Implementing the reformed common fisheries policy also requires us to move from a focus on single-stock annual quotas to multi-annual mixed-fishery management plans. These will enable a more strategic approach to fisheries management that takes into account the relationship between different stocks, moving us closer to an ecosystem-based management. The European Commission aims to publish its proposal for a North Sea multi-annual plan early next year.

The Government agree with the committee that data collection initiatives should not be duplicated. That is why the Government are a major sponsor of the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network, MEDIN, which is a partnership of UK public and private organisations. MEDIN is committed to improving access to marine data so that data, once collected, can be used many times.

The UK also joins in Ospar and EU initiatives to co-ordinate data collection, including monitoring programmes under the marine strategy framework directive. This is complemented by the Secretary of State’s recent initiative to make virtually all the data Defra holds—at least 8,000 sets—freely available to the public over the next year, putting Britain at the forefront of the data revolution.

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Co-operation can enable sea users to operate without impacting on others, and the Government agree with the committee that,

“International Maritime Organization guidance is comprehensive in its navigational safety requirements”,

and that the organisation has a regulatory process in place to implement that guidance.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change continues to work with offshore energy developers, the aggregates industry, the Crown Estate and other third parties to ensure that potential conflicts can be resolved at an early stage so that respective developments can co-exist where they may overlap.

Our marine areas are vital if we are to meet our current and future energy needs. The potential benefits of cross-border energy co-operation in the North Sea are surely significant in improving security of supply and reducing the cost of integrating renewables into the UK and EU markets. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, referred to the North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative. We will continue the work under way in that initiative to facilitate investment and trading, including identifying potentially suitable projects to test the feasibility of establishing a North Sea grid.

As the committee noted, a marine planning system is a significant element in the co-ordinated management of the North Sea. Our emerging network of marine plans will provide the principal means through which balanced decisions are taken on potential uses of the marine environment and its resources, and the benefits and impacts of human activities, informed by relevant national and transnational interests and obligations.

Our approach to marine planning in the UK is underpinned by the UK Marine Policy Statement, a cross-government policy framework signed up to by all four UK Administrations. This has successfully enabled consistency in marine planning by providing a high-level policy context within which national and subnational marine plans are being developed and implemented. Government departments are collaborating to support the development and implementation of marine plans, including closer integration on terrestrial and marine matters. We are making good progress on the UK network of marine plans, with two approved plans in the English North Sea and two further plans under way for the English Channel. The National Marine Plan for Scotland was published in March this year and marine plans for Wales and Northern Ireland are anticipated in 2016-17.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, referred to local authorities. UK local authorities and stakeholders from coastal communities are directly involved in shaping marine plans as they are developed. For example, 25 local and unitary authorities are regularly consulted in the development of the English North Sea plans. Where we have plans in place we are providing support to local authorities on their implementation, helping to ensure that marine plans impact on decision-making and the sustainable management of the marine area.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about expenditure. My understanding is that, to date, the Government have invested about £8.9 million in the

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development of marine plans for England, with further investment promised to complete the currently planned network of England marine plans. If I have any further information as I think about other matters, I will of course write to the noble Lord.

The Government support transboundary co-operation as set out in the EU maritime spatial planning directive, but agree with the committee that it is for member states to determine how they co-operate. The principle of cross-border co-operation on marine planning is enshrined in the UK-wide Marine Policy Statement and the Government will continue to co-operate with neighbouring member states to ensure that marine plans are coherent and co-ordinated.

The UK actively engages in EU fora and initiatives on maritime spatial planning to realise effective co-operation with other member states, including those with a specific interest in the North Sea—for example, on the development of consistent methodologies and the exchange of data and best practice in order to inform the development of marine plans by individual member states. It is interesting to note that a recent meeting of the Ospar Convention confirmed that there was no requirement for an Ospar sub-committee on marine planning co-operation as it would only duplicate existing well-functioning structures.

In developing our UK marine plans, we have consulted neighbouring member states in order to ensure transboundary co-ordination and coherence between plans. In developing the England east marine plans, the Marine Management Organisation consulted relevant member states and Norway, hosting a number of workshops which facilitated discussion on cross-border interests. These efforts were well received.

The UK’s vision for the marine environment is for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The regular review of the marine planning system will serve to ensure that it continues to contribute effectively to the delivery of this vision.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked what the Government’s stance is on the well-being of the North Sea. The committee recommended the establishment of another North Sea forum. I want to be clear that the Government are not convinced that an additional forum would be the best use of limited resources, given the existing level of co-operation around the North Sea that I have already outlined. I have a list of the fora that are already in place: OSPAR, which I have mentioned; the North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative; regional groupings for fishery management; the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Expert Group; the EU Integrated Maritime Planning Expert Group; various groups under the marine strategy framework directive; the coastal concordat on marine licensing—there is a great deal of existing structures. It is interesting—I did not realise this until I read into it further—that the North Sea ministerial conference was wound up because all the significant political discussions were taking place effectively elsewhere.

The Government agree that UK local authorities and regional organisations should be involved in marine management issues, and there are already structures in place to enable them to do so. It is for them to decide

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where they believe membership of a forum is good value for money and helps to achieve environmental protection and economic development. In England, the coastal concordat was launched in November 2013 to increase co-operation between terrestrial and marine regulators and to streamline the consenting process for coastal development. The concordat partners include several government departments and the Local Government Association.

I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I especially thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, and the members of the EU Committee for bringing forward this important report. I am sorry that we do not agree with all of the report.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: Perhaps the Minister could clarify one point. It is my understanding that a strict marine protected area is one from which you exclude fishing. The areas he was talking about were ones in which you have habitat conservation, which is a different process. Or is he saying that in something like 20% of the coastal area covered by MPAs commercial fishing and so on is excluded? That is the question. There are different definitions of MPA. In the sense of the strictest definition, there is only about one, as I understand it.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: Given the time, I should like to write in some detail on all the areas around the United Kingdom because, in fairness to the noble Lord, I have mentioned a number of different elements of protection. So that everyone is clear, including me, it would be best to set it out in proper detail.

To conclude, this is a most valuable contribution to the outcome that we all seek, which is effective regional co-ordination for the North Sea. It is our responsibility, by working together with our neighbours, to achieve the shared objective of a clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse North Sea. In the final words of the summary, we need to do this to secure it for future generations.

8.55 pm

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and the Minister for his characteristically thoughtful response. As our report highlights, there is a major challenge in achieving the various economic development uses of the sea as encapsulated in the use of the new phrase “blue growth”, and its environmental protection. We have identified that co-operation is the key to achieving that balance. The Minister set out a long list of areas of co-operation, but I would observe briefly that out of that list, many of the bodies are UK-only, many are regulatory in nature and some are really very technical. The point made in our report is that, to make progress, what is needed is political leadership, and that really does have to come from the top.

A few years ago, I was on holiday in Perthshire and we visited an old loch settlement, one that is around 2,500 years old. Among the artefacts that were found was some amber jewellery which had come from the Baltic. It is clear that for many thousands of years the North Sea has been our common cultural courtyard.

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It is something we should cherish and be proud of because we do not want to be the generation that failed it.

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Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 8.57 pm.