full support of all the devolved Administrations, who have committed themselves to delivering a coherent set of policies and systems across the UK for the benefit of stakeholders. That is a statement of principle.

I recognise that there will be tensions and that much work will be needed to ensure that this works in practice. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked about managing the marine area across territories between Scotland and Northern Ireland and between Wales and the Republic of Ireland. It is a good question. He knows that the Bill provides for a UK-wide marine policy statement. Clearly, wherever there are boundaries between different jurisdictions, the authorities on either side of a line will share a view on what the UK as a whole is aiming to achieve. As regards waters adjacent to the Republic of Ireland where it is not possible for us to legislate, there is nothing to prevent us from reaching agreement, and we would seek to do so.

The Bill does not devolve further powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based on the existing devolution settlement. However, we have agreed to a form of executive devolution of some of the Bill’s functions to provide for a more coherent delivery of the common objectives that we share. Of course, different countries will make different remarks and will have different ambitions, but I am satisfied that the four countries concerned recognise the need for consistency of purpose to make sense of the marine environment and all the other issues that we have discussed. The Government will work very hard indeed to ensure that we achieve that.

I am afraid that I have gone over my time. This has been a splendid Second Reading. It has raised a lot of interesting questions. There is a general consensus on the importance of the Bill and what it seeks to achieve. Legitimate questions have been raised about some of the detail. I suspect that we can look forward to enjoying one or two arguments in the next few months. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. I very much hope that we shall enjoy further consensual debate in the future.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 8.52 pm.

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