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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I want briefly to intervene, having listened to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. For once in my nine or 10 years in this House, I want to say something almost party political, because his contribution today has veered into that area. I was always under the impression that everyone in this House subscribed to the primacy of the House of Commons. I came here on that basis. We are unelected. We accept that, in being unelected, primacy is identifiable with the other House, not with this House. By tabling this fatal amendment, the noble Lord is saying that he, an unelected Liberal Democrat Peer in Parliament, has taken it on himself to defeat the House of Commons, where there is primacy, by overturning a majority of more than 350. That is wrong in principle. I am astonished that the Liberal Democrats are prepared to support this amendment
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Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, who made some excellent points. I will take back the issues that he raised and look at them for the future, as he asked, but I can deal with one now. The noble Lord says that his advice to his party is not to support the amendment. We are grateful for that, but not surprised because, of the 402 votes in another place, 139 were from his party, supporting 257 Labour MPs. Not one Conservative, not even the Member of Parliament involved, voted for the amendment on that occasion.
My remarks will be short because this matter has already been fully debated in the Moses Room. However, it is important to make one point, as I attempted to do in that debate. Although I am not in the habit of quoting myself, I will on this occasion. I said that,
the Governments view is that this is very much a matter for the Boundary Commission itself. Having considered it and having also held a public inquiry, when I understand a minor change was made, the commission came to a view, and it is that view which makes up this draft order ... the commission went through its normal procedures and the inquiries were conducted properly. The recommendations following the commissions inquiries were accepted and we do not see it as our role in government to second-guess on matters of this kind. If we were to do so, it would represent a fairly dangerous precedent in terms of government power.[Official Report, 4/3/09; col. GC 322.]
Governments set up Boundary Commissions to give them independent advice, and any party that is really serious about power would take the view that we take today. It would be only in extraordinarily extreme circumstances that a Government would try to interfere with a decision of the Boundary Commission. On something like this, important though it is to the localities involved, it would be quite wrong, in principle, for the Government to knock down the commissions proposals and recommendations, which had been built up over the course of an inquiry.
The one question from the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that I can answer is: why these four constituencies and not the others? The answer is that, as I mentioned in passing in Grand Committee, the Boundary Commission concluded that it should carry out a review but decided to postpone its reviews of the other areas, to which the noble Lord referred, because of local government reorganisations that are taking place. The Boundary Commission will no doubt make up its own mind about what to do once those local government reorganisations have taken place.
If this matter is taken to a vote, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, seriously to consider whether it is really in the interests of this House to seek to overturn an overwhelming majority in another place on an issue of this kind. I ask him to think carefully about whether to divide the House. If the noble Lord decides to, which is, of course, his right, I ask the House to defeat the amendment.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I am grateful particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for analysing the situation so carefully, as always. I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and I bring this amendment before the House with considerable regret because it is exceptional. I was struck by the argument made by the Minister in the other place that the proper process for those who felt that this had not been handled correctly within the law as Parliament lays it down was to go to judicial review. That is not an appropriate remedy when we in this House are given a specific responsibility to look at an order of this sort.
When the matter was first raised, I would have preferred the Minister to say that he would delay the implementation of the order and not bring it forward for consideration in your Lordships House, or indeed in the other place, until the Boundary Commission had been given another chance to look at this issue. However, we are given a statutory responsibility to look at these issues, which is why this is exceptional.
All the concerns that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, are perfectly legitimate. Indeed, if I had not tabled this amendment, I believe that he would not have taken the step that he has taken and expressed these concerns in your Lordships House. I am very disappointed that Conservative Members, it seems, are not going to support their own local Member. Indeed, if I am right about what the Minister has said, the Member, having argued so strongly against the order on Monday, must have voted for it on Wednesday, which is an amazing U-turn, if that is the case.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I have no idea whether the Member voted for it or did not vote at all. It is irrelevant and perhaps I should not have mentioned it. However, not one Conservative supported the amendment; that is my point.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I simply think that we should do our duty this afternoon in very exceptional circumstancescircumstances in which the other House is perhaps less qualified to take a dispassionate view. On this occasion, yes, I believe in the primacy of the House of Commons, but we would not be doing our duty if we did not face up to the responsibilities laid on us. If the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is right that we should never vote differently from the House of Commons, what precisely would be the point of your Lordships House? I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
The Duke of Montrose: This amendment, tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Taylor, explores the Governments intentions as regards the boundaries of the inshore fisheries conservation authorities. According to the briefing so kindly provided by the Minister and
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I realise that I am anticipating the result of that consultation here, but I was hoping that the Minister would be able to shed a little light on which of the options appears to be the most preferred. As much as cost savings are always welcome, the second option would lead to some rather large areas being incorporated. The consultation also noted that there will be a further consultation on the exact boundaries when the orders for each new IFCA are being drawn up. I am sure that the Minister will not find it difficult to reassure the Committee and the stakeholders involved that the nature of the coastline and existing fisheries will be considered to ensure that these boundaries are drawn in sensible places.
One aspect that has confused me is that neither option in the consultation suggests that any local authority will find itself dealing with two districts, and yet the Bill makes specific provision for this. I suppose it is possible that the requirements might lead to a very slight overlap, but hardly more than a matter of miles, if that. I am also interested in why the Government have decided to extend the IFCA jurisdiction out to only six nautical miles when the Bill suggests that it might be 12.
Finally, the impact assessment attached to the consultation expresses the hope that the reorganisation will have been completed by 2011, which does seem to be rather a long way away. Can the Minister explain why it will take two years? I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: I thank the noble Duke for tabling the amendment because it raises important issues. The noble Duke talked about some of them, such as the nature of the coastline, the size of the area covered and how far it extends out to sea, but there is also the issue of local accountability, particularly to and through local authorities. It goes without saying that the bigger these areas are and the fewer they are, the more local authorities will be covered by them. As the Bill stands, some local authorities will not be represented on their local IFCA, which on the face of it seems to be undesirable.
Two of the areas in the option to reduce to six should have huge question marks over them. One, the north-east option, covers the whole north-east coast from the Scottish border down to the Humber. I can see that there may be some operational or marine justification for it, but when we consider the size of the area, which is about 200 miles long, and the number and variety of communities along that coastline, there must be a serious question mark over it.
There is an even bigger question mark over the southern and western area, which includes both a large area of the south coast, from the Devon-Cornwall
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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, was going to be tempted to intervene on that extraordinarily bold statement about north Devon.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The Minister has finally tempted me. I thoroughly agree with my noble friend; the north coast has different issues. The Minister will remember that I was pressing for a Bristol Channel approach, and so I agree with my noble friend.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I well remember our debates about the Severn and whether there should be a joint marine plan. Whatever the constraints in relation to statute, the point about the need for an integrated approach is well taken.
A consultation document has been sent out and comments are invited back by 22 April. It would be inappropriate for me to comment too fully on the substantive points made because we must preserve the integrity of the consultation process. However, I will make sure that those collating the responses take into account the interesting points that have been expressed in Committee today. It would not be appropriate for me to say whether the Government have a preference at this stage between 10 or six; we should first listen to the arguments.
I understand the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that the larger the boundaries the more of a challenge there will be in ensuring that information and accountability are shared between the IFCAs and the relevant local authorities.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Annexe E, on page 21 of the consultation document, lists out Option 2, the creation of six IFC districts. For example, the local authorities in the north-west would include Blackpool Borough Council, Cheshire East Council, which is a
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I assure the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that however many local authorities are defined as relevant, it is our intention that they should all be represented on the IFCAs. I accept that, if local authorities are to feel involved, the relevant ones must be represented. I know that there is a later group of amendments on the issue.
I say to the noble Duke that 2011 is a year after the MMO will be established and, as we will debate in later amendments, it will make appointments to the IFCAs. There is an argument for delaying the creation of IFCAs to allow that to happen. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government have decided to take responsibility for Wales in-house, and the current sea fisheries committee, which covers both north Wales and the north-west, will have to be split up. The remnant in the north-west will be used as an early adopter when it comes to preparation for IFCA status. That should be extremely helpful.
In this opening debate, I stress that IFCAs will be different from sea fisheries committees in a number of ways. As we have discussed, the membership will be different. We are also introducing a clear duty on inshore fisheries and conservation authorities to ensure that the exploitation of sea fisheries resources is undertaken sustainably. That duty includes the need to protect the marine environment from the impact of fishing activity. This is at the heart of the model for inshore fisheries and conservation authorities.
I know that we will debate one or two of these points later. This approach has the support of current sea fisheries committees and the Local Government Association. These organisations have recognised the need to change. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, every upper-tier local authority with a coastline will be entitled to sit on the inshore fisheries and conservation authority. We have set out a project board to progress matters and, as we have learnt already, we plan to establish the authorities in April 2011.
The noble Duke asked about the limit of six nautical miles. IFCAs will be responsible for the enforcement of legislation regulating inshore fisheries out to six nautical miles; that is the same as sea fisheries committees now, with the addition of marine species management in estuaries. This will bring together responsibility for inshore fisheries management into one organisation, thereby streamlining the delivery landscape and ensuring efficient use of resources.
We have heard already that between six and 12 nautical miles, access rights for certain member states are set out in the common fisheries policy. Limiting IFC
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