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Along with my noble friend Lady Ramsay, we welcome the pledge from Saudi Arabia of $1 billion towards reconstruction. I also commend the different NGO groups active on the ground. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred to the different religious NGOs—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—that are trying to distribute relief. My noble friend Lord Judd referred to the role of Oxfam. We know that many British and international NGOs are working there in a heroic and important way.

The UN today began a full needs assessment. We hope that this can be completed soon, so that we will all know what more is needed. As a number of noble Lords have said, access is critical to successful humanitarian relief. I was asked by my noble friend Lord Judd whether the Prime Minister raised this issue with Mr Olmert in Jerusalem at the weekend. I assure him that at the meeting on Sunday, the Prime Minister raised the issue of border restrictions and called for them to be eased. Tonight, our Foreign Secretary and other EU Foreign Ministers are meeting the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mrs Livni. They will reiterate our calls for easing those border restrictions and opening the crossing points.

Karni is the largest crossing point, best configured to cope with large-scale flows of goods in either direction. We are particularly focused on making sure that this vital artery of humanitarian relief is open, and that aid can flow. In order to meet Israel’s requirement that arms do not also flow through these border points, we must make sure that humanitarian access is secured along with assurances that it is humanitarian goods that are being transported. We believe that the 2005 movement and access agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority provides the framework for that. We will work with Egypt to establish security on its border. If necessary, we will look at extending the EU border assistance mission at the Rafah crossing, to provide European support for monitoring other crossing points beyond Rafah.

As has been expressed so strongly in the House, a humanitarian sticking plaster may stop the bleeding, but it will not heal the wounds of Gaza. Nor will it provide long-term security to the citizens of those towns in Israel. That can come only from a robust political settlement. For that, we must move beyond the simple restoration of infrastructure to address the political sources of this conflict. The ceasefire is the first step, as UN Security Council Resolution 1860 made clear. However, we must go beyond this. Israel must withdraw its troops from Gaza, and they must not go back in. Hamas must put a final end to the rocket fire, as the noble Lord, Lord Steinberg, and others, said. We must also move forward on removing unexploded ordnance. An initial survey of that is starting this week.

We must make sure also that the longer-term political progress to which we will return next week is followed up and that there is indeed a united Palestinian Government, able to deal with both Israel and the international community on issues of peace and development. The question was asked why European leaders went to Jerusalem last weekend. Let me point out that they also went to Sharm el-Sheikh. There was

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a determination that Europe must play a role, not just as a provider of assistance, but because we are generous donors, and because—as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said—Europe is a major market for Israel’s exports. We must make our voice heard for a solution which provides for decency and fairness, and for a solution which respects the needs of both communities. Last year, my honourable friend the Foreign Secretary argued, for example, for stopping the import into Europe, or at least labelling the import into Europe, of goods made in illegal settlements. We are very conscious of these trade levers and must find ways to use them.

To conclude, Britain, British NGOs, the United Nations agencies and the European Community organisations that we support will all play a major role in the humanitarian reconstruction of Gaza. But that is not enough. In this House, we all agree that humanitarianism can succeed only if the political roots of this terrible tragedy are also resolved once and for all.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Copy of Bill
Explanatory Notes
Constitution Committee Report

Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

8.38 pm

Clause 14 : Agreements between the Secretary of State and the MMO

Amendment 64

Moved by The Duke of Montrose

64: Clause 14, page 8, line 23, leave out paragraph (a)

The Duke of Montrose: I wish to move Amendment 64, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Taylor. This is a simple probing amendment to raise a concern about any possible territorial conflict in this clause. I had a quick exchange with the Minister at an earlier stage on the negotiations under the CFP. It would be reassuring to hear again what he was able to tell me in a more or less off-the-cuff answer, but it was, presumably, exactly the right answer.

The Explanatory Notes for this part of the Bill suggest that the Marine Management Organisation might be authorised to perform marine functions under the common fisheries policy. Does the Minister have a clear view of what functions can neatly be given to the MMO and are not likely to cause any confusion with the devolved settlements? Are there others which will require to be exercised over the whole of the designated fishery zone of the United Kingdom? Are any marine functions likely to be retained in the devolved area? Does the Minister anticipate that any possible confusions can be avoided? I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, for the way in which he moved the amendment, although I am not sure that I can answer all his questions quite as specifically as he might hope. I want to emphasise that Clause 14 enables the Secretary of State to authorise the MMO to

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perform any of his marine functions. This authorisation can be in relation to the UK marine area or parts of that area. The authorisation can apply generally or in specific cases.

The amendment would—I understand from the noble Duke’s speech that this is a probing amendment—remove the provision that the authorisation given to the MMO to perform these marine functions could relate to all or part of the UK marine area. This would restrict the flexibility we seek for the Secretary of State to make appropriate authorisations. It is important that we retain the flexibility to respond as necessary as there may be circumstances where we would want to specify in which part of the marine area the MMO is to exercise the relevant function, or there may be existing bodies in certain areas—which certainly, it goes without saying, would include devolved powers—carrying out functions, and the Secretary of State would not wish for the MMO to duplicate the arrangements already in place. I hope that that reassures the noble Duke in some respects.

Perhaps it would assist if we were clear what sorts of functions will be included in the types of agreements that we envisage. This would include work currently undertaken by the Marine and Fisheries Agency under the common fisheries policy—the licensing of fisheries vessels, the managing of fisheries quotas, the managing of fleet capacity and the managing of European grants schemes—or under EU regulations which are directly applicable in the United Kingdom. In the future, the MMO may need to take on new functions, such as a role of competent authority under the marine strategy framework directive, which we anticipate to have significant implications for the United Kingdom, and future marine regulations and directives which emanate from Brussels.

I would emphasise this point by way of reassurance: such a system was set up under Part 8 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and it works well. This clause seeks to provide a means by which Ministers can delegate these future marine functions to the MMO where appropriate. The amendment would, of course, significantly restrict our options in responding to future needs, which we cannot, at present, identify in all cases. I hope, therefore, that the noble Duke will feel that he has been sufficiently reassured to be able to withdraw his amendment.

The Duke of Montrose: Could the Minister reconfirm a previous point; namely, that the MMO will not be asked to enter into the negotiations under the common fisheries policy?

Lord Davies of Oldham: That is not the function of the MMO. Existing responsibilities lie where they do. We will see the Secretary of State exercising delegation only where it is entirely appropriate. He certainly would not want to do so where existing arrangements work satisfactorily.

The Duke of Montrose: I thank the Minister. That is reassuring from the Scottish point of view because there is a very delicate arrangement over these negotiations at all times. I am grateful to the Minister for such a fairly comprehensive list. We want to consider all that

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he has said and see how it applies in all the different areas. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 64 withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed.

8.45 pm

Clause 15 : Agreement between the MMO and eligible bodies

Amendment 64A

Moved by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

64A: Clause 15, page 9, line 6, after “MMO” insert “(or vice versa)”

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The two amendments in this group cover the relationship between the MMO and eligible bodies. The first amendment is intended to probe whether the MMO will always be on the front foot. I suggest that the words “vice versa” would give the other eligible bodies the chance to enter into an agreement with the MMO. In other words, they might be proactive. The Bill as drafted suggests that the MMO is always the proactive body, leaving the other eligible bodies in the position of reacting to it. I would like the Minister to comment on whether he envisages an equal relationship between these various agencies, bodies and organisations, or whether the MMO will always be in the more proactive position, as Clause 15 suggests.

I have tabled Amendment 65A because I would like the Minister’s reassurance that the Environment Agency will remain the competent authority for the water framework directive. This is because of the issue of water quality in estuaries and just off the coast. This is obviously the jurisdiction of the MMO but, as the Bill is drafted, it is the jurisdiction of the MMO up to the highest high tide inland, which could be 16 or 20 miles inland. I want to know that the EA will remain the competent body because the water in those places is so affected by what happens on land that the run-off from land into rivers, estuaries and the sea should obviously stay within the competence of the Environment Agency. I would not like there to be any confusion on that. Even when it affects something that either the MMO or IFCAs may have responsibility for, it should be unequivocally the agency that remains responsible for water quality.

I give one example that might be useful. I recently visited IGER in North Wyke, where some interesting work was being done on water quality, as affected by cattle dung on fields and the small organisms in it which then run off into freshwater—such as streams and rivers—and go downriver into the area where shellfish are raised. Obviously shellfish will not be under the EA’s jurisdiction but the water quality should be. The effect that could be implemented by farming those fields differently, perhaps by creating bigger borders between the river bank and the farmed area of the field, will make a difference. It is, in some ways, quite a leap of imagination for people to think that practising a different agricultural regime 20 miles inland will affect shellfish beds, but that is the case.

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Much work is already under way in this area. We have had previous debates on the water framework directive, one of which I memorably introduced. There was so little interest that there were, I think, three speakers altogether. I am not expecting a lot more interest today, but water quality and the way in which the water framework directive enables this country to up its game are important issue. As I have explained through the shellfish example, the knock-on effects are enormous, both environmentally and economically—and, indeed, socially, as anyone who bathes in estuary areas or off the coast can tell you. It is an important issue.

I look forward to the time when our water everywhere is of excellent quality. That is the reason I have raised the issue. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I can—

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have a few words to say on the amendment because I welcome it. I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, has brought forward an amendment which would enable an eligible body to allow the MMO to carry out any of its functions. If the functions are statutory, this would appear to be entirely rational. We also welcome the idea of the MMO working closely together with eligible bodies which have been defined in the Bill. The range of expertise contained in the selection of bodies would be of considerable help to each of the bodies. The Government have set great stock by bodies working together within a framework of understanding and co-operation. This would appear to be another area where this should be encouraged.

We should also—although perhaps more guardedly—welcome the noble Baroness’s Amendment 65A and its focus on the water framework directive. The importance of the amendment lies in its desire to avoid ambiguity. Clarity can only be a good thing. Nevertheless we will be interested in the Minister’s reply as we are keen to learn what he thinks of the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I apologise to the noble Lord if it seemed that I was trying to pre-empt his contribution to the debate, particularly on the second amendment. It was because I thought I had a reply which would be satisfactory to both the noble Baroness and the whole Committee. I include the noble Lord, with his usual intelligence, as being appreciative of the reply.

On Amendment 65A, the Environment Agency is the officially designated competent authority for the practical implementation of the water framework directive in England and Wales and there is nothing in the Bill that would change that, nor is there any need in this Bill to confirm it.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, is not in his place because, although I appreciate that the Environment Agency will be the competent body for the water framework directive, if the decision on the individual project mentioned by the noble Lord—the Severn barrage—was made by the Infrastructure Planning Commission as a result of it being an electricity generation installation of greater than 100 megawatts, we know that that would have a huge impact on water quality, on the water framework directive and on the ability of this country to deliver the objectives of the water

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framework directive. So although I am absolutely sure the noble Lord was in all good faith assuring us that the Environment Agency would be the competent authority for the water framework directive, nevertheless there are things within the remit of the Infrastructure Planning Commission that will have big impacts on water quality and will prevent the Environment Agency ensuring that this country fulfils the requirements of the water framework directive.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I hear the noble Baroness’s anxiety on this point and we all know with what authority she speaks. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Environment Agency has an easy role in fulfilling the ambition I was seeking to share with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. She introduced her amendment by saying that she was concerned about water quality, and so we all should be. I wanted to indicate that the Bill will not interfere with the Environment Agency’s responsibilities or powers in those terms. As for the putative clash between members of the Davies family in your Lordships’ House, the noble Baroness will have to postpone that position until another day when the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, is present to challenge me.

On the earlier Amendment 64A, I emphasise that the purpose of Clause 15 is to enable the MMO, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to make agreements with any bodies listed in Clause 16, authorising them to undertake functions on the MMO’s behalf. If they are doing that, then of course it is likely that the MMO—I am not quite sure of the precise phrase the noble Baroness used—will be the prime mover or initiator of the discussions, but that will be on the basis of co-operation and agreement. Those bodies include the Environment Agency, Natural England, local fisheries committees and the harbour authorities. This clause will enable the MMO to make arrangements for the most effective discharge of its functions, as those bodies may be better placed than it to carry out a function in a particular area. Nothing too malign should be read into the fact that the MMO may be taking the initiative.

Let me show an example where it would be entirely proper for the MMO to do so. Under this Bill, the MMO is taking over the issuing of licences under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. We have chosen this illustration with some care, as the noble Baroness will appreciate. While seals are primarily marine mammals, there are a few applications each year relating to seals in fresh waters. Since the MMO does not operate beyond the tidal reach, such applications will need to be dealt with by Natural England. That is the boundary issue we discussed on an earlier amendment.

The function will therefore need to be transferred to that body by the MMO using the flexible arrangements that we are seeking to create in Clause 15. The MMO would be the initiator, but I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise that as an entirely constructive way to use those powers. I hope that her probing amendment has called forth a response that satisfies her enough to withdraw it.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his clear and unequivocal response to Amendment 65A. On Amendment 64A, I will quote a

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different example from his seals, because I might return to this on Report. As we have discussed, the MMO has responsibility for tidal waters as far as high tide. If the freshwater mussel, for example, was living at the extremity of that high water reach and the MMO was doing something that required action to preserve that area, but Natural England wanted the MMO to act to preserve the freshwater mussel, it would be good for them to be able to initiate exactly the same agreement that the Minister quoted for seals. However, as the Bill is drafted it seems that only the MMO is initiating agreements. I can see where the Minister is coming from, but as the Bill leaves only the MMO being proactive, I might return to it on Report.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Just before the noble Baroness sits down, I understand that she is making an entirely valid point. To an extent, it countervails the position in my illustration regarding the seals—a pretty good one, I thought. Yet as far as her mussels are concerned, nothing stops Natural England making representations for the good of the environment and the protection of the mussels. The MMO has the ability to enter into an agreement in a memorandum of understanding or another contractual arrangement. By presenting an opportunity for the MMO to enter these agreements and take the initiative, we are creating a constructive power for it. We are not inhibiting the powers of others to make their case that effective action is necessary because they have identified an issue and it would be helpful if collaborative action took place. It would scarcely provide a basis for the co-operation and collaboration in the MMO’s functions, which is envisaged throughout the Bill, if it were not responsive when others identified other issues.

9 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The Minister has eloquently made a case for accepting my amendment, which would simply insert “(or vice versa)”, because when the powers of Natural England, for example, were drawn up, the MMO was not even envisaged, so Natural England was not granted a reciprocal power. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 64A withdrawn.

Amendments 65 and 65A not moved.

Clause 15 agreed.

Clause 16 : Eligible bodies

Amendment 66

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

66: Clause 16, page 9, line 35, leave out paragraph (b)

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The amendment carries on the debate from where we were last time, because it is another interface-type debate, where powers need to be defined to effect good management of the marine environment. The amendment probes the role of Natural England and seeks clarification of what marine functions the Government think it appropriate for that body to handle as opposed to the MMO.

21 Jan 2009 : Column 1750

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