Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

In respect of the first category, any person appointed as such an officer by the MMO, my Amendment A254 would add, “solely employed” after “an officer”, the reason being that individuals should be appropriately trained and meet competency standards before they are able to carry out any functions on behalf of the MMO. Any person appointed as a marine enforcement officer should also be protected from potential conflicts of interests, such as holding another appointment with another organisation concerned with marine management.

Amendment A259 deals with interpretations under this part of the Bill. An enforcement officer appointed by the MMO may also bring with him any other person to assist him. If he is to do that, “any other person” should be made clearer. My amendment defines “any other person” as,

Amendments A260 and A261 refer back to Clause 250(1)(a) and “any other person” who may be brought along by an enforcement officer. Both the enforcement officer and the person assisting him must produce their name and appropriate authority for what they are doing, if requested to do so. I seek to leave out the words “if requested to do so”, because it is important that people should identify themselves straightaway to anyone whom they are stopping where they believe they may have caused an offence. This would be particularly important for a foreign yachtsman,

30 Mar 2009 : Column 859

for example, who may not really know what is going on if he happens to sail into an area where he is not supposed to be. It is right that the enforcement officer or his assistant should identify themselves properly first.

My final amendment in this group again refers to those assisting the enforcement officer. As I have intimated, they should also provide their name straightaway, without being prompted. I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: The noble Lord’s Amendment A254 seems sensible. It would ensure that agencies employed their own staff as enforcement officers, which would ensure that they were properly trained and up to the job. Our amendments in this group relate to the training and experience of the officers, particularly in regard to appropriate training in and experience of animal welfare. Can the Minister confirm that the training indicated in his officials’ briefing is only a base level and that officers will not be expected to undertake tasks for which they are not suitably trained?

I agree, too, with Amendments A260, A261 and A262, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. I cannot think why those assisting the marine officers should not be required to give their names as well. What have they got to hide? I also cannot see why the information in Clause 280 should have to be requested before it is given.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Behind these amendments is a clear concern about the training of officers involved in enforcement duties. I very much accept the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, about the importance of training. From the information that has already been made available, it is clear that we will want to ensure that the appropriate officers have the requisite training. I agree with the noble Earl that there needs to be the essential core basic training but, clearly, we would expect that to be developed and improved in the years ahead. Ensuring that we have highly motivated and trained people doing this important job will be part of making sure that the legislation and the work of the MMO are successful.

Amendment A254 would limit the MMO to appointing only its own officers as marine enforcement officers. The noble Lord wants to ensure that only appropriately trained officers have access to the powers and that no conflicts of interest arise from the individual officer. I see exactly where he is coming from and entirely agree that officers with access to the enforcement powers in the Bill must be appropriately trained and supervised. Because this very much involves them, the Marine and Fisheries Agency—the current agency—the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees of England and Wales and the EA are already developing a common training package that will be delivered by the MMO, which will provide consistency to marine enforcement and assurance to the public that enforcement is fair and proportionate. We fully accept the point about consistency of approach. That point is very well taken indeed.

The problem with the amendment is that it would limit the MMO to appointing only its officers to be marine enforcement officers. That would mean that

30 Mar 2009 : Column 860

the MMO could not cross-warrant appropriately trained officers of other organisations. It is important to cross-warrant because that ensures close co-operation and an integration of approach. It is an important tool of enforcement. I also believe, harking back to the final Oral Question this afternoon, that it is a good illustration of what is meant by better regulation. It is seeking to ensure that the regulatory bodies that collectively have a responsibility in these areas actually work together and have a consistency of approach. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, would create an imbalance between England and Wales, which I suspect was unintended, since under his amendment Welsh Ministers could cross-warrant and the MMO could not. I suspect that that is more a drafting point.

Amendment A259 is about the assistant and seeks an assurance that an assistant is an appropriate person to help with an inspection and investigation. Of course, I agree that the assistant needs to be appropriately trained to assist in any inspection or investigation. It might help if I inform the Committee of the sort of work that we think an assistant might do. In some cases, the work would involve counting fish boxes onboard a fishing vessel, assisting in the search of premises or assisting with lifting or moving fishing gear. At other times, more specialist help might be required, such as the assistance of a qualified engineer to operate equipment used to test the engine power of a fishing vessel or, as we will debate later, the assistance of a qualified veterinary surgeon.

On the first list of categories—counting fish boxes and so forth—we think that the position is safeguarded because the assistant can work only under the supervision of a warranted marine enforcement officer. As an employer, the MMO must be assured that its staff and anyone working on its behalf are working in accordance with the law. That is a fair responsibility to place on the MMO.

I fully understand why the noble Earl wants to ensure that officers handling live animals are appropriately trained and qualified. Certainly, it is important that animal welfare issues are taken into consideration in the use of those powers and I fully accept that appropriately skilled people will need to be drafted in where necessary to ensure that animals are handled humanely.

We see the power in the Bill to take samples from live animals as having has two main applications. One is for wildlife officers under wildlife legislation—under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for example. In the enforcement of such legislation, we would normally expect the officer to take a skilled assistant with them, such as a vet, using their power of assistance under Clause 250. Another, more specific application of the power enables officers to mark egg-carrying lobsters to ensure they are not landed and so protect stocks.

The clauses are drafted to ensure that appropriately skilled people can assist enforcement officers in carrying out their functions where necessary, but they are not overly restrictive and do not prevent officers performing a task that they can currently carry out, which would come under the first list of duties that I read out. We do not want to unnecessarily limit enforcement that can already be performed by introducing excessive

30 Mar 2009 : Column 861

procedure under the Bill. In that instance, we rely on the MMO to use its own judgment and the fact that it is liable for what the people it appoints do in its name.

3.30 pm

Amendments A260, A261 and A262 comprise the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, that every time an enforcement officer or their assistant exercises any power, they must give their name, the power they are proposing to exercise and the grounds for proposing to do so without being prompted to give that information. On the face of it, that is sensible, and good practice dictates that a marine enforcement officer or their assistant should explain what they intend to do and their reasons for performing that action at commencement of an inspection. As now, an officer would provide the evidence of their authority, the powers that they are intending to exercise and the reasons for undertaking the inspection, if requested. That provides reassurance to the person being inspected that the procedures to be used are within the law. Just as British sea fisheries officers currently do, we would expect marine enforcement officers to use common sense and to explain to those being inspected what they are doing. However, my reading of the noble Lord’s amendment is that that information might have to be repeated on a frequent basis, perhaps in an inspection that might last several hours. That would be overly bureaucratic and rather over-egging the cake. We certainly agree that a marine enforcement officer or their assistant should explain what they are doing and their reasons for performing that action at the commencement of an inspection.

On the assistant and Amendment A262, the power to inspect and investigate comes through the marine enforcement officer's warrant. The assistant may exercise a power only under the supervision or direction of that officer. For that reason, the assistant's identity is not relevant as they are not exercising a power in their own right. In one sense, it is rather a safeguard to the point raised by the noble Lord’s earlier amendment, in that it follows that the assistant is indeed an assistant to the enforcement officer and that the prime responsibility rests on the enforcement officer.

I hope that this is sufficient explanation of why the Bill is drafted as it is. I fully understand where the amendments are coming from. However, the regulatory approach in the Bill is proportionate. It seeks to allow cross-warranting, which is likely to be more effective. I acknowledge the need for consistency of approach and am clear that, first, the MMO must take responsibility for the quality of people appointed as enforcement officers and their assistants and, secondly, enforcement action comes through the marine enforcement officer’s warrant, not through the assistant.

Lord Greenway: I am most grateful to the Minister for his full explanation in response to my amendments. First, I am delighted that there will be consistency of approach in training the enforcement officers. The Joint Committee was concerned about that, and the Government appear to be taking that side of things seriously, which I welcome. I also take the point about cross-warranting and am satisfied with the Minister’s explanation.

30 Mar 2009 : Column 862

On the identification of officers when they board a vessel, I was not necessarily thinking of fishing, as fishermen are fairly used to having their vessels boarded and inspected. I was thinking more about yachtsmen, who might be approached when sailing through a prohibited area and would not be used to such a thing happening. One identification would suffice there. It is obviously ridiculous to have enforcement officers identifying themselves every five minutes when doing different things on one particular fishing boat.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: In the case that the noble Lord has instanced, there should be no question that the information that he wishes to be given would be, save in extremis.

Lord Greenway: I am grateful to the Minister, and in that case I am happy to withdraw Amendment A254.

Amendment A254 withdrawn.

Clause 226: Enforcement of marine licensing regime

Amendment A254A

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

A254A: Clause 226, page 133, line 3, leave out paragraph (b)

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: With this amendment, I shall speak to a number of other government amendments that relate to recent agreement across the UK regarding cross-border enforcement of marine licensing and nature conservation. In that sense, they reflect our earlier debate on the need to ensure, first, that we respect the devolution settlement, which the Bill does; we then want to ensure as much co-operation and collaboration as possible across the devolved Administrations and the UK Government.

I am glad to report that all Administrations across the UK agree that we want to provide for effective enforcement measures within the Bill and that there is an acceptance that, because the devolution settlements vary according to the Administration and the area of legislation, provision is needed to cover enforcement powers across borders according to each of those circumstances. The Bill, with my amendments, will now reflect reciprocal agreement across all UK Administrations, with whose support I am moving these amendments.

At present, officers enforcing marine licensing and nature conservation rely on UK Acts of Parliament for all their powers. Under the Bill, that will change: for example, a marine enforcement officer acting in their own area of jurisdiction, such as English waters, might suspect a licensing offence while inspecting a vessel. If the officer might want to inspect the business premises to which the vessel relates as part of an investigation and those premises were in England or Wales, the officer could. Yet, as the Bill is currently drafted, if the premises were in, for example, Scotland,

30 Mar 2009 : Column 863

the officer would have no power to investigate. We have, therefore, identified a loophole that we need to address.

Under the Bill, marine enforcement officers may use their powers to enforce marine licensing throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus the UK marine licensing area—that is, the UK marine area as defined under Clause 40(1), other than the Scottish inshore region—with the exception of offshore Scotland. The Scottish offshore region, defined under Clause 312, is essentially the sea areas within the UK marine area—not including the Scottish inshore region—that lie within the Scottish zone and those sea areas that lie outside that zone, but which are nearer to Scotland than to any other part of the UK.

My amendments to Clause 226—that is, Amendments A254A to A254J—enable marine enforcement officers to go into Scotland or the Scottish inshore area if they are investigating an offence. If they ordered a vessel or marine structure to stop in their area of jurisdiction but the vessel continued into offshore Scottish waters, the officer could use “domestic hot pursuit” as long as the pursuit was continuous. If the pursuit is not continuous, then the government amendments in this group result in officers being enabled to use their powers in inshore areas, and on land anywhere in the UK, to investigate a suspected offence which was committed in the area where they have jurisdiction.

If my amendments were accepted, domestic hot pursuit would not be needed into the Scottish inshore area for a suspected licensing or nature conservation offence. The amendments enable officers to investigate such an offence at a later point. They are not dependent on the continuous, unbroken pursuit that domestic hot pursuit is reliant upon.

For the enforcement of nature conservation in Clause 227, marine enforcement officers may use their powers throughout English and Welsh waters and the offshore area adjacent to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Government amendments to Clause 227—Amendments A254L to A254U—enable officers to go into Scotland or the Scottish inshore area, Northern Ireland or the Northern Irish inshore area if they are investigating an offence, with domestic hot pursuit being available in the offshore areas. By government Amendment A254K, I also seek to add by-laws to the list of measures an officer can enforce in relation to the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994.

Government amendments to Clause 230—Amendments A254W to A254Z, for marine licensing of reserved matters in offshore Scottish waters—enable officers to investigate offences elsewhere in the UK. Government amendments A254AA to A254AH to Clause 231 for marine licensing in Northern Ireland, government Amendments A254AK to A254AM to Clause 232 for the enforcement of marine licensing in the Scottish offshore region, and government Amendments A254AN to A254AQ to Clause 233 for the enforcement of nature conservation in the Scottish offshore region make reciprocal arrangements for officers appointed by Scottish Ministers or the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland needing to investigate

30 Mar 2009 : Column 864

offences in other parts of the UK. It is intended that orders will be made under Section 84 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998 to allow officers to use common powers within England and Wales when the Scottish marine Bill and the Northern Ireland conservation Bill have received Royal Assent. Other Administrations have also agreed to ensure that reciprocal arrangements can exist.

Government Amendment A254V to Clause 230 and government Amendment A254AJ to Clause 232 align Clause 110(3), on the enforcement of reserved matters for licensing in Scotland, with Part 8. This allows Clause 232 properly to reflect the devolution settlement, since both matters relating to licensing for defence and Part VI of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 are reserved. Government Amendment A254V enables the Secretary of State to appoint officers with the powers to enforce these matters in offshore Scotland, as the clause already did for oil and gas matters, and government Amendment A254AJ removes the ability for Scottish Ministers to do so.

Amendments A255A and A255B to Clause 242 make the equivalent provision for Scotland that the clause already makes for England and Wales. This is because the definition of “legal privilege” in Clause 242(7) relies on its meaning in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and this Act does not extend to Scotland.

Clause 260 sets out the procedure to be followed when seizing fish or fishing gear for forfeiture under Clauses 258 and 259. Amendments A259A and A259B correct erroneous references to a report when it is a notice the content of which is already set out in that clause.

Amendments A259C to A259G all deal essentially with the same issue, the procedures by which vessels detained under Clause 269 may be released and bonds given under Clause 272 may be repaid. To remove any ambiguity as to which court is meant, we are proposing that in each of these clauses, after “the court”, the words,

are inserted.

I apologise for these numerous amendments but they improve the Bill and address key points in relation to enforcement across borders. They will ensure the closest possible collaboration and are built upon discussions that have taken place between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. They have the support of those Administrations.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: When I looked at these amendments, I could not believe my eyes. So many complications have emerged about who does what in which bit of the sea. It is rather alarming. Have fishermen’s associations agreed to this? When a boat is approached and argues that it is not where the officer approaching it claims that it is, what happens? Is there an argument at sea, perhaps on a rough day with a howling gale? Boats drift sideways and are sometimes not dead sure where they are. It seems to be a weak part of the Bill. I do not see how the Minister can get round it, because it is built in to what has been agreed with the devolved Administrations. We have the added

30 Mar 2009 : Column 865

complication that in Scotland Ministers now refer to everything as “Scottish waters” and, to some extent, the Scots are being allowed to have them for some purposes. It is very complicated. Is the Minister content that the fishermen have agreed to this?

3.45 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I—

Earl Cathcart: If I speak first, the Minister can answer both of us at the same time. There are a great many government amendments here. I have waded through to see if I could pick any holes in them. I am afraid I was defeated; they look largely sensible. I was particularly pleased to see the reciprocal nature of the arrangements to enable officers to use their enforcement powers in other areas of the UK where they do not have jurisdiction, so an enforcement officer can give chase outside his area to carry out his enforcement powers.

I have a question that takes matters a step further. I am not sure whether the Minister has alluded to this. If an enforcement officer is patrolling within his boundary and sees an activity outside it that he should enforce if it is within his jurisdiction, presumably he would ring up the neighbouring country’s enforcement officers and say, “An activity is going on that is wrong”. The other country might say, “We cannot deal with it because we have nobody in the area. Can you deal with it?”. Will the reciprocal arrangement work like that, allowing permission to be given to deal with something across a boundary?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The noble Baroness is absolutely right, and has made this point a number of times in our earlier discussion on the Bill. It is a complex situation and the regulatory regime is different for different aspects of the Bill, which adds to the complexity. Noble Lords have expressed concerns about how we can have a coherent approach to the marine environment in UK waters. Equally, the Government have always stated firmly that we have to be consistent with the devolution settlement. The Bill represents our best approach to doing that. Alongside it, there have been very encouraging discussions in the last few months between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, recognising the points that the noble Baroness has made. There has been genuine agreement that all the Governments concerned want to make this work. The amendments that I am bringing before the Committee are proof of that. The fact that we have been able to reach agreement is visible evidence that, notwithstanding the complexity of this matter and the difficulty of ensuring consistency, the Administrations and the UK Government have agreed an approach. That is greatly encouraging.

We do not wish to seek the agreement of the representatives of the fishing organisations on enforcement. That is not the appropriate wording. I say to the noble Baroness that we will want to work with those organisations and, following legislation, as part of the rollout of the information we will clearly need to take account of the points that she has raised. There will need to be training and advice given to representative organisations, and we will do that.

30 Mar 2009 : Column 866

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page