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Amendment A164 refers to Clause 120 and the report that the appropriate authority has to produce on the carrying out of the duties to provide marine conservation zones and the operation of those zones. Clause 120(2) provides that the report must contain certain information, including the number of MCZs that have been designated, their size, the conservation objectives and so on, and, towards the end, those conservation objectives which have been achieved and,

My noble friend’s amendment seeks to add to this a reference to the requirement in Clause 119(2) for the marine conservation zones to form part of a network which operates in a coherent way for the conservation objectives of the zones. The amendment seeks to add,

which concerns the operation of the network. It is an obvious provision to add. It is a fairly simple amendment, and I hope the Government will at least think about adding it to the Bill on Report.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have discussed already the importance of designating marine conservation zones. This debate takes us on to matters concerning ecological coherence and what we mean by “representational” and I am glad to be able to respond to it. In probing this matter, Amendment A155 seeks to remove one of the conditions of an ecologically coherent network that requires that the features protected within the marine conservation zones represent the range of features present in the UK marine area. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested that “representational” might mean some very uninteresting areas.

We are putting in place a network of sites for our seas and we want to ensure that we represent the range of features that we have. In subsection (3), we have included three core design principles as developed for the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “Representativity” is defined under OSPAR to mean that the MPA network should represent the range of marine habitats and species through protecting all major habitat types and associated biological communities throughout their geographical variation in each of the seas around the UK. This important principle will underpin development of the UK network, but we will need to think further about what we consider representative features to be within our UK seas to ensure that we reflect our precious marine environment.

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The noble Lord might have asked for examples of a representative feature. We are thinking about rocky reefs, which might contain a wide variety of attached organisms; sublittoral muds, which are important in nutrient cycling; kelp forests, which contain high biodiversity and can be nursery areas for fish; littoral rock, where rocky seashores provide an important link between the land and the sea; biogenic reefs, which contain reef-building worms and molluscs and provide an important habitat; and salt marshes and saline reed beds, which can provide a natural form of coastal defence and act as nursery areas for fish. Those are some examples of what we have in mind but, as I said, more work needs to be done to understand the matter more fully.

We have, of course, worked hard to learn more about our marine environment but we still have some way to go. Ecological coherence and the definition of the UK network inevitably are evolving concepts that we cannot define on the face of the Bill because they will be out of date very soon. However, we will provide guidance in our draft strategy, to be published for consultation around Easter, which will reflect our thinking on what the network should look like. It will, of course, pick up the issue of “representational”.

Let me be clear on Amendment A164, because I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on behalf of his noble friend. The purpose of Clause 120 is to establish a duty on the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on progress in designating an ecologically coherent network of sites. The report, initially made in 2012, and then at least every six years thereafter, will set out the number and type of marine conservation zones designated, as well as any measures that could be taken to further the conservation objectives for a site.

Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 120(1) state that the report to Parliament must include the extent to which the objectives of Clause 119(2) have been met and any further steps that are required to be taken in order to contribute to the achievements of the objectives. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, Clause 119(2) sets out the objectives of the ecologically coherent network and suggests that these must meet the conditions set out in subsection (3). From advice that I have had and from my reading, I understand that, because of that, the Bill requires the report to Parliament to include any further steps that, in the opinion of the authority, are required to comply with the conditions in Clause 119(3). That is a roundabout way of saying that we think that we have the point covered.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The Government are a bit carried away with their drafting. Clause 119(3)(b), to which my noble friend’s Amendment A155 refers, is self-evident. If the features are present in the network, they are present in the marine area. That stands to reason. Presumably, what the Government in fact want is a range of features that are more widely present in the marine area. That may not be the precise drafting needed, but it would be better than this. My noble friend is right. This paragraph does not say anything. The Government really should look at it. It is a drafting point; we all know what we are trying to do, but that paragraph will not do.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The advice of the noble Baroness is always taken seriously and we will always look at it. However, it is quite clear that we are saying that features protected by the sites represent the range of features in the UK marine area. I have read out examples of some features that might come within that, but I am always prepared to look at drafting points.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for what the Minister has said. If it is covered, that is okay and we may be satisfied, but I will refer his remarks to my noble friend and she will no doubt analyse them in her normal diligent way. There are rather a lot of things in the list, but this is an important point that is not listed. Some other things that are set out could be regarded as covered somewhere else or in some other way. It may be valuable to put this on the face of the Bill, but no doubt my noble friend and the Minister will think about that.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I should point out that, under Clause 120(1)(b), the appropriate authority must lay a report that includes any further steps, so there is plenty of scope for further reporting.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am grateful to the Minister for responding to these amendments so positively. He has said what those of us who tabled the amendments have wanted to hear. However, there is a problem, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy pointed out. The wording might not be quite matched with that of the Minister’s, but my noble friend made the valid point—as I hope I did in my introduction—that it would pay for the Government to look at this wording, to make sure that it expresses what the Minister was saying in his response to these amendments. However, taking into account the Minister’s assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment A155 withdrawn.

Amendment A156 not moved.

6.15 pm

Amendment A157

Moved by Lord Greaves

A157: Clause 119, page 71, line 31, at end insert—

“(d) that the purpose of designating sites as a network is to implement the ecosystem-based approach to marine management;

(e) that the network should cover at least 30 per cent of the UK marine area, and the appropriate authority should aim to deliver this coverage by 2020”

Lord Greaves: Again, I am moving this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer. I apologise that, in rushing across when the Irish debate suddenly stopped, I forgot to bring my reading glasses, so if I have a little difficulty, the Committee will perhaps sympathise.

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Amendment A157 would add that the purpose of designating a network is to implement an ecosystem-based approach. It deals with issues that have been discussed before, but are nevertheless important, regarding the proportion of the seas that may end up being part of the conservation zone network and how long it may take to achieve that.

Clause 119(3) does not state that one purpose of the designation of the network of conservation sites is to implement an eco-based approach to marine management. UK marine management is required to implement the eco-based approach by the EU marine strategy framework directive 2008 and the UK’s OSPAR commitment. Accordingly, this requirement ought to be incorporated into the Bill. My noble friend believes that this is the appropriate place to put it.

Clause 119(3) also does not set a size for the coverage of the UK marine area by the network of conservation sites. The Minister has already explained why he does not think that it is appropriate to set out a specific percentage in the Bill. However, we challenge the Government to explain their vision of what there might be in 10, 20 or 25 years’ time. What are they setting out to achieve? They seem to be remarkably coy about doing this. They say that they want marine conservation zones and more environmentally friendly—or healthy—seas around the shores of this country, but they do not seem to have a vision.

The other day I was thinking about the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, in which some of us have been taking an interest recently in order to try to understand later parts of this Bill. At that time, there was a clear vision. That legislation was similar to this Bill in that it set out pioneering ambitions for part of the terrestrial area, or land, of this country, particularly in the form of national parks and long-distance trails. As far as the national parks were concerned, the Government of that time had a clear idea of what they wanted to do and of where those national parks were going to be. By and large, we got them—although one or two were added or taken off. With one or two, there was a vision and it has come back again; I am thinking of the South Downs in particular. However, by and large, the Government knew what they wanted: the Lake District, the Peak District, the North Yorkshire Moors, Dartmoor and so on. They produced the legislation with a clear idea in mind of what its results would be.

We do not have that here. We have a general wish and ambition to have these marine conservation zones but no clear idea of how much of the sea they will cover, how much of them will be highly protective—whether they are called that or not—and how much of them will be lesser protected. That is crucial to the Bill. This amendment challenges the Government to say that.

I should add that, in working out these amendments, my noble friend was working closely with, and had assistance from, the MARINET network of Friends of the Earth organisations. I beg to move.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who was as fluent as ever regardless of whether he had the correct glasses on. He presented

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a very powerful argument. Although I cannot agree with every detail of the amendment, we agree with the concept of using an ecosystem approach when designating the MCZ network. We should very much like to see the Bill changed to reflect that. I hope the Minister will agree with us that the lack of a definition of what a network represents is a weakness in the Bill. I also hope that he can return with an improved drafting which seeks to define it.

We do not, however, agree with the statutory target of 30 per cent. We therefore cannot support the amendment. Setting an arbitrary target of the sea area to be covered would go against our view that MCZs should be established on a clear scientific basis and have the flexibility to respond to improving scientific research and changing circumstances on the ground. From a legislative point of view, we prefer to see an effective conservation network put in place by ensuring that duties and expectations laid upon the Secretary of State are clear.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was as fluent as ever. I am just slightly shocked that he thought that the Government, moving with their usual precision and expedition, got through the previous business in a reasonable amount of time so that we would be ready for this Bill—on which we shall proceed with the same degree of expedition and precision. I have not the slightest doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will be making his full—I emphasise the word full—contribution to that expedition.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, identifies that there should be an ecosystem-based approach to the work we are involved with in the Bill. Of course we agree with that; that is the intention behind the Bill. We will take that into account in designating a network of sites. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, we have the greatest difficulty in accepting that some percentage of the sea could be identified at this stage. I realise that I am treading on dangerous ground by debating the subject of national parks with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, but if he is saying that there was a full vision of every aspect of the United Kingdom that would designated as a national park when the national parks were introduced, I can only disagree with him. That is not so. It is certainly the case that the principles behind the concept of the national park were identified, and it is certainly the case that the Government made relatively early and rapid steps in the designation of certain national parks, but, as the noble Lord knows as well as anyone in the Chamber, the designation of national parks is ongoing.

The same principle, even in extenso, applies to the sea. We are not able arbitrarily to identify a percentage of the sea that needs designation and protection in these terms. We are dealing with an evolving situation. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is emphatic that there should be a scientific basis to this work. He accords with that. It will be recognised that science evolves. We are dealing in this situation with at least two dimensions that have great fluidity. “Fluidity” is perhaps the wrong word to use when trying to describe the sea, so I shall withdraw it. Two dimensions have a great deal of variability. The first is advances in science that will

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take us beyond the positions we can foresee at this stage. If we were operating within the parameters of science in this year of grace 2009, it is likely that, even within the timetable that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has set, we would find ourselves constrained by such a concept. The other variable aspect is the sea itself and the demands that are made on it.

I believe that the noble Lord must recognise that the Government, in setting the Bill out in the way that we have, share entirely those objectives about what is to be achieved. However, we are seeking to avoid the very rigidities to which he is trying to direct us by this amendment. It is not the case that experts agree on what proportion of the sea needs to be designated. There is considerable debate about those issues and experts have given different figures. The noble Lord must give the Government credit for wanting to produce legislation that will be effective for a substantial period. To have a prescribed target of this kind on the face of the Bill would therefore be very limiting.

Now, what about the timetable? Ah, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will get me on the third point. I hope I am standing on relatively firm ground regarding scientific and public opinion, but what about the fact that we have a timetable for the Bill? The Bill sets out that Ministers will have to report to Parliament on progress. They will have to start reporting in 2012 to show how much progress has been made with the Bill once it becomes an Act of Parliament, and they will have to report at least every six years thereafter. The report will highlight the achievement of the network and include not only details of the marine conservation zones designated but also any further steps that could be taken to achieve a network of conservation sites.

I want to defend the Bill as it stands against an amendment that would be crippling in its limitations. I may not take the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with me every step of the way, and I am not asking him to subscribe to such an advanced position as that of the Government, but I hope that I am taking him with me in relation to his anxiety about being too prescriptive, as the amendment is. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the Minister did not comment on the suggestion that the networks might cover one-third of the sea. I do not know very much about fish, but if these conservation zones cover too big an area, the fish are going to begin to rumble where they can go so as not to be caught. If it were a third of the sea area, I would have thought that Mother Nature and her wonders would mean that the fish would soon discover that they could cluster in that third, and the European fishermen, the Russians and so on would have a very poor time. Does the noble Lord agree?

Lord Davies of Oldham: I had not taken into account the marine life, but it gives me a chance to speculate on the intelligence of the long-snouted seahorse, which is one of the marine animals that we intend to preserve with the Bill. I am sure the noble Baroness is right. We will have to shift with the times, the tides, the changing sea and its ecology. That is why I am resistant to rigidity.

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6.30 pm

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for his expeditious response. He suggested that I thought the Government were being evasive on two points. He was wrong: I think they were being evasive on all three points. The ecosystem point, as an issue and a concept, will clearly come back for further discussion on Report somehow, so I shall say nothing more about it now. Whether it is at this point in the Bill or some other remains to be seen, but I am quite sure that there is further debate and discussion to be had on it. The point of view will, clearly, have to be put on Report that ecosystems ought to be more overtly placed in the Bill as the basis for marine conservation.

The noble Lord chided me for my historical suggestion that in the historic and iconic 1949 Act on the national parks, people had a much clearer vision of what the end result might be than appears in this Bill. I stand by what I said, and if the noble Lord were to go back and read the Hansard of those debates from 60 years ago, he would find lots of references to the likely size and shape of the national parks that were to be set up. They did not all happen exactly as everybody wanted. There was much controversy, for many years, about the north Pennines and there is in what the Minister mentioned about the network continuing to evolve, which is about the South Downs.

Many people had the vision, 60 years ago, that the South Downs should be a national park. For all sorts of reasons, that was resisted and did not happen, but it is probably happening now. Although the network has evolved, I am absolutely certain that its basic size and shape was a vision that existed at that time, and the Minister was wrong in chiding me over that. Meanwhile, that vision is simply not there for marine conservation zones—or perhaps it is. I accept the remarks from the Conservative Front Bench and from the Government that putting a precise figure in the Bill is not appropriate, but many of us would be much more reassured if the Government were prepared to talk about the likely size or range of a network.

We know—or at least we hope—that the network will probably not be below 5 per cent, or it will not fit the criteria of the Bill, and we know that it will not be 80 per cent. There is a range, then, but its likely range at the finish is clearly a lot narrower. Are the Government thinking of 10 per cent, or 30 per cent, or 50 per cent? They will not tell us. They are not being as visionary, ambitious or clear in the purposes or likely outcome of this legislation as many of us—the many who have for so many years been working, campaigning and hoping for this legislation—would like.

Finally, the Minister said that putting 2020 in the Bill would be “crippling in its limitations”. I thought that this Government were full of targets for amounts of things by certain dates. The rest of the world is inundated by targets that are heaped on them, yet they are not prepared to provide targets here for themselves. What is wrong with targets, or with saying, “This is our ambition; this is what we want to do”? Many people out there, and some of us in here, fear that without that kind of discipline—not a crippling limitation, but a discipline—everything will drift. Reasons will be found, as time goes on, for why it has to go slower and slower. That is the fear, and it remains.

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The target does not have to be in the Bill, but it would be wonderful if the Government were to tell us much more clearly what ought to happen in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. If they did that, everybody would be a great deal more confident and it would challenge other parties—who might, by some conceivable stretch, get into government instead—to say whether they agree with it. Do they think it too slow, or too fast? Then, when we are in government, we would know what we are supposed to do, as would the Conservatives, who might by some freak win the election. Having said those things, the issues are clear and the debate was worth having, but I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment A157 withdrawn.

Amendments A158 to A160 not moved.

Amendment A161 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment A162

Moved by Lord Greaves

A162: Clause 119, page 71, line 35, at end insert “and the duty under EU law includes the delivery under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008 (2008/56/EC) of good environmental status in the UK marine area by 2020”

Lord Greaves: There are two amendments in this group. Amendment A162, on behalf of my noble friend, is as set out: the Bill, in setting up the network of MCZs, should set out that it includes,

in the marine strategy framework directive. The issue is fairly straightforward, and I am not terribly expert on it, so I will simply leave it there and listen with interest to the Minister before reporting back to my noble friend.

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