HC Deb 15 November 2001 vol 374 cc1011-2

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

2.17 pm
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher)

I beg to move, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of— (a) any expenditure incurred by a Minister of the Crown under the Act; and (b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided. The money resolution concerns the private Member's Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). On Second Reading, the Government indicated that they were content for the Bill to proceed into Committee and that was agreed by the House. As I outlined on Second Reading, the Government have great sympathy with the aims and objectives of the Bill and again I pay tribute to him for his choice of subject. I assure the House that, subject to suitable amendment, the Government are happy to allow it to proceed—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who is all too willing to cavil before he has sight of the detail, would be well advised to hold his peace.

The Bill's primary purpose is to establish a mechanism for the designation of marine sites of special scientific interest. As drafted, the Bill places obligations on the Government and the statutory conservation agencies—English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales—to identify, designate and take account of such marine sites when authorising activities. That will have expenditure implications for the Treasury purse and therefore a money resolution is required.

The main cost of the Bill will be placed on the statutory conservation agencies, because they will be responsible for identifying, managing and monitoring nationally important marine sites. Estimates indicate that the cost per site of establishing selection criteria, surveying, notification, consultation, drawing up a management scheme and monitoring will be in the region of £200,000. Of course, until criteria for site selection are devised, it is impossible to judge how many sites will be selected, but it is currently estimated that the total initial cost will be some £8 million over 10 years. Further costs will arise for those statutory authorities that are responsible for controlling and regulating activities in the marine environment. I commend the resolution to the House.

Question put and agreed to