Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I have noticed that Defra’s document, A Strategy for Promoting an Integrated Approach to the Management of Coastal Areas in England, while emphatic on the need for a joined-up approach, and while acknowledging the historic environment in its vision, is, like this Bill, overwhelmingly focused on the natural environment. That is appropriate in a Bill originating from Defra. What causes me concern in that document, however, is the account of what the Government intend in the UK marine policy statement. It says:

“The statement will bring together social, economic and environmental policies”.

It makes no reference to policies for the cultural and historic heritage. Yet the national policy statement will, on behalf of the Government as a whole, set the terms of reference for marine planning and conservation. I ask my noble friend to state that the NPS will set out the policy of the Government to safeguard the marine historic environment. I also ask him to make clear on the face of the Bill at the crucial points the Government’s commitment to the cultural and historic marine heritage.

We must not fluff this legislation, as has happened too often in the past. The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 was, I have been told, a narrowly-intended emergency measure originating as a Private Member’s Bill. It is incapable of bearing the load that we may hope to place upon it. It is doubtful, for example, whether its provisions will help us in relation to the discovery the other day by a commercial salvage firm of divers of the remains of the first HMS “Victory”, yet the extent of the media coverage and intensity of public interest

23 Feb 2009 : Column 44

in that ship show that there is a demand that the Government and the public agencies should be competent and determined to act in the public interest in conserving the marine historic environment. The 2002 legislation, also introduced as a Private Member’s Bill, though it drew on a previous government Bill that had not been enacted, was similarly insufficiently comprehensive. The Government’s heritage protection Bill, though not a wreck, has not surfaced in this Session. I believe that the Secretary of State is trying to navigate it into port, but he has not got there yet.

Meanwhile, we have this Bill. I do not suggest that it should not primarily be about the marine natural environment, or that it should be made to substitute for the heritage protection Bill, but I would argue that it should very clearly create a part of the legislative structure that we need for the conservation of the marine historic environment.

Lord Judd: After that very erudite contribution by my noble friend perhaps I may add just a general word. I should say that I am honorary president of the Friends of the Royal Naval Museum. In that capacity I am very concerned by what my noble friend is putting forward. I think that he is right.

I want to emphasise a wider policy point. The Government are taking exciting and commendable steps in the direction of getting planning in so many spheres into better shape, and I find myself with them not only intellectually but enthusiastically. But if we are trying to get that right then, where we have other national priorities concerning the quality and character of our existence, it is not enough just to leave them to be taken into consideration as a kind of appendix in which there are certain moral obligations, they have to be central to the whole strategy. If we care about heritage then it is not something that just has to be taken into account, it is something that is central to the whole design. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and my noble friend have done a valiant job in bringing this amendment before the Committee. I commend it and hope that the Government will feel able to give it serious consideration.

Lord Tyler: I sincerely apologise to the Committee, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for missing the first minute or so of her speech. I was serving in another committee of the House which was meeting upstairs, and this Committee has moved rather faster this afternoon than I anticipated.

I and my noble friends Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer and Lord Greaves have an amendment in this group, which we are calling the “heritage group”. However, I also support the other amendments. They may offer different courses but they are all aimed towards the same target. It is important that we discuss these issues in the round. I am grateful that I was in the Chamber to hear the noble Lord, Lord Judd—who I know spoke from the heart, because he has a long record of interests in these matters—and the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, who has taken such an active interest in these particular concerns.

We have all seen the briefing from English Heritage. It contains a powerful argument for proper designation and co-ordinated management between the different

23 Feb 2009 : Column 45

agencies that may be involved in the natural and historic features around our coastline. I am particularly interested in the example of Lundy Island, where a nature reserve contains two historic wrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The possibility of confusion in a situation like that is great. It is also true around the Isles of Scilly, in which I also have a close interest, that if we are not careful and do not find ways of making the various organisations—be they less or more formal, quangos or, as they are more properly designated, NGOs—we will lose out substantially on important parts of our heritage. In that context, I pay particular tribute to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, which has also expressed anxiety about this.

Amendment 106CA, in my name and the names of my noble friends, is an attempt to build in to the requirements of Clause 114 a specific reference to,

It therefore falls into the same category that other noble Lords have already referred to. The amendment attempts to define areas of sea and their contiguous coastline where land or tidal features need to be designated on grounds of natural beauty or cultural, archaeological or geological heritage.

The Bill should contain a presumption in favour of designating areas of this sort, particularly when we already have long established, well recognised and well accepted designations made under the national park regime, for example, or as areas of outstanding natural beauty or as heritage coasts. It would be extraordinary if all that legislation, which is so well supported and so well bedded down in this country, was treated as less important than this new legislation. It would also be welcome if world heritage sites such as the Jurassic coasts of Dorset and Devon were included in the criteria for protection under the MCZs. The Government have expressed interest in enhancing protection for the WHS designation; here is a useful opportunity to do just that.

Views over the sea from land are an integral part of the coastal landscape. Coastal waters and the coastline are indivisible in terms of the natural processes at work which create the coastal morphology and the visual integrity of land and sea when viewed from land. Coastline viewed from the sea is similarly indivisible from the marine setting. The CPRE is right to regard the absence of landscape and visual criteria from the designation criteria for MCZs as a serious omission. I hope that the Minister will find some way to remedy that in the Bill.

The Government have already shown the importance they attach to the concept of landscape by ratifying the European landscape convention. English Heritage has conducted a historic characterisation of seascapes similar to its historic characterisation of landscapes. This analysis lends further weight to the case for including the protection and enhancement of coastal and sea landscapes in the Bill as it is intended to designate the protection of the marine environment.

For many of our fellow citizens the clearest and most relevant manifestation of the marine environment is the view of it from the land or from the surface of

23 Feb 2009 : Column 46

the sea. The CPRE is right to believe that understanding the sea and its wildlife is largely achieved through cherishing that view of the sea and its coastline. Natural England has recognised the great importance of this experience in putting the enhancement of coastal access at the heart of this marine Bill. Therefore, it is logical that we should bring landscapes including the sea within the remit of the MCZs. That would complete this vital legislation, which otherwise will leave a major element of the marine environment unprotected. I believe that the Minister recognises the significance of this whole group of amendments and I hope he will be able to respond very positively.

Lord Chorley: I intervene for the first time on the Bill. I had intended to speak at Second Reading but had to withdraw due to the timetabling of that debate. If I had spoken, I would have focused my remarks almost entirely on the coastal aspect part of the Bill, which we have still to get to. Perhaps one day we will get there. Indeed, it was only when I read the notable contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, that I became aware of the issues we are discussing and their importance. That was rather myopic on my part, perhaps inadequately excused by my past chairmanship of the National Trust which, for the most part, is not terribly concerned with the marine environment.

We are quintessentially a marine nation with a huge marine heritage, which is as important as our terrestrial heritage. The marine heritage must include, and be concerned with, the issues covered by this group of amendments. It is, indeed, curious that the Bill is virtually silent in this area, perhaps because the issues were expected to be dealt with in the heritage Bill, which has never seen the light of day.

Be that as it may, I congratulate the noble Baroness on seeking to remedy that deficiency with this group of amendments, and I am thankful that they have been included in a single group, which makes it much easier and more logical. They hang together as they are all of a kind, although they relate to various parts of the Bill.

5.30 pm

I shall not go over the amendments in detail as this has already been done, particularly in the notable intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. As always, he speaks with knowledge and great authority. For example, the word “cultural” which has been used in Clause 52 is surely too imprecise. It is all very well for people to say, “Well, everybody knows it includes the sort of things that we are talking about”, but as noble Lords have said, civil servants and others can forget at times. It is rather a vogue word today, which I always find rather disturbing. So in this important area of marine history and archaeology the wording needs to be more specific and we need Amendment 89L.

Similarly, in Clause 114, which deals with the grounds for MCZ designation, the word “social” needs to be buttressed in the same way—hence Amendment 107A. In addition, it is surely important to refer at the two related points to the statutory consultees to ensure, as has been said by previous speakers that we are reminded that English Heritage, for example, has a statutory

23 Feb 2009 : Column 47

role, as it is very important that we give proper weight to its views and responsibilities—hence Amendments 10BZAA and 107D.

The two remaining amendments refer to seascape. The point was well expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, so I need not go over it again. I hope that the Government can find a way to include these amendments in the Bill, or something like them, when we get to the next stage.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank my noble friend for tabling the amendments and those around the House who have spoken in her support and for raising the important issue of protection of our marine and maritime heritage, in particular. My noble friend is right to draw attention to the fact that there is much interest in this subject and evidence of support for these amendments.

The gracious Speech for this Session was extremely disappointing for those interested in preserving our marine environment and adequately providing for archaeological conservation. The much needed and eagerly anticipated heritage protection Bill has been shelved, but just as with the Planning Act 2008, which ignored the Bill that we are now considering, this Bill was introduced without provisions necessary to ensure that the new marine planning legislation includes and properly safeguards our historic heritage which lies under the sea. Our island history is largely maritime. The work on the wreck of the HMS “Victory” off the Channel Islands shows how important our maritime heritage is to our understanding of the past.

The Minister will no doubt point to the draft heritage protection Bill to explain why these provisions are missing. After all, that draft Bill went into great detail and it is no doubt the best vehicle for a comprehensive and consistent policy towards the UK’s heritage. But the Government have decided not to bring it forward. As much as we on these Benches support that Bill, it can do no good in draft. That may be a shock for some in the Government, but statements of intent and press releases are not as effective as enforceable legislation, and the Government should not act as if they are.

Protecting historic and archaeological sites should not be considered an optional extra to be added on when the Government find a convenient moment. They should be looking for ways of making sure that protection can be ensured now to prevent further damage until the draft Bill can be introduced and to ensure that these provisions will interact appropriately and efficiently with the heritage objective.

I also agree with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, which provides for—I paraphrase—an area of outstanding natural beauty designation for coastal aspects and seascapes. The interaction of sea and land is the source of some of the most beautiful aspects of our country. I feel strongly that the Government should provide for marine heritage protection with this Bill. Not to do so would represent a lost opportunity.

Baroness Byford: I wish to add a further word in support of my noble friend Lady Hooper, and also to reflect on the comments of others. I understand that

23 Feb 2009 : Column 48

originally there were plans in the green Bill that it should be included. Will the Minister tell us why it was then dropped and whether that was due to the proposed heritage Bill that has not now happened? Even if the answer is yes, should the Government not think again about the opportunity provided by this Bill to ensure that it is included? Having taken through the House the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and one or two others, I know that sometimes an opportunity moves by too quickly. Unless there is a very good reason why the provision was not included when it was originally intended to be in the Bill, we should like to persuade the Minister to think again. I look forward to his response.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this interesting debate, and of course to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for the amendments which she tabled and to which she spoke so eloquently. She will have derived a great deal of encouragement from the anticipated support she has had from all sides of the House. I know that noble Lords take the issue of our heritage—our marine heritage in this context—very seriously.

The Bill spans a great deal of policy as well as a vast area of sea. The Government intend the marine policy statement and marine plans to address the interests and concerns of all those who are connected with the sea. Protecting our marine historic environment is important in our management of the marine environment more generally. We have ensured protection for these aspects within our high level marine objectives, which we issued for consultation last summer. These objectives will underpin the development of the marine policy statement which will then be applied in more detail in specific areas via marine plans. In response to the points put forward with his usual precision by my noble friend Lord Howarth, while there will be a number of national policy statements that we cannot pre-empt at this stage, I put it on the record that the marine policy statement will indeed set out the Government’s policy on safeguarding the marine environment, which will include cultural and historic marine heritage. Those documents will then drive decisions made in the marine area, so I hope that the Committee will appreciate that heritage protection will in a very real sense feature in decisions that are made.

Of course, the Government are committed to sustainability. In response to my noble friend Lord Howarth this embraces the concept of the historic as well as the natural environment. The purpose of the nature conservation proposals in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill is to protect the natural environment. We have concluded that history and archaeology are very specialised areas of policy requiring equally specialised provisions. That is why we have been drafting a new heritage protection Bill. I make this point in response to a number of noble Lords who have spoken, the most recent of whom was the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. We have been unable to give the heritage protection Bill space in this Session’s legislative programme. The Government regret that, in the current economic climate, there are other pressing priorities, but we will bring that Bill forward as soon as parliamentary time allows. Defra has worked with the Department for

23 Feb 2009 : Column 49

Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that the Bill we are now considering enables us to provide adequate protection for the marine historic environment.

I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, has introduced Amendment 89L. It gives us a chance to air these important issues and for me to give some reassurance that they form part of the Government’s marine planning, which is the basis of this Bill. Amendment 89L relates to the matters that the marine plan authority must keep under review while exercising its planning functions. As stated in the Bill, they include physical, environmental, social, cultural and economic characteristics. I listened carefully to both the noble Lady and my noble friend Lord Howarth, who said that this list was not precise enough, although “social, cultural and economic” seems sufficiently broad to encompass the issues that they address with their amendments. The list of things that Clause 52 requires the planning authority to keep under review is indeed broad. It is certainly broad enough to include matters of historical and archaeological interest, without specific mention in the legislation. If it will help, I am happy to put it on record that we firmly intend that issues of historical and archaeological interest should be considered and addressed in marine plans.

As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, asked in his contribution, why is the list of objectives not more specific about cultural and—in particular—archaeological or historic matters? I think my noble friend Lord Judd also reflected on this. We intend to address those issues in much greater detail in due course, and to answer all noble Lords’ questions on these matters. However, I emphasise that this Bill does not exclude the important considerations that noble Lords have brought to the attention of the House this afternoon. There will be very few cases where there will be a risk that designating a marine conservation zone might have an adverse impact on marine heritage. We do not consider, given the range of consultations that are necessary and the objectives that the authorities must follow, that this Bill is anything except benign and constructive with regard to these significant issues.

Amendments 106CA and 106CB seek to add the protection of historic and cultural heritage, as well the conservation of cultural significance, to the reasons for marine conservation zone-designations, which are set out in Clause 114. I understand the pressure for this from noble Lords and have some sympathy for the thrust of the amendment. I have already alluded to the need for specialised provisions to protect adequately our marine heritage. The same is true of marine nature conservation. The Bill sets out a system of protective measures specifically designed for natural environment conservation purposes. I consider that the results that we want in these two areas of policy do not overlap sufficiently for us to be able to use exactly the same tools for both. That is why we intend to bring the heritage protection Bill before Parliament in due course. That does not alter the fact that the protection of historic and cultural heritage is an important part of the work of this Bill.

5.45 pm

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, spoke eloquently on the issues of Amendment 106A, which seeks to include

23 Feb 2009 : Column 50

natural beauty in the grounds for designating marine conservation zones. We will have a chance to debate that later when we look at the conservation of visual beauty in Part 5 of the Bill. I recognise that the noble Lord has located the amendment in this group for the purpose of supporting the general issues of cultural heritage.

On the question of statutory consultees, who could disagree with the objective of this amendment? It seeks to ensure that the relevant expert advice is taken into account when making certain decisions. We agree with that point and have drafted the Bill to ensure that it happens. However, there is a problem with including lists of statutory consultees in the Bill. Our approach is, rather, to require the bodies taking decisions to consult all those people who are likely to take an interest in, or be affected by, these decisions. That should be clear. We expect to issue guidance, where appropriate, to indicate whom bodies should normally consider consulting when taking decisions. Where the marine historic environment is relevant to a decision, that guidance will say that obvious experts in marine heritage, such as English Heritage, should be consulted.

I particularly appreciate the sharpness with which my noble friend Lord Howarth presented the point that unless people or organisations are listed, they can be overlooked. He will forgive me if I say that, within the framework of the Bill, we are certainly making sure that there is provision for our cultural and historic heritage. If we look in that framework at the marine environment and marine heritage, it is unthinkable that consultation could take place without English Heritage having its full opportunity for consultation. This approach will be quite as effective as lists of consultees. After all, the problem with lists of consultees—I am not for a moment suggesting this in the context of English Heritage—is that they go out of date because bodies change their names or designation. We are making provision in the Bill for the objectives that the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, brought to our attention in her initial amendment. We will certainly ensure that English Heritage will be consulted wherever aspects of the marine conservation zones and marine plan are developed that affect anything to do with our heritage at sea. I give way to my noble friend.

Lord Howarth of Newport: I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for the reassurances that he is offering the Committee. I assure him that I am always disposed to forgive him. I am still puzzled that the Minister is so reluctant even to specify statutory consultees, let alone itemise who they might be, in this clause of the Bill, whereas, on turning to page 179 of the Bill, we see in proposed new Clause 55D—titled “Coastal margin”—a whole litany of bodies with whom Natural England is required to consult. It is required to consult each London borough council, and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, alias English Heritage; I am very pleased to see that there. It is also required to consult the Environment Agency. There seems to be some inconsistency in the Government’s approach to this matter.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I do not think that there is inconsistency, although I would be the first to emphasise that I am no expert on the other legislation to which

23 Feb 2009 : Column 51

my noble friend makes reference. He will recognise the great danger that we are in with regard to the Bill. If we give a list of a small group of organisations that have a broad interest in marine plans and marine conservation zones, the danger would be that they would inevitably have a privileged status over those with local and regional interests and expertise.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page