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9 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I have a strong suspicion that the noble Duke will be here for as long as I am-and the rest of us, probably.

Before we sent the Bill to the Commons, we patted each other on the back and thanked everyone, so I do not think we want to go too far into that again. If

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people are doing that, however, I repeat my thanks to everyone. If I have any pride, it is for the team of people behind me on these Benches and for their expertise, which was superb. We all did a good job on the Bill.

However, I am reminded of what Lord Dahrendorf said to me several times at dinner in the Home Room. We were talking about improving the communications of the House, and about publicising what we do here. He was totally against publicising what we did in this House. He thought that we really ought to keep it secret, because if people outside, particularly in the House of Commons, ever discovered what we did, they would put a stop to it very quickly. There may be some truth in that.

There has been concern about Amendment 4. In a sense, it is a pity that we did not have it as the Bill was going through this House so that we could scrutinise it properly, but we are where we are. I am advised by my colleagues in the House of Commons that they think that the balance in the Bill between conservation and fishing is as good as it can be, even if it is not ideal for everyone. Who am I to argue with them, at least on this issue?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his last two comments, which were masterly. I will merely appropriate them as my principal defence for these amendments: that the wisdom of the Commons should prevail. They think that we have got the right balance in the Bill between the two very important concepts of marine conservation and the fishing industry, whose interests we need to take very seriously indeed.

I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said about the late Lord Kingsland's significant contribution to our deliberations in this area. We are all grateful for it; it helped to clarify our thinking. Whether it clarified that thinking enough for conjecture about the future to be possible is a different matter altogether. I cannot remember Lord Kingsland pushing the boat out too far in that regard and therefore, remaining true to that tradition, I will not be too exposed in a prediction about the common fisheries policy. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, invited me to consider when there would be any reform and when we would thus be able to make adjustments to it. We shall press for reform, of course, in particular with regard to conservation issues. However, I might almost be forgiven for saying that we have more fish to fry. We have many more serious issues to address in terms of the common fisheries policy.

I was asked when we are likely to see the outcome. We all hope to see progress in the not too distant future, but I cannot be too precise on how successful we will be and in which terms. Indeed, I shall not venture much further than what I have said already in these general remarks. However, what I am saying is this. We need to take account of the possibility or even the likelihood of change, and that is what this provision is all about. It creates a contingency framework where we can act as and when we are successful and changes are made to the common fisheries policy.

I want to be a little more definitive on one or other points. There is a timescale to the fisheries reform of 2012, but while I do not doubt that revisions will take

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place, I cannot venture to talk about their nature and extent. The House will recognise that I am bound to be shy of speaking too strongly in those terms. However, I can be a bit more definitive on the question of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace: will the offences apply to non-UK vessels? They certainly will once fisheries reform agrees that that should be the case. That, after all, is a cardinal point of reform of the common fisheries policy, so we can at least be confident about that. We are certainly confident enough to make contingency arrangements in the Bill to give effect to constructive positions once we have adopted-

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I am very interested in what the Minister is saying. As regards the powers of the Secretary of State in this amendment, given that there may be a delay in reforming the common fisheries policy, in his view will the application of these powers produce any unintended consequences? For example, could they affect marine conservation zones?

Lord Davies of Oldham: I do not think so, my Lords. It is an important amendment that was given very serious consideration in the other place. Parliament will consider anything that derives from it by way of affirmative resolution orders, so the whole concept of the amendment is to create the power but not to be definitive in how it is exercised. We seek a power to use in terms of the common fisheries policy because we are unsure about its future. I was asked when the provision will start and how long it will last, given that the common fisheries policy is due to be reformed in 2012. We do not return to primary legislation that often, so the concept behind the provision is that it should last for as long as it is valid and relevant. It might be that it is relevant to more than one round of revision of the common fisheries policy, although I have no perspective on how frequently the policy is to be changed in the future, and at this stage I would not think anyone else in the House has either. Moreover, I do not know the nature of any such changes. But the concept of the legislation before the House is that these powers should be valid and used when appropriate against any future development that might arise in relation to the common fisheries policy. I apologise to noble Lords that I cannot be more definitive than that.

I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said about these important issues, which reflect the concerns and anxieties of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. We have looked at these matters with the greatest care. It goes without saying that our colleagues in the other place were concerned about the position, examined it thoroughly and, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, expressed it, reached the judgment that this is entirely appropriate. It is principally on that basis, therefore, that I commend the amendment to the House.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, it states clearly that it is the Secretary of State. How does that affect the devolved authorities? Does he act on behalf of Scotland and Wales? What is the position?

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, when it comes to discussions within Europe, the Secretary of State is, of course, acting on behalf of the whole United Kingdom. When it comes to dealing with individual transgressions, that may well depend upon the circumstances in which the transgression occurred. We would generally expect them to occur in waters in circumstances where the Secretary of State would have the prime responsibility. Even if aspects of the Secretary of State's exercise of these powers were taken up by the other administrations, it is under the powers invested in him that action would be taken in an international situation. Where the fisheries policy is concerned we are, of course, talking about an international relationship.

The Secretary of State is responsible for the negotiations on fisheries matters and he will exercise the powers, but he would not exercise them other than in close consultation with Scottish and Welsh Ministers and without having the industry on board and all the other interest groups concerned with this issue. After all, he would be acting in the name of the United Kingdom in relation to international policy but, without being fully informed of the various interests involved, the Secretary of State could not possibly fulfil his duty.

Motion agreed.

Motion on Amendments 5 to 12

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will recall that in Part 6 of the Bill we replace the sea fisheries committees with inshore fisheries and conservation authorities in England. These will have a duty to manage sea fisheries sustainably, balancing socio-economic benefits with protection of the marine environment. They will have more money, strength and powers while retaining local involvement in decision-making.

We debated the Bill in Committee-noble Lords will instantly remember the date-on 16 March and tabled amendments in Committee and on Report to make improvements to the provisions in various respects, including in relation to sustainable development and IFCA membership. On 16 March, we debated the relationship between IFCAs and the Environment Agency, a key issue also considered by the Joint Committee, which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, who I am delighted to see in his place as we reach the latter stages of the Bill. I set out that the Bill provides for IFCAs to lead on marine species management in the inshore area, including in estuaries, while the Environment Agency would lead on protection for salmon, trout, other migratory species and freshwater fish in estuaries and as far out as the six nautical mile limit.

9.15 pm

During discussion in the other place on 7 July, a number of members raised concerns that the Bill did not provide sufficient flexibility to ensure fully joined-up inshore fisheries management, particularly in estuaries.

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There was strong pressure for us to amend the Bill so that IFCA functions could be delegated to the Environment Agency in particular, so that marine fisheries in estuaries could be managed in the most joined-up way possible. A number of honourable Members representing a range of constituencies expressed support for that greater flexibility. That was a considerable pressure to which the Government were concerned to respond, which is why we have tabled the amendments. They provide the option for IFCA functions to be delegated to the Environment Agency and neighbouring IFCAs. An order-making power was also provided to add to the list of eligible bodies so as to enable delegation to be made to other named public bodies. Bodies can also be removed from the list.

The Bill already provides for MMO functions to be delegated to relevant bodies, including IFCAs, and our amendments provide a very similar model of delegation for IFCA functions. Key elements of the amendments are that delegation of functions can occur from an IFCA to an eligible body in relation to any specified areas of an IFC district; and any delegation would require the Secretary of State's approval, and could only be carried out where there is agreement between the IFCA and the relevant body. Eligible bodies include any neighbouring IFCA and the Environment Agency. The Secretary of State could also, by order, add additional eligible public bodies that have a purpose or function connected with the inshore marine area.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I understood the Minister to say that it would be possible under the legislation as it stands for some of the functions of the MMO to be delegated to the IFCA. Will an IFCA be able to delegate responsibilities that have been delegated to it? Could there be two sets of delegations?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a very interesting question. I am concerned about the next stage down, which is what these amendments are concerned with-the functions properly allocated and carried out by IFCAs. The issue of delegation, which would be subject to the closest scrutiny, would mean that they would include the matter that the noble Lord has indicated. However, within that framework that would be done with some degree of caution, for obvious reasons. After all, one destroys the concept of responsibility if one takes delegation too far. We are talking about limited positions in which the functions of an MMO are delegated to an IFCA. To take that on down to another body would be exceptional rather than the norm. I shall think a little further about whether it is actually possible, if the noble Lord will give me a moment or two, as it is a most interesting question.

The amendments include a requirement for the Secretary of State to review all agreements at least every five years. The arrangements would be subject to regular reconsideration and would give him the power to cancel agreements, if appropriate, in light of such reviews. We are talking about a careful process of delegation. If the noble Lord's purpose with his question was to express anxiety about the dangers of delegation, we have defensive provisions in these terms. The delegation would be set with conditions, and there could be a

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prevention of further sub-delegation. The noble Lord and I are of one mind on this. We would look askance at the idea of additional sub-delegation, and that is why the Bill ensures that the Secretary of State stays very closely related to the action on this question of delegation of powers, which is right. Otherwise, the great danger that we have is the exercise of unaccountable power, which I know that the noble Lord is anxious about.

The review can be undertaken by the Secretary of State every five years, but it can be done at any time-for example as a result of representations from the IFCA or eligible body or from other interested parties. The original approval from the Secretary of State can waive the requirement for a review to occur at least every five years. So built into this, we have a proper, responsible position for the Secretary of State in relation to these issues.

We do not have particular expectations about where delegation agreements will be used. Because I have not gone too far down that path, I was struggling with the point made by the noble Lord. It will be looked at in detail by IFCAs and the Environment Agency if the amendments are accepted. But the amendments will offer a degree of flexibility and future-proofing in terms of development-for example to allow one IFCA to manage across an estuary even where a local authority boundary splits the estuary, or for the Environment Agency to manage all fisheries in upper estuaries where marine species are insignificant. Those are areas of flexibility that we would all recognise the Bill ought to provide for in the evolution of policy and practice.

The Bill as amended will allow fisheries management to be carried out as flexibly and efficiently as possible in inshore areas, particularly in estuaries. That was the subject of considerable debate in this House and it was also reflected in concerns in the other place. This will be beneficial both to users of the inshore marine area and to regulators, ensuring that fisheries and the wider inshore marine environment are managed as effectively as possible.

At House of Commons Report stage on 26October, there was support for the amendments from the honourable Member for Reading West, and from the honourable Member for Newbury, who said:

"IFCAs will not always be best placed to carry out certain functions, some of which could be managed by other organisations or by agencies that have more relevant knowledge or are simply better placed to perform them. It is important that IFCAs are flexible and are able to delegate their functions where necessary or sensible, and we therefore support the proposed measures".-[Official Report, Commons, 26/10/09; col. 36.]

That is the view of two Members of Parliament thinking about the issues very seriously and recognising the degree of flexibility that we ought to build into the Bill.

Before the noble Lord rises to his feet with regard to Wales, let me say that the issues have also been considered there. There was discussion of the amendment of the honourable Member for Brecon and Radnorshire to extend the option of delegation to Welsh Ministers. My colleague, the Minister in the other place, the honourable Member for Ogmore, explained that Welsh Ministers already have the power to make legislation on behalf of the Environment Agency and to delegate

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functions to the agency. The intention behind the amendment seems sensible, but raising the matter so late in the process, without the scope to be clear about how accountability of the functions could be ascertained, does not seem right. The Bill can and does deliver to Welsh Ministers the powers that they requested, and they are content with the Bill as drafted. Therefore, I hope that I give the noble Lord reassurance on that.

The amendment has been carefully considered in the other place. It is a response to considerable pressure from there, and Wales is included too. Accordingly, I beg to move.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we agree with the Government's introduction of these amendments in the sense that they provide for managerial flexibility. We accept totally the Minister's arguments for flexibility, which may well serve the interests of the effective conservation of fisheries and the natural habitat. On first reading these amendments, I was concerned about the questions of control and accountability. When powers are delegated, or matters are delegated to other bodies, does the delegating body retain some overall supervisory role? From what the Minister says, it is clear that the Secretary of State will make sure that these delegated functions will not tolerate underperformance in any way. That is important to emphasise, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that that is the case.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I certainly want to confirm that most important point. I had hoped that I had made it explicit in my opening remarks. Perhaps I did not, and the House must forgive me if I failed. I certainly agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord.

Motion agreed.

Motion on Amendments 13 to 16

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 13 to 16. I shall also speak to Amendment 27. These amendments relate to an issue that has exercised the House greatly-the shellfish industry. In Committee and on Report, the noble Baronesses, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer and Lady Wilcox, spoke strongly and with considerable force on this matter.

My noble friend Lord Hunt has now moved on to other pastures. He is in the Ukraine today, but that does not mean that he will not be up near the Barents Sea tomorrow or Tierra del Fuego in the middle of next week. I cannot keep track of my noble friend's extraordinary endeavours with regard to the preparations for the climate change conference in Copenhagen, but

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it means that I am not able to consult him in his wisdom about aspects of the Bill for which he was largely responsible and which I have inherited. However, I remember that he assured the House that if the Government,

What was exercising the noble Baronesses, to whom my noble friend Lord Hunt was responding, was the problems facing the shellfish industry as a consequence of a long-running court action surrounding the rights of shellfish owners and landowners where developments are concerned. Our ability to secure a long-term sustainable future for the industry was being hampered by the provisions of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967.

I am pleased to report that we are now seeking the agreement of this House to this package of amendments, which, taken together, will deliver the changes to primary legislation that should secure the future of this important industry. We have had extensive meetings with interested parties, including the Shellfish Association of Great Britain and the Crown Estate, which was the other great actor in this area of considerable difficulty. The Government are able to state, through the amendments, that we have delivered on our commitment. We have tabled amendments that were considered in Commons Committee and won the approval of the other place.

Amendments may be grouped together for discussion, but can be considered separately at any stage by the House according to our proper procedures. However, I emphasise that it is necessary to look at these amendments as a complete and balanced package. It is crucial that they are taken together, to allow us to start granting shellfish orders again while recognising the rights of landowners.

9.30 pm

Over the summer, officials and the Minister worked with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, the representative body of the shellfish industry, as well as with the wider shellfish industry and the Crown Estate, to ensure clarity on how the amendments would work in practice and to ensure that they were not defective. On 13 September, the Minister met the Shellfish Association of Great Britain and the Crown Estate and was joined by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and by the honourable Member for Newbury. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, would have liked to have been there but was unable to attend. At the meeting, a record of which was sent on 16 October to all MPs and noble Lords interested in the Bill-including the two noble Baronesses to whom I referred, who were so active on the issue in the House when we considered these matters-all sides agreed a way forward and indicated that they were prepared to accept the Bill. They committed to addressing their outstanding concerns outside the Bill through other means such as revised guidance notes. The Shellfish Association of Great Britain has subsequently written to the Minister to confirm that this is its position.

The amendments that we have made are even-handed. They remove an outdated and unnecessary procedure when considering new orders and provide the Secretary

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of State with the power to grant new shellfish orders without obtaining Crown consent. Given that a number of important orders are due to expire in the next few years and a number of potential orders are in the pipeline, the amendments are crucial for the long-term future of shellfish orders. The amendments also ensure that, when considering an application for a new shellfish order, the responsible Minister must have regard to the power and duties of the Crown Estate, in recognition of its responsibilities and duties enshrined in law, which are not faced by other landowners.

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