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Of course we understand the necessity for revision. Of course we appreciate that changes will occur, but that is a little different from what would be required if the amendments were passed. I assure the Committee that the Government are committed to the concept of a regular review and report on progress in meeting the MPS objectives in two ways. First, the requirements of the marine strategy framework directive, which must be transposed by July 2010, include a duty on member states to report on progress towards achieving good environment status every six years. A separate report by the UK as a whole will inevitably cover much the same ground as any report on the effectiveness of the marine policy statement in achieving the objectives, especially as compliance with the marine strategy framework directive will be one of those objectives. So we are committed by external obligations to review the position every six years and make clear how policy is developing.

Also, Clause 58, which the amendment closely mirrors, imposes a monitoring and reporting requirement on marine plans. It also requires those reports to set out the progress being made in the marine region towards achieving the objectives in the marine policy statement and for reports to be presented every three years. Of course the Government have taken into consideration the constructive intent behind the amendments: that there must be a clear strategy for review of the effectiveness of the MPS. It will be monitored and reported on directly in the way I described.

On Amendment 85D, as I said, our primary concern is to preserve the confidence of decision-makers and investors in the MPS. I recognise the objectives and motivation behind the amendment based on Section 11 of the Planning Act, but national policy statements under that Act are different from what we are considering in the Bill. There is no direct equivalent in the MPS. National policy statements will be used primarily by one body—the Infrastructure Planning Commission—making its decisions on a small number of applications each year on nationally significant infrastructure projects. The marine policy statement will be relevant to any decision by any public authority capable of affecting the UK marine area. That is a very different concept. That is why drawing parallels from the Planning Act is not directly relevant.

If we were indefinitely to suspend the operation of all or part of the MPS, we would create the very uncertainty that would be bound to be deleterious to the wider community. The danger would be that confidence in the whole MPS would be eradicated. Moreover, Clause 44 currently enables any policy authority that has prepared and adopted the MPS to review it at any time, although without affecting its operation. The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness would require the joint agreement of all the policy authorities to the suspension. As I have indicated, we see great dangers in the concept of suspension and wish to resist them. We are not unaware that the concept behind the proposal is that the policy must be subject to analysis and review. I have indicated how that will

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happen, and I hope the Committee will appreciate the administrative reasons why we find the concept of suspension difficult to accept.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, asked whether a review of part of the MPS would be possible. There is a duty to review the MPS if any change is considered appropriate. If that change had an impact on only part of the MPS, we would review only that part, so a partial review in that sense is possible.

I hope that noble Lords will feel that the Government have considered the intent behind their amendments, and that they will accept that the structure that we have for review and the problematic aspect of suspension mean that the Government have got this particularly important issue right in the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

4 pm

Baroness Hamwee: Until the Minister got into some of the detail of suspension, after his initial blanking of it, I thought that it was a very good job that he was not on the government Front Bench during consideration of the then Planning Bill, because, as I said, this is a direct lift from that Bill. One sometimes wonders whether departments have thorough enough discussions with one another. Of course the situations are not absolutely directly equivalent, but the marine policy statements are the basis for the marine plans and are therefore close enough to warrant my consideration of the detail of what the Minister has said—this is quite an interesting situation—and perhaps to revisit this at the next stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

On Amendment 85D, I do not believe that a five-yearly review means a five-yearly revision. Indeed, the Minister talked about impressions that were given. I do not think that it would create any impression that would in any way undermine confidence, which he also talked about, any more than the looser provision for review in the Bill. Perhaps this amendment could also be tweaked. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 85D withdrawn.

Amendments 85DZA and 85DA not moved.

Clause 44 agreed.

Clause 45: Amendment of statement

Amendments 85DB to 85DBB not moved.

Clause 45 agreed.

Amendment 85DC not moved

Schedule 5 : Preparation of an MPS or of amendments of an MPS

Amendment 85DD

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

85DD: Schedule 5, page 226, line 37, at end insert “or revision”

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Baroness Hamwee: In moving Amendment 85DD, I will also speak to Amendments 85E to 85H and 89C to 89F. My noble friend Lady Miller also has two amendments, and there is a government amendment, in this group.

Amendment 85DD would amend Schedule 5 by extending the statement of public participation provisions to a revision of the marine policy statement.

The words “relevant document” are defined in paragraph 2 of Schedule 5, which includes amendments of an MPS. Assuming that a revision leads to an amendment, revision is a distinct step. The word “review” might have been better for the purpose of the amendment. Making that distinction has led to my amendment to the Bill.

On the back of that, I should like to ask the Minister a question about paragraph 1 of the schedule, which is relevant to understanding what we will be debating. I noticed this only this morning. Paragraph 1 states:

“Before any policy authorities publish a relevant document, they must comply with the requirements ... of this Schedule”.

In this modern usage of the words, “any policy authorities” and the word “they”, is “they” singular in this case? I assume that it does not mean that if,

all policy authorities,

A definition of “relative authorities” kicks in further on. I was a bit confused by the wording at the beginning of the schedule.

My other amendments in this group come from the Link Coalition. I hope that it is not thought that we are in any way in its pockets or are just acting as a mouthpiece. We happen to share most of its views, but Members of the Committee will not be privy to a few exchanges where, on this Bill and on other Bills with the same organisation, we have said “Sorry, we do not agree with you. These are our amendments now”.

The Bill leaves open the details of the public participation process and allows for flexibility. But the UK is under an obligation to make specific provision for public participation in respect of environmental plans and so on under the Aarhus Convention, including the following requirements: reasonable timeframes for different phases with sufficient time for effective participation, early public participation when the options are still open and due account to be taken of the outcome of public participation. Whether or not those requirements were in the Aarhus Convention, which this country has ratified, it is all a good thing. An obligation to produce guidance on minimum requirements might also be desirable to ensure that there are minimum standards and consistency in this area.

There should also be an obligation to have public meetings and a requirement to include information about public meetings in the SPP—I am doing what I hate in that I am being reduced to acronyms because it is too tempting—and a provision for interested persons to object to the statement if they think that the process of developing the marine policy statement and the involvement of the public is in some way unfair. There are similar provisions relating to marine plans.

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The Planning Act 2008, which we will inevitably pray in aid on many occasions during this part of the Bill, has extensive provisions about public participation, albeit that they are not precisely in the form we would have liked to see. So the overall question is: why not here?

I welcome government Amendment 89CC, but it is quite limited compared with the amendments in my name. I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has raised some interesting points and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. While we are on the matter of the statement of public participation, I should like to seek clarification in a number of areas. First, am I correct in assuming that there is just one SPP for the whole of the UK and not separate ones for each of the devolved powers? Secondly, paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 talks about a “proposed timetable”. Can the Minister enlarge on this? There was some debate about it when the Planning Act was being discussed, particularly on allowing sufficient time for the consultation process. Thirdly, I could not agree more with Amendment 85F tabled by the noble Baroness, which states that there “must” be public meetings on the consultation draft.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I rise to speak briefly to my amendments grouped with those of my noble friend, and I am grateful to her for raising the profile of this issue. My amendments seek to address the really quite odd words used by the Government in paragraph 4(3), which states:

“The relevant authorities must publish the SPP in a way calculated to bring it to the attention of interested persons”.

My proposal is to substitute the phrase “in a way calculated” with “so as”. The Government’s phrase seems a little mealy-mouthed. Does it leave some form of loophole so that if they do not bring the SPP to the attention of interested parties they can say, “Well, we calculated it would, but actually it did not”? I am concerned that this is quite a difficult area in terms of public participation because it concerns the marine environment, one where people do not actually live. That is wholly different from an SPP in the terrestrial context; it really is a bit of an unknown quantity.

My second amendment asks for an,

I am not sure that that would need to go on for ever, but at the beginning of the process it would be useful to know that the way in which people were consulted on the SPP has been properly evaluated and that any changes to improve the process have subsequently been made. That is the purpose of this amendment.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Public participation is very important indeed to the integrity of the processes for developing both the marine policy statement and subsequently the marine plan, so this is a welcome debate. A number of specific questions have been put to me, and perhaps I may answer those first.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether the word “they” used in paragraph 1 of Schedule 5 is meant to be singular or plural. Our response is that it means all or any of those who are going to publish, and I have been advised that as a matter of law,

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singular implies plural and vice versa—I am sure that that has satisfied her. I should also direct the noble Baroness to the definition of “policy authority” in Clause 42(4). I know that she was not able to be present when we debated it, but that clause defines policy authorities as,

Perhaps I may also refer her to Clause 43(1) which makes it clear that an MPS,

which allows one or more to duck out of the process—

I hope that putting all this together with paragraph (1) makes it clear to the noble Baroness.

4.15 pm

As to the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, we are talking about one marine policy statement and one statement of public participation. It is a part of the challenge to which the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, referred earlier of ensuring, wishing, expecting and hoping that the UK Government and the devolved Administrations work together. The incentive is that if one of the devolved Administrations does not take part or withdraws, they will lose their influence over the marine policy statement. Taken by and large, and in the light of the discussions that have taken place between Ministers and officials in all the relevant Administrations, we believe there is a general recognition that, while it will be challenging and there will inevitably be tensions, there are powerful incentives to make people want to come together so that one marine policy statement covering the whole of the United Kingdom emerges.

In ensuring that that happens and that it is as effective as possible—that it is not, in the words of the noble Duke, motherhood, apple pie and little more—the public participation part of the process will be very important. It will be a document in its own right and it is intended to place into context how it will be used. So anyone who has an interest in or is affected by a proposed marine policy statement or a marine plan will be able to take part in the process. Clearly, although we are debating Schedule 5, Schedule 6 contains similar provisions for marine plans in relation to the statement of public participation.

On Amendments 85E and 89C, we would argue that the statement of public participation gives guidance for public participation by setting out how the plan authority must involve people in the development or revision of the MPS and marine plans and the timetable for taking it forward. This would include details of when the plan authority proposes to publish the draft MPS or plan for public consultation. However, we have already given a commitment, which I am happy to reiterate, that we will produce, consult on and publish guidance to the MMO on the expected standards of stakeholder engagement and public participation it is expected to meet when preparing marine plans.

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All policy and marine plan authorities will be subject to the various legal obligations on public access to information and participation in decision-making arising from both European and domestic legislation. I can confirm that that will include directive 2003/35/EC, providing for public participation in the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment, and directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA directive, which requires public consultation to be held in relation to proposed plans and programmes which may have significant environmental effects. We believe that the requirements are already in place and that we do not have to reiterate our duty to comply with them in preparing the SPP.

Amendments 85EA and 85EB seek to alter the provisions in paragraph 4 of Schedule 5 which relate to the publication of the statement of public participation. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, in particular, referred to that. The current text of paragraph 4(3) requires that the relevant authorities must publish the SPP in a way calculated to bring it to the attention of interested persons. The current wording supports the intention that we have set out, which is to place the authority in no doubt that we want an active process, designed to ensure that interested persons are engaged. We have made it clear that as well as any person who may appear to the authority to be likely to be interested or affected, we want to engage the attention of members of the public.

The second amendment would place a requirement on the authority that the effectiveness of the process used to gain the attention of interested persons should be assessed, and that assessment published. We are not anticipating that the development of an SPP for an MPS—I am falling into the same trap that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, fell into—will be a frequent occurrence, for the reason that my noble friend Lord Davies gave. We hope that a marine policy statement will have a good life before needing to be amended or replaced. Clearly, the authority needs to be aware of the most relevant way available at the time of bringing an SPP to the attention of interested persons. Most consultation and engagement processes result in a summary of that public consultation being made available, and lessons are learnt for the next exercise. Certainly, we have learnt that through the development of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

We have already given a commitment that guidance will be provided to the Marine Management Organisation on the standards of consultation to which we expect it to adhere. I know that the devolved Administrations also have standards of public consultation and engagement. My whole experience of government suggests that we are engaged continuously in a programme of consultation and engagement. That is right, and it will happen in relation to the arrangements as regards marine policy statements and marine plans. For that reason, we do not really see the benefit of putting the additional requirement on the policy authorities into the Bill.

On Amendments 85F and 89F, the statement of public participation will be a living document that will be updated throughout the process of preparing each

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marine policy statement or plan to take account of any change in priorities, needs and circumstances. This is designed to enable those with an interest to be clear about the anticipated process, consider the involvement that they want to have and plan ahead for it.

Amendment 85DD seeks to ensure that an SPP is prepared for revisions to a marine policy statement as well as the marine policy statement prepared originally. The entire process for the preparation of, and amendment to, a marine policy statement is set out in some detail in Schedule 5. Clause 45 enables the policy authorities that originally prepared the MPS to amend it by following exactly the same procedure, as set out in Schedule 5, as was used to prepare the original marine policy statement. This is reiterated in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 5, which state that, before any policy authorities publish a relevant document—in this case, the marine policy statement—or any amendment to it, as referred to in paragraph 2 of Schedule 5, they must comply with the process set out in Schedule 5, including preparation of an SPP, before they adopt and publish the amendment. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in particular, that amendments to an MPS will be prepared in the same spirit of openness and participation as the original document. I very much take the point that she has raised.

I understand that during public consultation there was concern about the lack of express provision requiring the policy or plan authorities to consider any representations made to them about the quality of the statement of public participation. I reassure noble Lords that, although there is no specific provision in the Bill, there is nothing to prevent anyone from making representations to the policy or marine plan authority about the SPP. If such representations are made, they will be considered. Paragraph 6 of Schedule 5 and paragraph 7 of Schedule 6 place a duty on the policy and plan authorities to revise the SPP if they are satisfied that that is necessary.

In response to Amendments 89D and 89E, it may help if I explain the reasoning behind the current reference to public meetings in paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 and paragraph 6 of Schedule 6. From studying international experience and from our experience of holding a number of roadshows during the development of the marine Bill, we fully recognise how useful it is to hold one or more public meetings as part of a public consultation. It is clear that that can be very helpful in enabling some groups of people who would not ordinarily respond to written consultations to make their voices heard and get involved in shaping policies that will affect them. With this in mind, we included a specific reference to the holding of public meetings in these two paragraphs as part of the general public consultation on a draft MPS or plan.

I know that we are being invited to compare this Bill with the Planning Act—it is fair game, as only recently did the latter pass through your Lordships’ House—as well as to make comparisons between this approach and that in, let us say, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which required the holding of a public inquiry or hearing in response to any objections raised about a proposed local plan. We think that

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those types of public hearing are more akin to the independent investigation process, which we set out later in Schedule 6 and to which we shall return, because we have tabled some amendments in relation to it. We want to do all that we can to ensure that anyone who wishes to make representations may do so. Paragraph 8 of Schedule 5 and paragraph 12 of Schedule 6 require that any representations be considered by the policy or marine plan authority when it is considering a final text. Public meetings are clearly one way of enabling debate and engagement. They can be extremely helpful, but they are not the only, or sometimes not even the best, way to ensure that people are able to participate. For that reason, we think it odd to require the holding of a public meeting but not other means of enabling participation. We would not want to single out public meetings as the primary—

Lord Tyler: Is it not a fact that in any democratic discussion what is unique about a public meeting is that there is an interplay of views? It is very difficult to think of any form of consultation in which it is absolutely impossible not to hear other points of view and to respond to them. Why do we meet in your Lordships’ House if it is not important to see the way in which a debate and a discussion go? All other forms of consultation tend to be in a single direction. For that reason, the Minister is perhaps underrating the value of public meetings in this context.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I certainly did not seek to give the impression that I did not understand the importance of public meetings and what I suppose the noble Lord would call the benefit of debate. There is no question but that they can in many cases be extremely useful. All I am saying is that they may not in every circumstance be the only or the best way to ensure participation. We do not want to single out public meetings as the primary specified way by which interested parties may make their voices heard. Nothing that I have said has sought to undermine the effectiveness of public meetings, but they are not the only way, and sometimes may not be the appropriate way, to ensure participation. There has to be some discretion in the way in which these matters are taken forward.

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