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If there is to be a series of marine conservation zones all around the coast, which shipping will have to observe, which divers should observe and which both commercial and recreational interests must have knowledge of then they will, at the least, have to know where they are because they will be expected to abide by the zone rules. They have to be able to see what is wherefor example, where they can drop anchor and where they may not even be allowed to go. They might have to observe other sorts of limitations; some boats, for example, still empty their dirty water into the sea. I should hope that would not be possible, particularly within the special conservation zones where the ecosystems are deemed to be vulnerable to such things. There are all sorts of reasons for having them clearly marked.
The Minister will know, as he kindly organised it, that I met with his Bill team, who explained to me that there would be difficulty in marking these zones on the charts because the chart-producing companiesI presume that means the Hydrographic Office, but there may be othersare not in public ownership. Having mulled it over, that does not seem a good reason to me for not marking them. I believe it absolutely essential for both commercial and recreational interests that some form of marking takes place, at least on paper and GPS, while in certain areasparticularly in high-use areasit may be necessary to put buoys, for example, on the surface of the sea.
It is commonly understood that where a buoy is off a headland, for example, it is saying, Do not go inside this buoy; you have to stay to its seaward side. That is common knowledge for all sea users, and it would be quite easy to develop a similar system for MCZs.
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Clause 113 enables the appropriate authority to designate marine conservation zones. The discussions around MCZs have raised many issues during this Committee. We have not always been in agreement about the best way to designate the zones, but across the House the clear intention is to make sure the zones are drawn up in the best way to maximise their potential to fulfil the requirements of this Bill. However, we have not yet addressed how people who use the marine environment, for work or recreation, will know when they are entering or leaving MCZs.
I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness that it is of vital importance that these zones are marked in an obvious manner which is easily accessible to those who use the marine environment. The rules and regulations surrounding MCZs will mean very little if they are not adhered to because of general ignorance about the precise location of the zones themselves. The Joint Committee reported that it, too, was unclear about how the MCZs would be marked and identified. Without this clarity, it will make successful enforcement very difficult. The boundaries will need to be clearly marked and the type of conservation objective for each zone clearly identifiable. What are the Government's plans in this regard? Does the Minister think that charts, GPS systems and marking on the surface of the sea will be the most effective way of marking the zones, or does he have another cunning plan? If so, could he tell the Committee?
Lord Greenway: I support this amendmentindeed, I have raised the subject of marking the conservation zones on a number of occasions, including only last Thursday. I also raised it in the joint scrutiny committee.
There are problems associated with this, because of the different degrees of conservation in the various zones. I certainly think that the highly protected zones should be marked not only on charts with notices to mariners and, possibly, by buoysalthough then it becomes a question of who is responsible for laying the buoys, whether it is Trinity House, a local authority or a harbour authority. There are problems, too, with the innocent passage of shipping and yachts, even in some highly protected zones. It may be quite possible for a small ship or yacht to transit that zone, even if it is not allowed to anchor. Charts at the moment carry certain areas where there is no anchoringwhere there are submarine cables or naval exercise areas, for example. It is important that the whole idea of marking the zones is thought about very carefully, and I support the amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I agree with the noble Lords last pointthat these issues will have to be considered very carefully. The issue is whether the amendment is necessary for that careful consideration to be carried out.
Clause 121 already gives public authorities such as the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office a duty to further the conservation objectives of sites in carrying out their functions. When there is a need to mark sites on charts, they will therefore be under a duty to take whatever steps are appropriate, provided that it is compatible with their functions. So we respond to the amendment by saying that of course the concept behind it is important but we think that the Bill already provides adequately.
What primarily appears on navigational charts is, of course, driven by safety criteria, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, would have emphasised if he had spoken at greater length. Chart compilers are, frequently, in possession of a large amount of information from which they choose those features they judge to be critical for safety. The art of producing a good chart is to avoid cluttering it with information which is not essential to the navigators task. I am sure the Committee recognises the significance of that point. We delight in the fact that Admiralty charts have a worldwide reputation, precisely because they are well judged with respect to what is necessary and what is not.
Therefore, the Bill does not need to contain specific powers for the marking of sites, but they will be marked on Admiralty charts where it is necessary and appropriate. As an example, the existing marine nature reservation around Lundy, which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned, is currently charted. A text note refers mariners to Admiralty sailing directions where they can find out more information on Lundy. The noble Baroness questioned whether there were other suppliers; there are indeed. GPS systems are produced by a number of commercial suppliers using data provided by the Hydrographic Office or unofficial providers. They should continue to have commercial discretion to display whatever information they think is relevant to their customers, because the customers will soon find out and the worthwhile quality of what has been provided will become general knowledge. The point is that people are more likely to be interested in knowing where restrictions apply which directly affect them than in knowing the location and boundary of the marine conservation zones. They are going to be interested in those matters which affect the pursuit on the sea which they are following. Some say sites may be designated which will require no restriction on mariners at all. It is therefore difficult to see that mariners would be particularly interested in knowing where those sites were, if there is nothing within the site which affects the navigation they are involved in.
It is also important to remember that by-laws might apply to only part of any marine conservation zone, or might extend beyond the boundaries of the zone where it is necessary to protect features within the site. This subject is not easy. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, indicated that there are difficulties with regard to these concepts, and I am reflecting that point.
With regard to the physical marking of sites, I am informed that the laying and maintenance of buoys in the open sea is very far from straightforward. Therefore, Natural England has hardly, if ever, used its existing powers in relation to marine nature reserves and European
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I am not disagreeing with the noble Baronesss intent in exploring this point in relation to her amendment. She sought the reassurance that I hope that I have given from the Dispatch Boxthat this has been considered very carefully. There are a whole range of quite difficult issues with regard to the designation, but we have the powers and the structure which will guarantee that, where it is necessary for the sites to be charted and even, in some circumstances, where features need to be marked, the powers exist. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will feel confident enough to be able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and the noble Earl, Lord
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I will read carefully what the Minister has said. I am almost convinced that this does not need to be in the Bill, but would like to double check that before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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