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Anyway, having now made the same points for the third time, in a Groundhog Day sort of way, I will give up because I know that I have no general support from other Benches. Nevertheless, before I sit down and ask the Minister to endorse his own briefing note, I will comment on Amendment 113ZA, which is grouped with my amendment. I look forward to hearing about the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, in this amendment. I must admit that I was a bit bemused by his definition of “science”, which included “opinions”. Not being a scientist myself, I could not definitively say that science cannot include opinions; but I suspect that if other noble Lords who were steeped in science were in the Chamber, they may well think that “opinions” is perhaps pushing the boundary of science slightly too far.

9.30 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, there is some support around the House regarding the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has raised this issue as a potential Achilles heel for marine conservation zones. The Minister will no doubt say that it is a developing area and that the noble Baroness quoted from one set of guidance. I have the draft guidance on the selection and designation of marine conservation zones. Paragraph 5.14 states:

“Where areas contain features which are rare, threatened or declining, or form biodiversity hotspots, ecological considerations are likely to carry greater weight in considering the area’s suitability for designation”.

Given all those features—“rare, threatened or declining”—the ecological considerations should carry greater weight. I feel that this Achilles heel still exists and might damage the very concept of marine conservation zones. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for enabling us to have this discussion and for giving the Minister an opportunity to say where the Government sit on this issue.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, the noble Baroness has a very serious argument and it is perfectly fair to bring it before the House again. Yet, I also point out that, if her amendment were to be accepted, the hard-won protection that we have achieved for the marine historic environment would be lost.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we return again to a matter that caused a great deal of controversy in Committee when we tabled a few amendments seeking to ensure that the successful designation of a network marine conservation zone did not fall at the last hurdle or be overridden by social and economic interests. That debate was lengthy and represented a wide variety of views. The Minister responded at length about the balance the Government were trying to find between conservation bodies, seeking the complete acceptance of their recommendations, and groups representing social and economic interest, which were concerned that zones would be designated without any regard for their impact on other legitimate users of the sea.

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As a result of those debates, I find that I cannot agree with the amendment of the noble Baroness but that does not devalue the amendment and the discussion we are having because of it. We have always held that designation of zones will be meaningless if they cannot be implemented and enforced properly. The proper consideration of the pressures that will be placed on them and the genuine attempts to relieve those pressures without damaging their conservation objectives will be essential if the part is to work.

The Government’s own document, which we have recently received, points out that we should not belittle how much is already covered: 9 per cent of the inland coastal waters and 2 per cent of the continental shelf are covered under mature conservation regimes. It shows that in embryo there is already a strong conservation movement in marine conservation, from which I imagine much has been learnt about the efficacy of MCZ designation.

We have tabled Amendment 112, which seeks to ensure that the appropriate authority seeks the advice of the body that will be making the decisions that will result in the achievement of the zone’s objectives. The drafting is rather clumsy because the appropriate authority is the national body of the multi-nation United Kingdom. It is clumsy owing to the difficulties of the devolution aspects of the Bill, but essentially the amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State will consult the MMO before designating a zone in the area.

My noble friend Lord Kingsland has tabled an amendment to which I have added my name, which would further require the appropriate authority to base his decision to designate zones on scientific evidence. He will no doubt speak to his amendment in detail; I look forward to listening to what he has to say.

However, I should like to add that much of the debate on this controversial subsection (7) results from the belief by one set of stakeholders that the Secretary of State will come under unfair pressure from another set and that he will be tempted to make unfair decisions on the basis of money or political expediency. Therefore, I strongly support my noble friend’s efforts to ensure that the decision is made on science, just as we succeeded in ensuring in Clause 2, and I hope that the Minister will look favourably on the two Conservative amendments in this group.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 113ZA, which is included in this group. Before I do so, I would like to express sympathy for the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, as a number of your Lordships have done.

I presume that the Government are able to include Clause 114(7) in the Bill only because European Community law in the context of MCZs is not as demanding as in the case of land-based SLAs.

I turn to my own amendment, which would add a further subsection to Clause 114 as follows:

“In considering whether it is desirable to designate an area as an MCZ, the appropriate authority must take account of all relevant scientific evidence. ‘Evidence’ includes predictions and other opinions resulting from the consideration of evidence by any person”.

In promoting this amendment, I respectfully adopt the analysis made in the speech that my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach has just concluded. I just want to

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underline the real fear that, without an express reference to science in Clause 114, the decision-maker will indeed be susceptible to the pressures to which he rightly alluded.

I am puzzled that, whereas the Government felt it appropriate to include a similar—indeed, an identically—worded provision in Clause 2, laying down the general objective to be pursued by the MMO, they nevertheless, for reasons which I am anxious to hear, did not feel it necessary to have the same reference to scientific evidence for the appropriate authority making decisions under Clause 114.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised a question about the word “opinions” in my amendment. This matter was referred to in our debate on Clause 2 at this stage of the Bill. For my part, I found the Minister’s explanation as to why “opinions” was appropriate entirely satisfactory. He may well wish to repeat what he said at that stage of the Bill or explain it in a different way. However, scientific evidence can give rise to different opinions about its implications; and that is the framework in which the word appears in the amendment.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I wanted to delay speaking on this group until I had heard the speeches on the two Conservative amendments so that I could understand the reasoning behind them. Having heard them, it seems to me that Amendment 113ZA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, while probably not strictly necessary under the sort of argument that the Government usually use—that it is covered anyway—nevertheless would be useful because it would, in particular, underline the conservation basis of marine conservation zones, as opposed to their social and economic aspects. For that reason, if no other, I think it would be a useful amendment.

I do not quite understand the purpose of Amendment 112, from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach. Already, under Clause 116, there are substantial requirements for consultation and public advertisement on proposals for MCZs. The noble Lord’s amendment seems to refer specifically to organisations or bodies which have had functions delegated to them by the MMO, and not to others. I am not sure what the justification for that was. He may say that, earlier and under a different context, I said that local authorities should have a special status in consultation, but I explained that that was because local authorities are very different organisations from others, being democratically elected, representative bodies. It seems inconceivable that bodies that had delegated functions in relation to MCZs would not be consulted about their designation.

I suspect, although it is normal for opposition parties generally to want more in Bills rather than less, that the Government are trying to be minimalist about what is in it. Nevertheless, I am not sure why the Conservative amendment is necessary.

The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone is important and substantive. She said there was not general support here, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that there was lots of sympathy—or perhaps it was the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland; it was. That is true, and the noble Baroness will ask what the use of tea and sympathy is when she wants noble Lords to join her in the Lobbies.

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There is a great deal to be said for the noble Baroness’s amendment in relation to some marine conservation zones. We were not able to persuade the Government that there should be high-level marine conservation zones, where activities other than those related to conservation were effectively banned, as was proposed by my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, but in relation to those particular zones the noble Baroness is 100 per cent right. Under those circumstances, social and economic factors are irrelevant. It has to be based on the facts on the ground, or under the sea, and on the science.

We hope that lots of marine conservation zones will be set up. I suppose I should not refer to the bottom of the scale, especially in relation to the sea; however, as you go along the spectrum, there will be MCZs that increasingly depend on fewer important aspects, in relation to that site, where there is a choice.

I have said how grateful I was, and have praised these documents which we have had recently. Note 1 of the draft guidance on selection and designation, which people have poked fun at, is a very important document, but I do not think it is yet 100 per cent right. Indeed, it is a draft for discussion and consultation, and it is right that that should happen. In section 4, the principles for design of the marine protected area network are important, because one of the important principles, and the first listed, is representation. It may be—it almost certainly will—that some of the areas where it will be necessary to declare MCZs for representative reasons are areas where, in the real world, there will be a choice between different sites. In the highly protected ones, however we describe them, there will not be, but in many there will. Where there is a choice, it is unrealistic to say that social and economic factors should not come into the equation in making the decision.

9.45 pm

On the other hand, the draft guidance, in section 5, sets out the principles for the identification and selection of MCZs, and it sounds pretty high-level. It talks about:

“The range of marine biodiversity ... Rare or threatened habitats ... Globally or regionally significant areas for geographically restricted habitats or species ... Important aggregations or communities of marine species”,

and so forth. Reading this, there is no sense of the kind of gradation or hierarchy which the Government talked about previously. I am not sure that the document has completely got to grips with that. The part of it that comes under the heading “Taking account of social and economic factors in site selection” contains a lot of on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand type of arguments. However, I do not think that it has really got to grips with the factors that will result in the decision being made. For example, referring to what we would call high-level sites, it states:

“The existence of socio-economic interests will not preclude consideration of an area for designation of an MCZ, nor compromise the setting of appropriate conservation objectives”.

I do not think that you can have both of those. It says that such interests will not preclude consideration of an area, but they will not compromise the setting of appropriate conservation objectives. There are going to be compromises, not in what we would call the high-level

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ones, perhaps, but there will be compromises and the guidance does not set out how they will be resolved.

I will not read out any more of this section because I would be detaining the House, but paragraphs 5.13, 5.14 and 5.15 provide an interesting and important discussion of the issues we are trying to grapple with here. However, I do not think that it is the end of the road; I think that it is the beginning of getting to grips with those issues.

So I would like to support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I cannot support it as it stands, but I very much support it in relation to the high-end, high-level MCZs, however we describe them, that we hope to see established. The compromises and the way in which the choices will be made on those which are not high level and are being chosen particularly because they are representative is one of the fundamental, interesting questions here.

The final comment I make is in referring back to a discussion we had in Committee when I was debating with the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. I was saying that when the 1949 Act was passed, there was a clear vision for national parks, and the pattern and system that we would have, based on the Hobhouse reports and the wide-ranging public consensus that existed. I was complaining that the Government did not have that sort of vision when it came to marine conservation zones. Well, I think that the documents that the Government are producing are evidence of the fact that they are beginning to develop a kind of vision of the system and network they want. I do not believe that they, or we, are there yet, but I believe that the work is now taking place. I think that if that continues to take place, with the kind of commitment set out in these documents, we might well get there.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this highly important debate is probably an appropriate one on which to conclude this evening. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves; I know that there have been concerns, at various stages of debating its different aspects, that the language of the Bill does not, perhaps, reflect our vision. We dealt with that on our first day on Report, particularly in the debates on Clause 2. I acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said about the documents that we produce, which he thinks are an emerging vision. Clearly, a lot of that is work in progress and many of those are draft documents. I hope that they are, indeed, helping to convince stakeholders that the Government are serious, which we are about taking this forward when it comes to MCZs. We see the contribution of MCZs as being very important to the health of our marine environment.

Amendment 112, on the designation process, requires “the appropriate authority” to “consult any public body”. We believe that is covered by Clause 116(4), which sets out that:

“The appropriate authority must consult any persons ... likely to be interested in, or affected by, the making of”,

an order. Any public body exercising a marine plan function will clearly have an interest in a site designation, as it affects the marine plan and must be factored into planning. I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord on that point.

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I turn to Amendment 113ZA, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Kingsland and Lord Taylor, which seeks to strengthen the reference to science and, most importantly, scientific evidence in the designation of marine conservation zones. Science is clearly important in determining where we will designate sites. Clause 114(1) ensures that scientific criteria form the basis of site proposals, setting out specific grounds for designating marine conservation zones, including the number and diversity of,

I want to make it clear that Clause 114 has been drafted so that science must, by necessity, form the basis of site proposals. I am certain that the number or diversity of marine fauna and flora could not be determined without scientific advice; I have had categorical advice on that point. I do not believe, then, that Clause 114 needs to include a specific reference to science.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, has invited me to come to his support on the use of “opinion”—and I feel that I must, because we debated this on our first day on Report and, as I said then, the use of “opinion” is not deemed to be any old opinion. It is simply a reflection that, on many scientific matters, there will be varying opinions, all of which may very well be valid and need to be considered. Although I do not agree with the noble Lord’s amendment, the use of “opinion” is entirely acceptable.

We then come to Amendment 110D, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She said, at the beginning, that she proposed this anticipating another amendment that she thought might come, seeking to strengthen subsection (7). Although that has not come, it reflects a continuing debate about the balance to be drawn around MCZs between conservation needs and relevant socio-economic interests. That balance runs through many parts of the Bill. We are all trying to get the balance right.

I thought the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was absolutely right: while it is perfectly possible to disagree with the noble Baroness, the debate is very important. I reassure the noble Baroness that the fundamental basis for designating marine conservation zones will be the science supporting conservation. The Bill allows us to factor in the impacts of designation on other interests at a slightly earlier stage in the process. It ensures that we have a flexible system which gives us the best chance of delivering conservation policies in the context of our wider marine policies. We wish to provide significant protection for some areas of our seas.

I have just set out how the drafting of Clause 114 specifically requires marine conservation zones to be proposed based on scientific evidence, and science will clearly be important in decisions regarding the designation of the network. The science will be the first consideration in all designations. In some cases the need for conservation must prevail but, at the very least, we should take decisions in the knowledge of the likely impacts. That is why, in implementing the Bill, Ministers will expect an impact assessment to accompany each proposal for designation.

In some cases we will have more options. In designating a representative site, for example, we will often have more choice of potential locations and we will need to

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consider the size and shape of a marine conservation zone. In such circumstances, it would be sensible to take account of socio-economic considerations in deciding where a site, or group of sites, should be designated. Such considerations will be relevant. We are establishing regional and national project groups, involving interested parties to make recommendations on proposed sites. We also want all those with an interest to feed in their views. That will ensure that we take account of all the relevant considerations when designating sites and setting their conservation objectives.

The noble Baroness invited me to endorse my own briefing note on Part 5. I have given agonising consideration to that matter and I am glad to confirm that I endorse it. It is implicit that the appropriate authority must make such a decision based primarily on scientific evidence; otherwise, it would not be exercising its duty in a reasonable way. Social and economic factors are optional secondary considerations. I believe that that is reflected in the drafting of the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will accept that we have reached a very sensible balanced outcome.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their sympathy, if not their votes. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, for inadvertently threatening to sink Amendment 111 on the historical or archaeological significance of sites. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for quite rightly pointing out that the draft guidance is couched in rather more weasel tones than the briefing notes, which the Minister has just endorsed. I am grateful to him for endorsing the briefing notes and I shall continue to remind him of that endorsement for many years to come.

I look forward to hearing the opinions of any person, as outlined in his support, if not for the amendment, for the sentiment by the Minister. I am sure that many people will want to give opinions. Indeed, the process that the Minister described of regional and national groups involving all interests and bringing forward proposals for marine conservation zones—

10 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am glad to intervene. It is very risky for me to lend support to the wording of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, in an amendment that I do not agree with. To be fair, we discussed this on our first day on Report. I reiterate that we are not talking about any old opinion. We are talking about legitimate opinion, which I take to be based on consideration of the evidence.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is right to say that any old opinion would not be satisfactory, and I am comforted by that. Indeed, there are occasions when even scientists disagree with each other.

My point is that involving interest groups set up nationally and regionally—with a wide variety of interests on them and the back door wide open to having socio-economic issues that could overcome the scientific requirements prayed in aid—will make designating

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marine conservation zones a very difficult process by which to reach conclusions on MCZ proposals. I hope that we can, from time to time, remind the Minister of his endorsement of his own briefing note when the process gets into the difficulty that I predict it will get into. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 110D withdrawn.

Amendment 111

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

111: Clause 114, page 69, line 22, at end insert—

“( ) The reference in subsection (7) to any social consequences of designating an area as an MCZ includes a reference to any consequences of doing so for any sites in that area (including any sites comprising, or comprising the remains of, any vessel, aircraft or marine installation) which are of historic or archaeological interest.”

Amendment 111 agreed.

Amendment 112 not moved.

Amendment 113 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

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