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Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, after the apparently decisive military victory, my noble friend is right to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis, and to the fact that the real challenge is now for the

23 Feb 2009 : Column 8

Sri Lankan Government to respond in a way that builds reconciliation and does not further deepen the internal cleavages. Is there any evidence at all that the Sri Lankan Government are rising to that challenge?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the situation for civilians who are trapped in the crossfire in the embattled part of the island is very serious and I cannot give the House a great deal of comfort about it. The Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and India have sought to demonstrate that we are prepared to carry out evacuation by sea if that proves possible, but it has not proven successful thus far. The narrow corridor down which displaced civilians are expected to escape the conflict is itself so fraught with problems that it is not proving an effective escape route for very many. That is why the situation is so desperate for civilians in the northern part of Sri Lanka.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, if the reports mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, are right and the final defeat of the Tamils is imminent—if it has not happened already—does that mean that the Tamil dream of a separate state of Eelam in north-east Sri Lanka is really dead and that the task will at last be for these two communities to learn to live together? If so, are there some special contributions that we can make from our experience in other parts of the world, notably Northern Ireland, to ensure that this living together really begins to take place and that Sri Lanka does not go straight back to another horrific and brutal civil war of the kind that we have seen over the past 20 years?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will appreciate that the country is still in the turmoil of military conflict that involves a great deal of violence and is entrapping civilians as well. So, at this stage it is a step too far to talk optimistically about how the future of Sri Lanka will develop. However, the noble Lord is right that Sri Lanka can develop only if the two communities respect each other and if in due course there is within the provision of the constitution a proper safeguard for minority rights.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister will have seen the reports of the attempted suicide air attack on the civilians of Colombo which fortunately was thwarted when the two aircraft were shot down. Does he agree that for as long as the LTTE controls any territory at all, it will continue to stage terrorist attacks of this kind; that he was wrong to speak about conquest, when what is happening is the reoccupation by the sovereign power of territory that it owns; and that the right solution is for that process to be completed, and then for a federal or devolution solution to be negotiated with the true representatives of the Tamil people?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord will be the first to appreciate that atrocities have been committed on both sides of this situation, and he indicated the most recent one as far as the Tamils are concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, indicated, the Tamils have nurtured the hope of a separate, independent enclave in Sri Lanka, but that is clearly something that the majority Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Government are not prepared to tolerate. We must

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build on the situation as it is. However, I do not think that anyone in the House underestimates the challenges facing Sri Lanka, or any help that the outside world can offer. The challenge is very great for the foreseeable future.

Airports: Canada Geese


3 pm

Asked By Lord Clinton-Davis

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as the president of BALPA.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I am glad to say that, contrary to some press reports, there is nothing unusual about the number of Canada geese in the vicinity of Heathrow at the moment. However, all airports are required to have effective bird control measures, and this is monitored by the Civil Aviation Authority. Techniques exist in risk assessment, habitat management and safeguarding to reduce the risk of a bird strike. Heathrow also has a full-time bird control team.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Is it not right that large flocks of birds, or large birds, constitute a special problem that ought to be avoided if possible? Does it not illustrate the dangers of the development of estuarial airports, such as Maplin, favoured by the Mayor of London? It is one of the reasons, is it not, why the CAA turned that proposal down?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, before I respond to my noble friend, perhaps the House will allow me, on behalf of us all, to pay tribute to Lord Dearing, whose death was sadly announced earlier. I am one of many Ministers over the years who owes Ron Dearing an enormous debt of gratitude for his wise advice and counsel, which was always generously given. Few public servants have made a greater contribution to the national well-being over recent decades. For the past 10 years, he was a highly popular, effective and respected Member of this House. He will be hugely missed.

In respect of estuarial airports, as part of the evaluation of the proposal for an airport at Cliffe in the Thames estuary, in 2002 the Government commissioned a study from the Central Science Laboratory and the British Trust for Ornithology. The report concluded:

“Without a comprehensive and aggressive bird management programme in place, incorporating careful and considered airport design, appropriate habitat management and active bird control, an airport could not operate safely in this location ... However, it is clear that the hazard posed by birds at this site, even with world class mitigation measures in place, is severe and would probably be higher than at any other major UK airport”.

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Lord Berkeley: My Lords—

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, shall we hear from the noble Baroness first and then from my noble friend?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Canada geese are without doubt the most disgusting birds that visit these shores? I used to be responsible for Kew Gardens, where children and pets like to be allowed to sit and play on the grass. The Canada geese absolutely ruin the grass in every public park, and they eat farmers’ young crops. Could they not, by any means possible, be persuaded not to come to these shores at all?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am told that we have effective bird-scaring policies in place. I imagine that if the views of the noble Baroness were made known to the Canada geese, they would not dare come to these shores. I stress that our concern about the Canada geese is based not on their appearance but on the danger that they pose to planes. It is on that basis that we seek to ensure that they are kept well under control in the vicinity of airports.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, surely the answer is to eat them. Does my noble friend not think that roast Canada goose sounds rather attractive? Surely the answer is to cull them much more effectively and allow them to be eaten and sold. Perhaps the whole process would then be cost-effective.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, my noble friend clearly has a virtuous circle in mind in terms of culling Canada geese, but our concern is simply to see that they keep well clear of the vicinity of airports.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, do the authorities have sufficient powers to control the Canada geese population outside the immediate vicinity of the aerodrome?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, yes, we do believe that we have sufficient powers to do so; the bird control teams to which I have referred work in close partnership not only with the airports concerned but also with local landowners.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, the bird book in which I looked up Canada geese describes them as vagrant or feral. I think that that may also apply to muntjac deer, mink and the grey squirrel, to which my noble friend often refers. Do the Government have any real coherent policy for dealing with these pests, which are being imported into the country, of which wolves and beavers are apparently the latest examples?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I think that that question is a bit wide of the original Question. In so far as they pose a threat to planes taking off or landing, we will keep them all under control.

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Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill [HL]

Order of Commitment Discharged

3.06 pm

Moved By Lord Davies of Oldham

That the order of commitment be discharged.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown, I understand that no amendments have been set down for this Bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Bill information page
Copy of the Bill as debated
Today's Amendments
Explanatory Notes
Delegated Powers 1st Report
Constitution Cttee 1st Report

Committee (5th Day)

3.06 pm

Amendment 89BZA

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

89BZA: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—

“Marine plan for Scottish offshore region

(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, Scottish Ministers may incorporate in any marine plan for the Scottish offshore region a duty on every public body and office-holder, in exercising any functions, to further the conservation of biodiversity so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions.

(2) The duty to further the conservation of biodiversity referred to in subsection (1) above shall only be incorporated in a marine plan for the Scottish offshore region in pursuance of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament empowering Scottish Ministers to do so.

(3) It shall be competent for the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation to further the conservation of biodiversity in the Scottish offshore region.

(4) For the purposes of this section, “public body and office-holder” has the meaning given in the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (asp 6).”

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The amendment picks up the devolutionary theme that runs through this Bill; it is designed to elicit clarification on where the different boundaries fall. The Minister has told the House on a number of occasions that the scheme agreed among the devolved Administrations with the United Kingdom Government is, as far as Scotland is concerned, to allow Scottish Ministers to devise a plan for the offshore area—subject to the express approval of the Secretary of State and any required Executive devolution.

The amendment has a number of purposes, but it is primarily designed to clarify the extent to which the Scottish Parliament has or has not competence to deal with issues in respect of the offshore area. Prima facie, given the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, it certainly would be my understanding that the offshore area is beyond the territorial competence of the Scottish

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Parliament except in relation to fisheries, where a specific order has already been made confirming devolved powers.

The body which is likely to be created to deal with Scottish waters for the purposes of the Scottish marine Bill is Marine Scotland. Indeed, a press release from the Scottish Government on 9 February indicated that a new marine management body was being created to help Scotland make the most of its seas for future generations and stated that Marine Scotland would be up and running by 1 April this year. It went on to indicate that it would play a key role in managing Scotland’s seas with direct responsibility for marine science, planning, policy development, management and compliance monitoring measures. It also indicates that it will work with other partners with marine interests to deliver both economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

It is fair to say that it is a body which enjoys cross-party support. Indeed, I seem to recall that in Committee on the first part of the Bill—on the MMO—there was an indication that Marine Scotland would play a role comparable to the MMO so far as Scottish inshore and offshore waters were concerned.

I wish to raise some simple questions. Does the Scottish Parliament have the legislative competence to endow Marine Scotland with a remit in respect of the offshore area? Clearly, Marine Scotland will be able to be established by the act of the Scottish Executive, but one presumes that it will have a role and responsibility that relates to the offshore area, where there will be devolved responsibility to Scottish Ministers. Will the Scottish Parliament have any role in establishing what Marine Scotland can or cannot do? If the answer is that it will, I would like to know the basis for such legislative competence. If not, should the Bill not confer powers on the Scottish Parliament?

The amendment specifically relates to a duty on biodiversity. Its wording is very similar to that in Section 1 of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Section 2(1) of that Act refers to the Scottish biodiversity strategy. The duty—it is for,

has been widely supported in Scotland. However, it can apply only up to the 12-mile limit. The marine conservation group of the Advisory Group on Marine and Coastal Strategy, which was set up in 2005 by my colleague Ross Finnie MSP, the then Minister for Environment and Rural Development, commended the above statutory definition of a biodiversity duty but acknowledged that to extend it beyond the 12-mile limit would require legislation at Westminster.

Subsequently, the Scottish Government’s own consultation on the Scottish marine Bill—Sustainable Seas for All, published last summer—states, at paragraph 117:

“The Biodiversity Duty in the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 could also be considered as a wider measure in that it is not limited in its application to protected sites or specific species protection. Some potential improvements to this duty are described below”.

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Paragraph 120 states:

“The Biodiversity Duty on all public bodies and office holders contained in section 1 of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 currently only extends out to 12nm”—

nautical miles. It continues:

“If Scottish Ministers achieve further devolution of nature conservation in the offshore area beyond 12nm, the Scottish Ministers would propose extending the scope of the duty to apply to all public bodies exercising functions in the offshore area. If further devolution cannot be agreed we would discuss with the UK Government how best to take forward this proposal”.

While I raise a general point about the competence of the Scottish Parliament in respect of Marine Scotland in the offshore area, the specific point is that it does not seem possible or competent for the Scottish Parliament to impose a biodiversity duty on public bodies in the offshore area, as the law stands. I see nothing in the Bill that would allow the Scottish Parliament to do so. There is soon to be recognition that, if it could not be done by the Scottish Parliament, it should be done by Westminster, and the amendment would undoubtedly facilitate that. That is the background to why I move the amendment.

The Duke of Montrose: The amendment shows an interesting approach by the noble Lord. While at first sight the strict wording does not exactly fit the spirit of co-operation with which the Government insist that the marine policy statement be approached, it serves as a useful amendment to probe the Government on what elements the marine policy statement will contain and whether biodiversity will be one of them. The Scottish Administration, in their consultation paper to which the noble Lord referred, Sustainable Seas for All, are a little more forthcoming than the Minister has found himself able to be with the Committee. They say:

“The United Kingdom Government and Devolved Administrations have worked together to set out a number of high level marine objectives which articulate the outcomes they are seeking”.

The objectives are set out in sections that reflect the five principles of sustainable development. It would be immensely helpful to the Committee if the Minister would make these available in their current form, even if they are not fully developed. If he cannot do so, the Committee would be helped by some explanation.

3.15 pm

The amendment raises the possible necessity of the devolution of legislative powers, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, explained. We would be interested to know how the Government expect such a thing could be achieved, if not by this amendment. I am sure that Scotland has all the powers that it needs over the Scottish inshore region. Can the Minister explain to the Committee whether the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 contains all the powers that the Government consider necessary for the protection of biodiversity, and whether that is the mechanism that they expect Scottish Ministers to use? If not, what legislation would be required to ensure that the powers of the Act would extend to the offshore region administered by Scottish Ministers? This does not appear to be contained in any legislation emanating

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directly from the Scotland Act. It appears that all Administrations taking up this process have adopted the general slogan that we aim for,

oceans and seas. That is set out in the government paper, Safeguarding our Seas. However, that is too general an aim and one would like specific details.

3.15 pm

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I fully support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. I would like some information from the Minister about Wales. We have heard about proposals for Marine Scotland and in particular the whole question of biodiversity. If the Minister were of a mind to accept this amendment, one could make a strong case for this kind of legislation to apply to Wales as well.

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