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2 Mar 2010 : Column GC359

Grand Committee

Tuesday, 2 March 2010.

Arrangement of Business


3.40 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Pitkeathley): My Lords, before the Minister moves that the first statutory instrument be considered, I remind noble Lords that in the case of each statutory instrument, the Motion before the Committee will be that the Committee do consider the statutory instrument. I also make it clear that the Motions to approve the statutory instruments will be moved in the Chamber in the usual way. Noble Lords will all be aware that if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

Welsh Zone (Boundaries and Transfer of Functions) Order 2010

Considered in Grand Committee

3.41 pm

Moved By Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, the draft order does two things. First, it sets out the boundaries of the Welsh zone. Secondly, it transfers the exercise of fisheries functions in that zone from Ministers of the Crown to Welsh Ministers.

I will set out some background to the establishment of the zone before turning to the rationale for the change. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 amended the Government of Wales Act 2006 to include a definition of the Welsh zone and allow the transfer of ministerial functions connected to fisheries, fishing and fish health to Welsh Ministers in that part of the zone that is outside territorial sea limits. The 2006 Act, as amended, defines the Welsh zone as the sea adjacent to Wales which is, first, within British fishery limits, and, secondly, specified in an Order in Council under Section 58, or in an order under Section 158.

This order is brought forward under Section 58 of the 2006 Act. The boundaries of the zone are defined in Article 3 and the co-ordinates in the schedule to the order. To the north of Wales, points 1 to 8 in Part 1 of the schedule replicate the boundary between England and Wales in the Dee estuary by following the line that was defined in the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999. At the end of those points, the boundary follows a simplified median line between Wales and north-west England until it makes contact

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with the Isle of Man territorial sea at point 11. The Isle of Man territorial sea limit is then followed in a westerly direction until the point where contact is made with the boundary of the Northern Ireland zone. From that point, the boundary follows the Northern Ireland zone in a south-westerly direction until point 12, where the Northern Ireland zone meets the extent of British fishery limits.

Similarly, the southern boundary of the Welsh zone begins by following the boundary between England and Wales in the Severn estuary and the Bristol Channel, along the line that was defined in the 1999 transfer of functions order. It then follows a simplified median line in a south-westerly, and then westerly, direction until the boundary reaches the extent of British fishery limits at point 22 of Part 2 of the schedule. The western boundary of the zone is the British fishery limit.

I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the Welsh zone includes both the territorial sea adjacent to Wales, out to 12 nautical miles, and the sea outside the territorial boundary but within the defined limits. Welsh Ministers already exercise fisheries functions within the boundary of the territorial sea, and this order merely extends the area in which they may exercise those functions to include the area of the Welsh zone outside the territorial sea-in other words, beyond 12 nautical miles.

Functions that can be transferred to the Welsh Ministers by an Order in Council under Section 58 of the 2006 Act are, in that part of the zone beyond the territorial sea, limited by Section 58(1)(a) to functions connected with fishing, fisheries or fish health. The fisheries functions that are to transfer from Ministers of the Crown to the Welsh Ministers are listed in Article 4 of this order.

The functions are to be vested in the Welsh Ministers on the same basis that they are exercisable by them at present in the territorial sea adjacent to Wales. The functions to be transferred include powers under the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967, the principal Act used for the regulation of commercial fishing throughout England and Wales. It includes the power to restrict fishing for sea fish, including regulating the fishery for a specific species at a specific time or a specific location, and regulating the size of the fish that can be caught or landed and the methods by which that fishing is undertaken. The Welsh Ministers will also be able, under the Fisheries Act 1981, to make provision for the enforcement of EU restrictions and obligations relating to sea fish.

The duty on Welsh Ministers under the Sea Fisheries (Wildlife Conservation) Act 1992 to have regard to the conservation of marine flora and fauna in discharging functions under sea fisheries legislation will also be extended to cover the whole of the zone.

While most functions are being transferred entirely to the Welsh Ministers, in cases where a function is at present exercisable by them concurrently with UK Ministers in the territorial sea, it will also be exercisable on a concurrent basis in the rest of the Welsh zone. These concurrent functions are listed in Article 5 and include further functions under the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 in relation to the licensing of

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fishing vessels. The concurrent nature of the UK licensing functions is central to the principles of a single UK fishing licence. Also included are powers under the Sea Fisheries Act 1968 to regulate the conduct of sea fishing operations with regard to the identification and marking of fishing boats, as well as functions under the British Fishing Boats Act 1983 relating to the qualification for British fishing boats to be used in fishing, trans-shipment and the landing of sea fish.

I will now move briefly to the policy underpinning this order. Noble Lords might like to note that, as set out in the Explanatory Memorandum that accompanies the order, the Welsh Ministers' overriding policy aim is to create viable and sustainable fisheries in the waters around Wales, as described in the Wales fisheries strategy.

The creation of the zone will simplify the jurisdiction, better reflect practical realities and enable the more coherent management of fisheries off the Welsh coast. The vast majority of the Welsh fishing fleet operates within the zone, and its creation would put Wales on a similar footing to the other devolved Administrations, each of which already has a fisheries zone.

I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that Parliament has already agreed the principle of the Welsh zone by virtue of its inclusion in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The order simply gives the zone practical effect.

A further effect of establishing the zone is to define the boundaries of the Welsh offshore region, one of the eight marine planning regions in UK waters created by the Marine and Coastal Access Act. The Act provides for the Welsh Ministers to be the marine plan authorities for both the Welsh offshore and inshore regions, and to prepare marine plans for these regions. The Welsh offshore region would not be defined in the absence of this order.

The draft order has already been approved by the Welsh Ministers, and I commend it to the Committee.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for making this order so clear. I took part in the debates around the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and this order is a logical follow-up. I remember asking questions at that time about how the various borders would be set up and agreed. I am delighted to hear that, although we have waited some time for this order, it is being made as a direct result of consultations with the Scottish, Irish and, presumably, the English.

Before I go any further, I point out that point 22 of Part 2 of the schedule does not exist. It exists on the map, but not on the list of longitude and latitude in the schedule.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: It is at the top of page 6.

Lord Glentoran: I apologise for that and withdraw my remarks. I had turned the page, but missed it.

We clearly had good negotiations with the other parties concerned-the Irish, the Northern Irish, the Isle of Man, Scotland and wherever. A sizeable chunk

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of our local seas-St George's Channel and the Irish Sea-is the responsibility of Wales. From the beginning of proceedings on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill it was made clear that Welsh Assembly Ministers wished to take direct control of the management of this part of the sea fisheries of the United Kingdom. Given the scale of things, that seems to be eminently sensible.

However, I have a few questions. First, what consultation is anticipated between Ministers of the Crown and Welsh Ministers in relation to the functions that are concurrently exercised? As I understand it, that includes areas directly beyond the Welsh zone up to the international zone between the limits of the UK and Ireland.

Secondly, Article 6 provides:

"Any provision of section 4 or 4A of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 requiring the consent of the Treasury to the exercise of a function does not apply in relation to the exercise of the function by the Welsh Ministers".

Why is this?

Thirdly, Article 8 provides:

"Paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 4 to the Government of Wales Act"-

it relates to the transfer of property and so on-

What arrangements, if any, will be put in place for access by Welsh Ministers to such records?

Those are my key questions. In summary, this is an eminently well thought-out statutory instrument. I hope that the Welsh Assembly will take this on board-it is a big task, involving licensing of fishing boats, management of sea fisheries, protection and all sorts of things that come to us from Europe and central government. I am sure that Welsh Ministers will need support, we wish them good fortune in carrying out their responsibilities and I hope that they will get stuck in right away. I support the order.

Lord Jones: I thank my noble friend for his lucid explanation. I rejoice at the finding of point 22. The Welsh Assembly cares greatly for the future of what remains of the fishing industry. Does the order enable any measures to enhance a Welsh fishing industry that is currently under considerable and major pressure? What does the industry comprise? This information would help us to understand the objective of the order. Is it concerned with deep-sea fishing for cod and herring? What is encompassed here?

Can the Minister tell us where in Wales there is a fishing industry today; that is, which ports relate to this order-one that I fully support and welcome? Would I be right to assume that there is a small and viable fishing industry in far flung Pembroke, probably based at Haverfordwest? Further, can he define the difference between the Welsh zone and the seaward boundary of the territorial zone? Does my noble friend know that when I had the honour to work in what was then the Welsh Office with ministerial responsibilities, while deciding the route of the A55 expressway from Chester to Holyhead, I found it necessary to obtain navigation rights to the west of Conwy and the east of Bangor so as to put the

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highway into what is now called the Irish Sea but which locally might be considered to be the bay of Conwy?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: It is privilege to take part in the discussion of this order, and in particular to follow my compatriot the noble Lord, Lord Jones, who speaks with a wealth of experience of the fishing industry, the routing of roads and so on, in north Wales. I appreciate his words. I do not know if anyone else present had family who were a part of the fishing industry. My great-grandfather was a trawler-man in Conwy. He drowned in 1869, so we go back a long way in the fishing story of north Wales. But I know that others come from coastal areas as well.

Lord Jones: This is very Welsh, but is my friend the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, aware that my ancestors were boat-builders in Conwy and then migrated to the boat-building industry in Flintshire at Connah's Quay? Together, we can make some historic references.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: I thank my cousin for that intervention, and I am only sorry that my other cousin here today, my noble friend Lord Livsey, has to leave us or he would be leading on this order.

The order specifies the boundaries of the Welsh zone and brings certain functions that deal with fishing, fisheries and fish health under the control of Welsh Ministers. As part of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the Welsh Assembly Government wanted to bring fisheries functions in-house under the control of Welsh Ministers, hence the establishment of the Welsh zone under the 2009 legislation. It makes sense for Wales to have a zone and so bring it in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches welcome the new powers over fisheries for the Welsh Assembly Government and want to see them work well. The order makes the boundaries of the Welsh zone clear, and I welcome that. Again, I am grateful to the Minister for giving us such a lucid explanation of what is involved, and to the team backing him on this order.

The boundaries of the Welsh zone have been negotiated between the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government. Welsh Ministers will be able to exercise all the functions they need within the zone, so it is very much a tidying-up exercise rather than the transfer of new powers. We understand why the boundaries of the zone were left to an order, but perhaps I could ask, first, if any consideration was given to transferring these functions as part of the 2009 Act? Secondly, are the Government sure that they have transferred all the functions referring to Wales to the Welsh zone? Has anything somehow been left out of the transfer?

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the Welsh Assembly Government are confident that the creation of the Welsh zone will not weaken the UK position in European Union fisheries matters. We agree, but have any procedures been put in place for cross-governmental working to ensure that the Welsh voice is heard, and heard loudly, at the European level? My final question is this: will additional resources be allocated to the Welsh Assembly Government to enable them to carry out their new responsibilities? Other than those questions, we welcome the order.

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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I have only one basic question to ask the Minister about the order, and that is in regard to the cost of its implementation as far as Wales is concerned. We are talking about the accretion of responsibility by Welsh Ministers for functions relating to fishing, fisheries and fish health over an extensive area. Yes, they have been responsible for the functions previously and currently, either on their own or concurrently with Ministers of the Crown, but within a limited area, which I understand is up to what is described as the "seaward boundary of the territorial sea". In common parlance, that means up to the 12-mile limit. However, this zone is far bigger. As the Minister explained, it extends to the boundaries of the British fishery limits, as defined by the latitude and longitude co-ordinates in the Schedule, and reaches towards the Isle of Man in the north and St George's Channel in the south.

Paragraph 10.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum states:

"The administrative burden for the Welsh zone will transfer from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Welsh Assembly Government. There will be no budgetary transfer from the UK Government to the Welsh Assembly Government in connection with this Order".

What exactly is the administrative burden? How many people are involved in carrying it and at what cost? Will there be staff transfers from Defra? How many people are involved in exercising the functions performed currently in the limited area and how many will be employed in connection with the bigger zone, which will obviously involve more work? There is a transfer of functions from Ministers of the Crown to Welsh Ministers under Article 4. The take-up of these functions will involve costs and it would be interesting to know what they are or are likely to be. These questions need to be asked and answered because Civil Service numbers have a habit of growing even in the midst of a recession and we should at least be aware of them.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, it was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, speaking of the powers that will be transferred to the Welsh Assembly Government. However, given the sad state that things are in at the moment, very few powers will be gained. This is a general look forward to when powers might be transferred from Europe. The main powers the Assembly will wish to exercise relate to conservation, the designation of marine protected areas and so on, but I wonder whether, as in so many other parts of the United Kingdom, historic overseas fishing rights are being exercised within the six to 12-mile limits. Where that occurs in other parts of the United Kingdom, we have less control in the six to 12-mile limit area, and perhaps the same will be true for the Welsh Assembly.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I congratulate them on the interest they are taking in the order and the support that they have given for it. I also congratulate them on the perspicacity of the questions they have put to me, which I will do my best to answer. Obviously if I leave things unsaid at the end of the debate, I shall write to noble Lords and put that right.

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I am pleased that the Committee takes the view that the Government do-that the change proposed in the order is sensible and will make the management and enforcement of fisheries around the Welsh coast simpler, and make a sustainable marine environment easier to achieve. We certainly take the view that it is right for a single Administration-Welsh Ministers-to become responsible for fisheries around the Welsh coast rather than the current rather cumbersome arrangements whereby five organisations are responsible for managing Welsh waters. The order helps to achieve that aim by establishing the Welsh zone, within which the Welsh Ministers will be responsible for fisheries functions.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked specifically about consultation. The Welsh Assembly Government consulted all relevant UK government departments about the proposal and received positive feedback from them. They then canvassed the other United Kingdom fisheries administrations to provide lists of relevant parties and, in May 2008, wrote directly to over 300 individuals and organisations. Sadly, only 13 responses were received. Of those, only two were against the proposal. One was from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, a body that-given the existence of national federations in the other UK nations-broadly represents the English fishing industry. The second respondent was the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee, whose major concern was that the Welsh Ministers' gaining responsibility for the offshore area would divert resources away from inshore fisheries. That is not our view, and it is not the view of the Welsh Assembly Government. We and they feel that the creation of the zone will not require extra resources or necessitate the reallocation of resources away from the inshore area.

The other point of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was about consultation continuing. There will be regular dialogue between the Welsh Assembly Government and Defra on concurrent functions as part of the existing arrangements. Both the Welsh Assembly Government and the United Kingdom Government would need to agree before concurrent functions were exercised. In practice, therefore, licensing arrangements will continue as at present. There will be formal dialogue at ministerial level to agree such matters. Similar arrangements are already in place between the United Kingdom Government and Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also asked whether Welsh Ministers would require Treasury consent to exercise functions under the 1967 Act. Treasury consent or approval will cease where the Welsh Ministers issue licences to fishing boats or for the trans-shipment of fish under Sections 4 and 4A respectively of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The way in which Treasury consent or approval will cease or continue on those functions transferring to the Welsh Ministers under the order reflects how those same Treasury consent or approval requirements do or do not apply to the current exercise of those functions by Welsh Ministers within the territorial sea limits. That reflects the corresponding provision in the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999.

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The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked what arrangements were in place for access by the Welsh Ministers to records of a Minister of the Crown and whether that would be transferred to them. Administrative arrangements will be in place to ensure that, if needed, the Welsh Assembly Government can have access to retained records-for example, for disclosure in any court proceedings. That provision is a common feature in orders transferring ministerial functions to the Welsh Assembly Government.

My noble friend Lord Jones asked whether the order would enable measures to be taken to enhance the fishing industry. The Welsh Ministers will have the same powers in the Welsh zone as currently afforded in the territorial seas. These enable Welsh Ministers both to manage and to develop fisheries in line with the aims of the Wales fisheries strategy. There are many ports in Wales. Milford Haven and Holyhead are the main ones, but there is smaller inshore fishing all around the Welsh coast, from the Gower to Anglesey. Such fishing takes place mainly in the Welsh zone.

My noble friend also asked about the difference between the Welsh zone and the seaward boundary of the territorial sea. The territorial sea extends to 12 nautical miles from the baselines. The Welsh Ministers already have functions within its boundaries. The Welsh zone extends their jurisdiction to the British fishery limits and this order draws the boundaries where the zone meets the sea, which is the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government, the Northern Ireland Government, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, asked whether all functions in the zone have been transferred to Welsh Ministers. The answer is yes: all fisheries functions have been transferred. He also asked-an interesting question-whether these functions could have been transferred by the 2009 Act. As the noble Lord well knows, an Act can, in theory, do anything that Parliament decides, but we felt-and, indeed, the Welsh Assembly Government felt-that the detail of the precise functions was more appropriate to an order. The existing functions of the Welsh Ministers were devolved by a transfer of functions order.

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