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National parks have not been threatened. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, took me on a little tour round the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. I walk round the coastal pathway of Cornwall; I have been to Snowdonia; I have been to areas where the national parks are contiguous with other land; I have even been to an
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Perhaps I may give the Minister an example. We are talking about seascapes as a reason to designate an MCZ. Let us suppose that seascape is under threat because there is a lot of dredging of aggregates and the sand on the beach starts to shift. The Minister talks of East Anglia where he knows the speed with which the sand can shift at places such as Woodhenge and along the whole East Anglian coast. That seascape can be altered by natural events, but also by manmade activity. The manmade activity in that case is very likely to alter the seascape. That is one example. I could give the Minister about 50 more but I shall not detain the Committee. We are talking about designating the MCZ in order to protect the seascape, which would do a lot more than protecting a geological feature, for example, which is less under threat, although the Government have correctly seen fit to put that in the Bill.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I hear what the noble Baroness says. She is obliged to say that the shifting of the sand might in any case be natural and nothing to do with manmade constructs, but she is also forced to recognise that if there is a question of manmade constructs with regard to the shifting of the sand, they would be for other objectives, even for preserving the land on which people would need to stand to enjoy the seascape. In those terms, if the noble Baroness will forgive me, we come back to the issues that the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, introduced in the previous amendment; namely, the wide considerations that we have to take into account with regard to the Bill. It may be necessary to include such socio-economic factors and aspects in the Bill. They were ably defended by my noble friend during the debate on the previous amendment. I merely want to indicate that due regard has to be given to the fact that there are considerations beyond the aesthetic concept of a seascape. I would be the last person to suggest that there are not very important aesthetic qualities to the views that we all experience and enjoy, but that is a little different from talking the language of conservation, which the Bill is about.
I want to emphasise that the national parks and other conservation organisations on land are strong enough bodies to make sure that the perspectives that people enjoy are defended. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, emphasised that a large number of people enjoy these perspectives and views and value the national parks. Anyone or any authority concerned with the Bill has to have regard to the interests of the national parks in those terms. We would not dream of producing a Bill that set the position of national parks at anything except important.
Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Lord will recognise that I am arguing that national parks are bodies with such a proud record of defending our heritage, the beauties of our landscape, the views to sea andit goes without saying as far as the national parks are concernedthe views from the sea to land that it would be absurd for it to be contended that they need this defence in the Bill, which is primarily directed towards other objectives in conservation, or that their interests would not be taken into account. It is obvious that we cannot develop the policy without having due regard to the land authorities that are contiguous with the sea. I am merely saying that in areas of outstanding natural beauty and in the parks, it is not conceivable that a proposal could come forward for a conservation zone that did not take into account the interests of the national park.
My noble friend was right, as he usually is on these matters, when he said that these issues were mentioned in earlier marine Bill documents, especially the marine planning and marine nature conservation sectors when we dealt with the White Paper a few years ago. They may not be mentioned in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, but the Bill derives from the White Paper, and they will be part of the Marine Management Organisation when it starts to develop its marine plans. I want to give the Committee every assurance that it is not conceivable that the Marine Management Organisation could do its job properly without them.
Lord Tyler: I am following the Minister as best I can, but he seems to be advancing two quite different arguments. First, he says that it is impossible to define the seascape, and he has poured a lot of cold water on the definitions that some of us have attempted; but now, if I understand what he has been saying in the past few minutes, he is giving the Committee an assurance that the MMO and the authorities will, in the designation process, take full account of the particular considerations that we have all been arguing are important. He cannot have it both ways. Now I have given him an opportunity to read all the interesting notes that have been coming from the Box, I hope that he will be able to give us a more substantial answer.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My answer has been substantial, logical and coherent with regard to a number of issues that have been raised in this debate. First, the defences for areas of outstanding natural beauty and the position of the national parks are not inadequate. Secondly, it is extremely difficult to specify seascapes in legislation. The noble Lord, I notice, has not taken on that particular challenge. I will give him time. After all, there will be other stages to the Bill: that is, if we ever get to Report. One sometimes wonders in which month in 2009 we will get to Report, but we will eventually get there, so we will have another chance to rethink this matter.
I emphasise that the Bill is primarily a conservation measure that is based on very clear aspects of scientific evidence. The problem with the seascapein no way, shape or form is the aesthetic any less important than the scientificis simply that its definition belongs in a different Bill. That is not the objective or purpose of this Bill.
I emphasise that the Government are concerned about the protection of areas of marine beauty, the messages about which have come through loud and clear this evening. We had an earlier debate on these issues, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, presented with her usual clarity and force. The debate was substantial. The concepts will be included in the high-level marine objectives that underpin the development of the marine policy statement. The statement has to set out all the policies on the marine environment, and the plans will address the interests and concerns of all those who are connected with the sea. However, that is different from putting alongside the precise, scientifically based concepts of the Bill a concept that is much more difficult to define and which is not scientific but aesthetic. Within that framework, I do not have the slightest quarrel with the objectives of the amendments. Far from it; I enthusiastically endorse them. I have no reservations about them whatever, and I speak on behalf of the Government. I am saying merely that they do not fit into the clause because the clause is based on an objective that is different from the objective that noble Lords are introducing at the moment.
I realise that this is difficult, because I am saying no to those who are arguing most benignly for something that everyone in the Committee values and wishes to see protected and enhanced. However, I am also defending the necessary integrity of this legislation, and noble Lords will have to make a great deal more progress on seascapes before the Government think that the case has been made for adding this concept to the clause.
Lord Judd: I hope my noble friend will accept that some of us earnestly hope that the noble Baroness will bring this proposition back on Report. My noble friend is a very accomplished parliamentarian. He is a parliamentary craftsman who loves the art of assembling the arguments to demolish a proposition. He will forgive me as an old friend for saying that sometimes he gets a little carried away by it. Sometimes his best friends, of whom I want to regard myself as one, want to say to him, Come off it. My noble friend knows perfectly well what a seascape is. He knows that in our literature, poetry and history, seascape has been a central and living concept. He goes on and on about the precise scientific measurements of other elements of conservation. Is he really saying that as a nation we have given up on spirituality, imagination and vision? Why can we not encompass these dimensions of our life in this Bill? They are of so much importance to so many people.
I hope that the noble Baroness will come back with this proposition on Report and that, in the mean time, my noble friend will use his, in some ways, unequalled parliamentary skills in getting to work with the draftsmen and his officials to say that this is something so wonderful in our heritage that we have to find a way of recognising it and putting it in the Bill.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: It should be quite easy for Defra as the sponsoring department to come up with something. After all, it has produced a
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Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, but I am even more grateful to my noble friend for his admonishment. I will merely note that in his factual, accurate and dispassionate description, he suggested that I should introduce an element of spirituality into this Bill, which presses me a little far. I want to emphasise that there is no way in which the development of the work of the Marine Management Organisation can occur without it taking into account exactly the concerns that have been expressed in this debate. Nor would the Government want it any other way. We share with all Members of the Committee exactly the propositions so accurately defined by my noble friend, which I was humbly seeking not to repudiate but to demonstrate Government support for. I am seeking to identify that this amendment fits ill with this clause and the basis of the premise of the scientific approach which we need to conserve. Therefore, as ever with amendments, the Government can be expected to accept amendments only when the case has been made, and the case has not been made.
Lord Howarth of Newport: What is the Governments view of the status of the commitment to the European Landscape Convention, which embraces seascapes? Does that constitute a material planning factor? Is it justiceable? In what sense does it matter and count? How does that separate commitment, which the Minister insists should not be part of this legislation, sit alongside it and in relation to it?
Lord Davies of Oldham: I have to say to my noble friend that it sits alongside rather than being integral. It is not expected that a measure concerned with aspects of marine conservation and the evidential base on which we have to do that work, as advocated by my noble friend, will fit within that framework. However, I will not convince noble Lords from this Dispatch Box tonight. I can read the signs. I am only too well aware, as my noble friend Lord Judd indicated, that I have not taken him very far. He is not alone; most Members of the Committee are sceptical about the Governments arguments. Therefore I will write to noble Lords about our commitment, as far as concerns seascapes, in relation to Europe. Despite the awkwardness of the definition, I will write on that point and make sure that noble Lords are well informed about that dimension before we reach Report stage. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that she can safely withdraw her amendment and keep her ammunition for another day.
Baroness Hooper: I am grateful to noble Lords for their warm support of this amendment. Short as it was, one tiny word has engendered a great deal of comment. I am sorry about the difficulties over the definition. I made a stab at it and was not trying to
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The Minister said that he accepted the principle of the amendment and from that I suppose I must draw a crumb of comfort. However, the suggestion that the amendment does not fit into this clause was certainly grasping at a straw when the noble Lord was running out of other arguments. When we come to the coastal access provisions, it will become clear that the benefit of seascapes is what the coastal access provisions are about.
While I am on that subject, it was suggested at Second Reading that this was two Bills in onethe coastal access provisions had been added to what had been a separate consideration of the marine environment. I suggested that maybe it should become three Bills in one and that if we were successful in adding the amendments relating to our historic heritage and its protection, that would be the result.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that this is an immensely important Bill. It is and therefore it is also important that we cover as much ground as possible and ensure that our marine heritage is protected. I will read Hansard, await the letter promised by the Minister and certainly return to the subject to please the noble Lord, Lord Judd. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(4) The reference in subsection (1) includes, in particular, a reference to conserving any species, marine habitats or types of habitat or features of geological or geomorphological importance that are rare or threatened because of
(a) the limited number of individuals of that species, or limited occurrence of those habitats or features of geological or geomorphological importance;
(b) the limited number of locations in which that species or those habitats or features of geological or geomorphological importance are present;
(c) the vulnerability of that species or those habitats or features of geological or geomorphological importance to specific human activities.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My amendments in this group probe the drafting of subsection (4) a little further and emphasise the important role that credible science must play in the designation of the MCZs. The alternative version of subsection (4) that I have proposed in Amendment A135 highlights the ambiguity of defining vulnerability by counting the number of individuals in a species or locations where they flourish. Does the Minister intend these numbers to refer to a limited number in the UK marine area or in the world as a whole? A species might have relatively few individuals present in the UK marine area merely because it is on
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Vulnerability can indeed be completely separate from numbers. There may be a large presence of a species which is not particularly rare, but it is particularly vulnerable to a type of disturbance; for example, starfish or worms, which are particularly affected by large-scale excavation of the seabed.
Why are marine habitats and geological features excluded from being classified as rare? A particular type of habitat that supports an unusual diversity of species that might not be individually threatened is surely as worthy of protection as a depleted species.
I am sure that these questions will be answered with common sense, but ambiguity of this kind and the difficulty of finding precise definitions make it that much more important that decisions are based on sound science criteria. We have had a similar debate already on the decisions of the MMO. The same concerns are just as applicable, if not more so, here.
In making decisions about designation, the appropriate authorities are likely to find themselves besieged with representations from more or less impartial stakeholders, more or less informed public pressure groups and more or less benign political pressures. It is critical for the success of the ecological network that those do not lead to unscientific, if more popular, decisions. I beg to move.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for raising two very important points. First, he was very clear that we need to be sure that we understand what is meant in this part of the Bill and I very much agree with him. I think noble Lords are sometimes disappointed by the Governments response to amendments when we say that we understand why the amendments are proposed but that we worry that they will leave the Bill less clear. I also echo the noble Lords point about the need for decisions to be very firmly based on the science that becomes available. He then asked a number of interesting questions about what we meant by limited number.
On Amendment A135, we believe that by providing site-based protection for fauna or flora through designation of marine conservation zones, we shall protect their habitats when necessary. We think that the diversity of habitat is dealt with by subsection (5). On features of geological and geomorphological importance, our intention is to protect sites which are of interest. This mirrors the approach on land, where features of interest can be notified as sites of special scientific interest. The wording is deliberate. Whether something is of interest can be easily determined, but whether it is important is probably a matter of opinion and may well be hotly debated. More than that, we do
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In relation to limited numbers the noble Lord raised an interesting question. I take it that in general it relates to the UK. It is entirely a proper matter to be taken into account. It indicates that there has to be some flexibility, but I would resist being pressed into finding a definition of what we mean by limited. We need to leave it to common sense. Amendment A135 would include a reference to vulnerability to human activities. I hope that I can reassure noble Lords that the concept of a species being threatened already captures its vulnerability.
In deciding on the objectives of a marine conservation zone and restrictions placed on it, the appropriate authority must take into account first and foremost sound scientific evidence. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in proposing Amendment A137, is keen to ensure that by inserting the words sound scientific criteria alongside economic or social consequences they will be considerations that may be taken into account. Undoubtedly the Government want to take account of the best available scientific evidence in making designations. Scientific considerations will underpin the whole process of site selection and designation from start to finish. The regional projects that are currently being established to advise on site selection will draw on scientific information from all available sources, including data from industry and sea users. The regional groups will also receive advice and guidance from a national scientific panel of independent and recognised experts who will soon be appointed.
I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord that our firm intention is to make available the best possible use of scientific data. I do not see how the provisions in Clause 114 could be carried out unless the best scientific evidence that had been made available was fully taken into account. We fully take account of the concerns raised by the noble Lord today.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the Minister for his response and for the way in which he has dealt with these amendments. As he rightly says, they are a matter for resolution by common sense. However, there are interesting issues of principle on the whole business of population protection when numbers come in. Many things that are quite plentiful may still need to be preserved to maintain the ecology of a particular climate. I speak as a land-based individual with an interest in horticulture and botany. The noble Lord knows my business interests. In analogies with land-based natural environments, plenteousness does not necessarily mean that such populations are not valuable and not in need of protection. This is a much more complex matter than can possibly be legislated for. By seeking to put science into the Bill I wanted to try to make sure that decisions were as objective as possible. I sought to emphasise the great complexity of arguments that have to be considered in terms of individual species. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(c) must make provision for the marking of the designation on charts, GPS systems and, where necessary, on the surface of the sea.
That is important inshore, where some heavy use of marine conservation zones may be allowed and, more particularly, where the licensing of such zones has been highly restricted so that almost nothing is allowable. If I take as a model the existing zone around Lundyone of the very few examples that we haveyou are not even allowed to drop your anchor there.
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