Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill

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Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I am not an expert on the number of European sites. Will the Minister give us an idea of how many sites would result in overlaps and conflicts?

Mr. Meacher: I cannot give a figure off the top of my head, but I might manage to work a fuller and clearer answer into a reply during our discussions.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be happy to withdraw the amendment on the basis of my remarks. He has drawn attention to an important problem and has suggested a reasonable solution. We shall propose what we think is the best solution.

Paddy Tipping: I am grateful to the Minister and to the hon. Member for Ceredigion for their comments. There is clearly a problem, and it has been acknowledged that the amendment provides a possible solution. Although I tabled it, I am not entirely confident that it takes the right approach. The Minister has offered to examine it and to suggest a better solution. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Thomas: I want to highlight a possible conflict between clauses 3 and 4. I am uncertain as to how the competent authorities will use the management scheme. The rest of the Bill suggests that any management scheme would be discussed and agreed with all the stakeholders. All the relevant authorities would be involved. There may be one lead authority—I presume that it would be the Countryside Council for Wales, and English Nature for England—but everyone would be equal nevertheless. As the Minister will know from the way in which work is done on the habitats directive and special areas of conservation, the modern approach is that everyone around the table feels equal. Although one body may take the lead, everyone has a stake.

Clause 3 would place an extra duty on bodies to consult on additional activities taking place in an area that could threaten it. In what circumstances would the need for that be triggered if a management plan dealt with management of the area? What activities would not be dealt with in the management plan? Would there be some sort of steering group for the management plan? Clause 4 is important, as the management plans will manage the sites. How does that fit in with clause 3? If clause 4 is to stand part of the Bill, will that point be considered before Report?

Mr. Meacher: I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Uxbridge wants to respond to those points.

Mr. Randall indicated dissent.

Mr. Meacher: So far as I understand it, the purpose of clause 3 is to give the competent marine authorities a duty—I dispute the use of that word—to further the conservation of the marine environment. Clause 3(2) states that in so doing they shall undertake consultation and take account of the appropriate advice. Once they have done so, a management scheme will be drawn up.

Clause 4 requires the drawing up of the management scheme by the competent marine authorities to have been gone through thoroughly, so clause 3 leads to that provision. Clause 4 would ensure that all the stakeholders had been fully consulted and felt that they had ownership of the scheme, as the hon. Member for Ceredigion said. I do not think that there is an inconsistency; one clause follows from the other.

Mr. Thomas: The Minister is helping me to understand. Once the management scheme had been set up under clause 4, would the processes in clause 3 no longer be needed?

Mr. Meacher: The role of clause 3 is to ensure that the process leading up to the creation of the management scheme is properly undertaken. Once the scheme is in place, the process in clause 3 will have been completed. The important requirement then will be to ensure that the management scheme is fully and properly adhered to and monitored, and that all parties commit to its objectives. Clause 3 would be in the past at that point, to an extent, but it would be resurrected as further sites came forward for designation.

Mr. Randall: I have a couple of points to make, as we could consider the subject further. I tell the hon. Member for Ceredigion that not all MSSIs would necessarily have a management scheme—the Bill says ``may''. Clause 4(3) accounts for the fact that some activities may be covered by a management scheme. However, I shall consider the matter again to ensure that the Bill has got it absolutely right.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Directions in relation to management scheme

Andrew George: I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 4, line 22, at the beginning insert

    `Without prejudice to subsection (1),'.

The purpose of my minor drafting amendment is to clarify what I imagine was intended, which may need to be emphasised in the light of the previous debate. I want to clarify the fact that the reasons for which directions could be made include, but would not be restricted to, the reasons given in the three paragraphs of subsection (2). Subsection (1) proposes to provide the Secretary of State and the National Assembly of Wales with the power to direct

    ``relevant marine authorities . . . as to the establishment of a management scheme for a marine site of special interest.''

Subsection (2) sets out some of the matters for which the power of direction may be used. However, these are not the only matters under consideration. The amendment is designed to clarify the matters set out in subsection (2). However, it does not prejudice the possibility of there being other matters for which the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales may see fit to make a direction in relation to management schemes for marine sites of special interest.

Mr. Meacher: I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said about the purpose of the amendment. However, we believe that it is unnecessary because the clause already achieves the outcome he wants. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to ensure that directions by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales for the establishment of a management scheme for a marine site include, but are not restricted to, the matters listed in subsection (2). By including the phrase ``directions may in particular'', the clause already gives the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales the discretion to issue directions for reasons not included in the list in subsection (2). For the record, that is consistent with regulation 35(2) of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, which deals with management schemes for the marine Natura 2000 sites. We want to maintain that consistency. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that what he wants has already been achieved, and that he will withdraw the amendment.

12 noon

Andrew George: I am grateful to the Minister for the clarification. I am glad that the issue has been raised so that that clarification can be put on the record to prevent any future confusion over the wording. I apologise for being obliged to leave the Committee in a moment, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New clause 1


    `There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament—

    (a) any expenses of the Secretary of State under this Act; and

    (b) any increase attributable to this Act of the sums payable under any other Act.'.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Randall: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is the result of the money resolution that the Minister moved last week, which we want to include in the Bill. On that occasion, the Minister spoke much more eloquently than I could have done and I defer to him now.

Mr. Meacher: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. In our view, considerable further work is required to assess the Bill's regulatory impact on both the private and public sectors. We shall consider the impact of any costs, but the Government are happy to accept the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 2

Ministerial guidance as respects

marine areas of special interest

    `.—(1) The Secretary of State (as regards England) and the National Assembly for Wales (as regards Wales) shall from time to time prepare codes.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1), section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (ministerial guidance as respects marine areas of special interest) applies, where references to sections 28 to 32 should be read as sections 1 to 6 of this Act.'.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Randall: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This matter has already been touched upon. The purpose of the new clause is to require the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly in Wales to develop codes of guidance relating to the implementation of the Act.

During my consultations with interested parties after Second Reading, one problem that arose frequently was that people were unclear about the implications of the Bill, especially in relation to the selection of MSSIs. It was always the intention to develop site selection guidelines, but they did not appear in the Bill. Section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 requires the Minister, in consultation with others, to develop codes of guidance. Such codes should provide guidance to those exercising functions under the SSSI provisions of the Act and to those who might be affected by those provisions.

The codes are subject to parliamentary approval. The new clause would apply section 33 of the 1981 Act to the provisions of this Bill. It would require the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly in Wales to publish statutory codes of guidance to advise and guide both competent marine authorities and those affected by the Bill. Although it is not explicitly stated, such codes could include agreed guidelines and thresholds for the selection of MSSIs.

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