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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not think that there is any disagreement in principle; it is really a question of the years. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for his commendation. I would not like to claim that it is an entirely novel approach, but I certainly agree with him that it is very helpful to us trying to find our way through legislation. It is an example that one would like to see followed in the future.
I agree wholeheartedly with the principle of building in a parliamentary dimension. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Duke are right to suggest that the debates we have had on the Bill show that there is intense parliamentary interest in the marine environment and ensuring that the provisions of the Bill are enacted appropriately. I have no doubt whatever that there will continue to be great interest. Therefore, we need to make sure that Parliament has opportunities to monitor effectively. Given the amount of secondary legislation that will come forward, there will be ample opportunities over the next year or two for Parliament to be kept appraised of the way in which the legislation will unfold.
In relation to these particular amendments, we think that this is an important matter. My Amendments 92 to 97 build on a proposal put forward in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. That would have required, as the other amendments in this group do, annual reporting to Parliament on the implementation of marine planning. It was suggested that would place marine planning authorities activities under greater scrutiny and act as a gentle spur. We accept that point. It will make legislators and the public more aware of progress on marine planning and allow them to apply pressure if they consider it falls short.
Amendments 70 and 84, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Greaves, also introduce reporting requirements on how the marine policy statement of each marine plan respectively has been carried into effect, amendments made and further steps to be taken. The issue of the timing is this: we expect that a single marine plan and the marine policy statement will take around two years to prepare. The concern that we have on annual reporting is that it might be too onerous and not particularly helpful because of the cycle in the production of marine plan and marine policy statement. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, referred to that too. That is why we have come up with our own six-yearly reporting, which we think meets the cycle. It will enable these reports to be combined with those required on progress made in implementing the programme of measures required for each region under the marine strategy framework directive. Recognising, from my time of speaking on constitutional affairs at the Ministry of Justice, some benefits in legislation ceasing to operate after a certain time, we have also suggested this duty cease in 2030, by which time we will expect marine planning to be established. Having a sunset clause of this type ensures that the reporting duty does not continue indefinitely, if, for instance, the marine strategy framework directive is amended or revoked.
At heart there is no disagreement on this. It is a question of whether the reporting mechanism is right. For the reasons stated, we think that annual reporting
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Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, at heart here, as was echoed by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is the key principle of parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. That principle is well established and agreed among the parties. We could debate the length of time; I hear what the Minister says. It would certainly not be my intention, the principle having been established, to test the will of the House on one, three or six years. However, it is important and I welcome the amendment on the Governments part that there will be that kind of reporting and parliamentary scrutiny, for which some of us were calling in Committee. In these circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, this amendment takes us to the clause about marine plans for marine plan areas. It must be the time of night, but when I read that a moment ago I wondered where else they would be for. In Committee, your Lordships rejected a requirement that marine plans must be in place by 2012. We thought that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who moved the amendment in Committee, was right about the requirement for plans but that 2012 was over ambitious. My Amendment 71 changes may to must. One day I will understand why may meaning must is the right term. I have not yet.
The linchpin of the Bill seems to be marine plans. It is counterintuitive, at any rate to me, that Clause 49 is permissive and not mandatory. We see plans not simply as restrictive but as establishing what can be done where, taking into account the sometimes competing or incompatible potential activities. It is important that there are plans, not least to establish the extent, if there is any extent, of an activity to which some people may object and object very stronglyfor example, wind farms. It is all a matter of balance, which we discussed at the previous stage. It is not obvious to me how there can be a balance if there are gaps in the patchwork of plans.
We have not included a long-stop date. However, to anticipate a possible argument from the Government, we do not regard that as making the amendment meaningless because there must come a point, which probably depends on circumstances, at which a marine plan authority, which has dragged its feet for so long in not producing a plan, is in breach. I believe that a court would see it that way. I suppose that is the test that one must always have in mind.
is a little stronger than Amendment 72 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who uses the words seek to ensure. It is not an absolute obligation. Amendment 73 goes further. A moment ago I referred to a patchwork and this would ensure blanket coverage. Amendments 71 and 73 go hand in hand.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has pointed out, my amendment in this group follows on from the debates in Committee. As the noble Baroness has told the House, at that stage we voted, but unfortunately lost an amendment to the Bill which would have inserted a duty and timetable to roll out marine plans over the whole marine area. Therefore, this is about our ambition for the Bill and our wish that the Government share that ambition. The Minister made several objections to our amendments, one of which was that there were limits to what duties he could place on the marine authorities. In bringing back this weaker amendment, we have listened to that concern and seek to insert only a requirement to acknowledge the desirability of covering the whole of marine planning regions with a plan.
Despite the efforts made by everyone to prevent unnecessary repetition on Report, following our very extensive debates on this part in Committee, many of the organisations involved in these proceedings have again raised their concerns about this point: not only the voluntary organisations which are members of the Wildlife and Countryside Link group and the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB, but also the Countryside Council for Wales, the British Wind Energy Association and the Environment Agency. This is not surprising: marine plans are the key to delivering the policy of sustainable development. We have all spoken in support of an ecosystem approach. Comprehensive planning is the only way to deliver this. We have also all spoken in favour of pursuing a clear and consistent approach to marine management. Indeed, it is in the list of the MMOs core duties and is the reason that the joint MPS is so important. With no consistency clarified by comprehensive marine plans, what certainty is available to companies wishing to make the high levels of investment needed to meet our renewable energy targets? Of course,
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The Government have tabled amendments in this area in response to related points we raised in Committee and we are very grateful to them for doing so. Their amendments will ensure that there is greater transparency, which is always a good thing. The ongoing reporting on marine planning might provide an incentive for authorities to produce marine plans, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, suggested in Committee, but this incentive would be better spelt out in primary legislation.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I support all three of these amendments, but yet again I incline more towards those tabled by noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I am afraid that I am a great disappointment to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, and to the noble Earl. Noble Lords have said it all but I simply add that marine plans need to cover the whole UK marine area or cherry-picking will arise with the licensing system. Since a large part of a marine plan comprises establishing the database and the baseline on which future decisions can be made, which will help to track the environmental quality of the area, it would be remiss not to opt for a fairly fast process of covering the whole marine area. Therefore, I support the amendments.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we debated these matters extensively in Committee and I recognise the strength of feeling about them in the House. However, the Government see difficulties with the amendments we are debating. Amendment 71 would create a duty to plan. In Committee I said that there were difficulties associated with imposing a legal duty to prepare marine plans. For example, if the marine plan authority withdraws from the marine policy statement, or if the marine policy statement is withdrawn by the Secretary of State, or the Secretary of State does not agree to a devolved Administrations plan, the marine plan authority will be unable to fulfil its duty to plan. In addition, if adopting a marine policy statement brings with it a duty to plan, it could be argued that it might deter some policy authorities from adopting marine policy statements. Therefore, there are genuine difficulties here. I question whether prescribing such detail in the legislation is the right course of action.
Amendments 72 and 73 would lay down that plans should be prepared for the whole of the marine planning region where the marine policy statement governs marine planning. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that his measure is supported by many organisations. However, I am not sure that there is unanimity of view on this matter. Many stakeholders have told the Government that they agree that the system needs to evolve and that we need to learn lessons as we go along. Until we start to create plans, we cannot be sure how extensive the coverage will
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As there are different planning authorities around the UK, it is for each of them to decide where and when plans are needed and whether they entail full coverage of their planning area. We think that the most important consideration would be to plan the most appropriate way for the area concerned. That would almost certainly involve plans of different scales and sizes containing more or less detail depending on the data available, the needs of the area and the levels of activity requiring management and consideration. There is a question of proportion. There must be a question of how much value would be added by an obligation to prepare plans for the whole of the UK marine area, or even the whole of a marine planning region, particularly in the far reaches of the offshore regions.
That point was made again tonight. It is deceptively inviting to go down that route. While I agree that planning must be proportionate, I am not sure that it is right that one could in certain parts of the marine area be much less detailed. The marine planning process is necessarily intensive and detailed, involving extensive public consultation and consideration of data and evidence. We cannot shortcut this process, which is set out clearly in Schedule 6, without undermining the quality of the plans being prepared and risking losing the confidence of those using the area and the plans. What is more, it is hard to see how such light touch plans containing little detail for large areas would be of any benefit for marine users and decision-makers above and beyond the policies already set out in the MPS. To that extent, the MPS can be seen as a strategic-level marine plan for the whole UK marine area. The MPS thus ensures that there is certainly no danger of there being areas of the sea which lack any kind of strategic approach to marine management.
In practice, we expect that planning will be of most value in the inshore area, and I am happy to commit to ensure that we draw up plans to cover the English inshore region. We will put this requirement in the direction on planning that we give to the Marine Management Organisation, with which it is under a legal obligation to comply. The Welsh Assembly Government intend to develop a plan for the entire Welsh inshore region. That should give sufficient reassurance of our intentions on the matter. We have, of course, just debated our proposal to insert a new duty on a marine plan authority to report on the plans it has prepared and its intention regarding their amendment and the preparation of any further plans.
In conclusion, I hope that noble Lords will understand that there is no lack of commitment in taking the legislation forward and wishing to see appropriate
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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Do I understand his reservation to be that he does not see that the whole of the inshore area will be covered by the marine plans; or is it just the fact that this will take time and therefore he wants to have the freedom to make it in bits rather than the whole? Clearly, if one makes it in bits, surely the overall marine plan itself would not be as strong as if it had been made as a complete plan throughout the area.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, what I have said is that I can give the assurance that we will commit to ensuring that we draw up plans to cover the English inshore region. We can certainly commit to saying that, as the work goes forward, there will be a point where the whole of the English inshore region is covered. My concern goes wider than that. The implication, particularly of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is that if one goes across the whole area that can be covered by plans, perhaps some of the outer areas can be covered by a plan, because you do not have to do a lot of detailed work.
The point that I am making is that, none the less, you have to go through the process as set out in Schedule 6, which could involve you in a lot of work indeed. We would rather see how this goes and then make further judgments as to how far the plan should extend.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the explanations. I am not sure that I am wholly persuaded on the issue of coverage by his saying essentially that the process might prove to be a waste of time. I am putting that in quite simplistic language. The process may lead to something that is not very detailed; we are not prescribing detail in the amendments, but really seeking consistency of approach. I remain a bit worried that having no plan rather undermines the Bill for the areas for which there is no plan.
On the issue of it not being possible to have a plan because of withdrawal, for instance, it seems to me that the Government should be looking for a way to ensure that the duty to have a plan produces the desired outcome of having a plan, rather than arguing that there might be reasons for an authority not to be able to produce a plan. I had better not try to draft on the hoof on that. It is my failing not to have anticipated the argument and produced an amendment that might have gone some way to meet it. However, given the time of night
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