HC Deb 15 March 2002 vol 381 cc1177-84
Mr. Meacher

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 4, line 7, leave out from beginning to "for" in line 8 and insert— '(1) Any one or more of the bodies mentioned in subsection (2) may establish a management scheme'.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 61, in page 4, line 7, leave out "may" and insert "shall".

Government amendments Nos. 2 to 6.

Amendment No. 62, in page 4, line 18, leave out "from time to time" and insert— 'at least every five years'. Government amendments Nos. 7 to 12.

Amendment No. 63, in page 4, line 21, at end insert— 'and to those subject to notification under section 1(1)'. Government amendments Nos. 13 and 14.

Amendment No. 64, in page 4, line 21, at end insert— '(6) Notwithstanding the provisions of section I, no notification establishing a marine site of special interest shall take effect until a management scheme has been established. (7) In establishing a management scheme, the competent marine authority shall have due regard to—

  1. (a) any directions of the Secretary of State (as regards England) and the National Assembly for Wales (as regards Wales) issued under section 5;
  2. (b) the likely cost of establishing and maintaining the management scheme and the availability of sustainable funding to continue to meet that cost;
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  4. (c) the views of the appropriate nature conservation body;
  5. (d) the views of those subject to notification under section 1(1); and
  6. (e) international best practice.'.
Government amendments Nos. 15 to 17.

Amendment No. 65, in clause 5, page 4, line 26, at end insert—

', after due consultation with those subject to notification under section 1(1) and the appropriate nature conservation body' Government amendment No. 18.

Amendment No. 66, in page 4, line 27, after "Directions", insert— 'shall comply with international best practice and'. Government amendments Nos. 19 to 25.

Mr. Meacher

The establishment, where appropriate, of management schemes for MSSIs will set the framework in which activities will be managed, so as to secure a site's conservation objectives. The amendments are therefore important, and once again I recognise the important contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) in enabling us to reconsider several of these points.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 outline which bodies may be involved in the creation of a management scheme. By way of background, I should point out that regulation 34 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994—known as the habitats regulations—allows for the creation of management schemes for European marine sites to fulfil our obligations under the EC directives on wild birds and on habitats. Having regard to the list of species and habitats included in those directives, such sites are of international importance. A statutory basis already exists, therefore, for management schemes for European marine sites, and through pilots for those sites we are already developing schemes on the ground. It would be appropriate therefore if the bodies able to make management schemes under the Bill were, as far as possible, the same as those bodies permitted to make schemes under the habitats regulations. The bodies listed in amendment No. 2 have been chosen explicitly to ensure that there is a large degree of consistency.

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Amendment No. 14 provides the power for the Secretary of State, in respect of England, and the National Assembly for Wales, in respect of Wales, to alter, if necessary, the list proposed by amendment No. 2 by means of statutory instrument. For England, that will be subject to the negative resolution procedure. The procedures for a statutory instrument as regards Wales require approval by the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with its Standing Orders.

Any one or more of the prescribed bodies may establish a management scheme, but it is important that, as far as possible, all the organisations or people who carry out activities within an MSSI are consulted about its establishment. Amendment No. 4 will give those bodies an opportunity to engage fully in the consultation process that develops a management scheme, and ensure that their interests are taken into account. That is especially important for those competent marine authorities not directly involved in the setting up of management schemes, which nevertheless under clause 3(2)(b) will have to take reasonable steps to carry our their functions in accordance with such schemes.

Amendment No. 3 will ensure that the bodies that make the scheme exercise their functions to secure the conservation objectives. That, coupled with the duty in clause 3 on all competent marine authorities to take reasonable steps to ensure that they exercise their functions in accordance with a management scheme, should ensure that the schemes make a positive contribution to the conservation of sites.

There may be situations where an MSSI is notified within a marine area in which a European marine site has already been established or a European marine site is established which overlaps an existing MSSI. I referred to this matter earlier, and I shall say a little more about it now. New clause 4 will remove the possibility of an MSSI and a European marine site overlapping if they are designated for identical reasons.

There are, however, likely to be occasions when an MSSI overlaps a European marine site but the MSSI has been notified to protect features different from those covered by the European site. In those cases MSSIs and European sites may overlap. That may happen in cases where the criteria for notifying an MSSI identifies a nationally important species not listed in the directives within a European site designated for a different species or habitat. I am sorry that this is rather complex, but I hope that the sense of it is clear. It is important that the management of overlapping sites is co-ordinated with the minimum of additional bureaucracy, and the amendments are designed to achieve that.

For that reason amendment No. 5 ensures that where an MSSI and a European site overlap, there cannot be more than one management scheme. Where a European site overlaps an MSSI either partially or fully, the management scheme for the European site can take into account the conservation objectives of the MSSI, as long as those are compatible with management of the features for which the European site was designated. If the European site has no management scheme, then a management scheme may still be made for the MSSI.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 8 to 12 are intended to improve and clarify the text relating to when and how a management scheme should be amended and published. It is important that when a scheme is established, it is kept under review to ensure that it takes account of relevant activities that may affect the site. To ensure that the reviews are regular, amendment No. 7 requires that they are carried out at least once every five years.

As currently drafted, the Bill makes no provision for identifying a date when a management scheme comes into force. That is important, because the activities of competent marine authorities in relation to an MSSI are affected by the establishment of a management scheme. Amendment No. 13 provides such a date by linking the establishment date to the publication of the scheme.

There may be occasions when, for a number of reasons, a management scheme for an MSSI has not been developed. Clause 5 provides the opportunity for the Secretary of State, with regard to England, or the National Assembly for Wales for sites in Wales, to direct those bodies capable of establishing a management scheme to do so, if they feel that a management scheme is required.

Amendment No. 15 clarifies that the direction to establish a management scheme can only be made if no scheme is in place for that MSSI. The amendment is necessary because, as outlined in clause 4, each MSSI can only have one management scheme. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 bring the provisions of this clause closer into line with those in regulation 35 of the 1994 habitats regulations. The amendments give the confirming authority power to stipulate in a direction that the approval of the confirming authority needs to be obtained before a management scheme is made. The amendments ensure that the directing authority is also able to obtain such information as it requires concerning the establishment and operation of the scheme.

Amendments Nos. 16 to 19 are textual amendments to clause 5 to ensure consistency in terminology between this clause and other clauses in the Bill. Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 provide similar changes to clause 5. Those changes will allow the confirming authority to make directions to amend management schemes that are already in existence. Experience suggests that plans prepared by local bodies and suited to local circumstances are more effective than those imposed from outside. However, there may be circumstances in which schemes that have been established do not, for one reason or another, function effectively. The direction to amend management schemes may be used if it becomes clear that local liaison, co-ordination or consultation has proved inadequate to achieve the site's conservation objectives. However, I want to stress that our preferred option is to allow those bodies that operate and know the site area to prepare and manage a scheme.

I commend the Government amendments to the House. In the light of my detailed explanation, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon—to whose concerns we have given careful consideration—will not feel that it is necessary to press his amendment.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the House, because I was not able to attend the early stages of this debate. I was dealing with a watery problem of a different nature as an amateur plumber's mate.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) for presenting this important Bill to the House. I congratulate him particularly because I cannot imagine that he has a constituency interest in the matter. It can hardly be a parochial concern for him—far from it. However, I am delighted to be able to participate briefly in this debate, not only because of my constituency interest but because when I was elected again to the House in 1992 I chaired an all-party group on coastal concerns, and one of our anxieties related precisely to the subject of this Bill.

These amendments are extremely important. If we do not have an effective management structure, I fear that the good will that has been invested in this Bill—on all sides, but particularly by the hon. Member for Uxbridge—may not be fulfilled. I want to emphasise to the Minister—should he need a reminder—that effective management will have cost implications, particularly in the early stages. That was referred to earlier in the context of the sea fisheries committees, but other official and voluntary bodies will clearly have difficulty in meeting their obligations under the Bill.

I know that, in Committee and in this debate, the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) has laid great stress on the management process. We should be under no illusions that, particularly in the early days, local communities' views on the way in which the Bill has been rolled out will depend on sensitive management. That will apply whether to my fishing communities in North Cornwall, to the handliners that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) mentioned or to the conservation bodies that have great expectations of the Bill.

The sea fisheries committees are already under great strain—they are not alone—in terms of the resources made available to them. Surely the time has come to review the way in which they are able to fund their activities. At present, as we all know, the burden falls on local government and some local authorities already have great difficulty in coping with it. The teething problems that the Bill will inevitably create will be costly to deal with, so the Government should take the opportunity to review the way in which funding takes place.

The Minister will recall that, when the then Select Committee on Agriculture reported on sea fishing, it recommended that the funding arrangements for SFCs be re-examined in order to establish a secure, permanent, financial framework within which they can plan and perform their duties. These Government amendments will clearly lay a responsibility on a number of bodies, including the sea fisheries committees, and we must be concerned to ensure that those bodies are able to fulfil their responsibilities. We do not want them to let us all down and to leave Parliament in a difficult position because of the inadequacy of their financial arrangements.

It is already the experience of the sea fisheries committees that a special area of conservation or a site of special scientific interest with a significant marine interest can cost about £10,000 to £20,000 to monitor and to manage responsibly. In those circumstances, we must be sure that the funding will he made available. The Minister referred to funding, and I would like to he sure that these Government amendments will not place new financial responsibilities and new financial penalties on bodies that are already hard-pressed.

Mr. Dismore

The nub of the disagreement between me and my right hon. Friend the Minister relates to amendment No. 60, which I tabled, and Government amendment No. 1. I do not understand how we can make the Bill effective without a management scheme for each of the areas selected. When the right hon Gentleman replies, perhaps he will cite examples of the areas that he thinks would not require a management scheme. That might help to put my mind at rest.

Earlier, I gave examples of sites overseas where there were or were not management schemes. The marine park of Alonissos and northern Sporades has been a great success but, in the absence of a management scheme, all the local interests involved feel very vulnerable about their ability to continue to maintain the park effectively. Co-operation has enabled the park to work well, but it might be vulnerable to predators from outside who might come into the park to fish. At the other end of the scale, the Great Barrier reef has shown how a management scheme can work effectively. Although the Bill does not make provision for sites of that size, I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell us the sort of areas where a management scheme would be appropriate and those where it would not. If he does that, I will be able to withdraw my amendment.

I am glad that we have taken on board the need to consult. Many of my amendments were geared towards creating the need to consult all those involved, and I do not intend to say any more about that. Perhaps great minds think alike, because I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has come up with the same formula for the review of the management scheme as I did. A period of five years is sensible in terms of allowing the marine site to settle down and of keeping matters under review.

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The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) asked about the costs involved, an issue that I raised when we debated the second group of amendments and which is mentioned in my amendment No. 64. In setting up management schemes it is important to identify where the funding will come from. As I said earlier, the marine park at Zakynthos is funded through a variety of sources, including local businesses, central and local government in Greece, and major conservation bodies, producing an effective funding partnership even without a management scheme. However, it is important to recognise that a cost is involved and to identify where the money will come from, whether from the Government or otherwise. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister replies, he will give us some guidance on that.

My other amendments refer primarily to remarks that I made earlier, which I shall not repeat, but they make valid points in terms of consultation and international best practice.

Mr. Meacher

I am grateful for the short debate and, again, I shall try to respond briefly to the points that have been made.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) raised two perfectly relevant and important issues, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) has just reiterated one of them. All Bills that will have a significant effect—this Bill will have an important effect in enabling a national system of marine sites of special interest to be established—require adequate resourcing, and we have fully taken account of that.

As I said earlier, we shall increase resources to English Nature to take account of the Bill's requirements and we expect English Nature to make equivalent amendments to its corporate plan to ensure that it is properly resourced. We have examined the costs of monitoring and managing sites, but the full implications of that will only be certain in time. However, we have made what we believe to be adequate provision.

As I said in the previous debate, the Government recognise that the adequacy of the role and, in particular, the funding of the sea fisheries committees is under review, and that a review of their funding will have to await the review of the common fisheries policy, but I would expect any funding review to consider the implications of their environmental duties.

Mr. Tyler

Whenever a Minister refers to waiting for the review of the common fisheries policy, or, indeed, the common agricultural policy, my heart sinks, because that usually means many years of discussion, and there will be an intervening period when the sea fisheries committees will be under severe financial strain.

Mr. Meacher

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I can only repeat that the Government are extremely keen to see the review of the common fisheries policy undertaken and completed. Until that review is complete, it would not make sense to consider the funding of the sea fisheries committees. That is not because we hope that that review will drag on for years, so that we need make no provision with regard to the sea fisheries committees. There is a logic in this and, I repeat, it is the Government's view that we will have to wait for the completion of that review. The hon. Gentleman may want to pursue the matter with some of my colleagues who are more closely associated with it than me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon asked in what instances a management scheme would not be needed. I agree that a management scheme would be a helpful tool in the vast majority of cases, and we will encourage the development of such schemes. However, there may be cases in which no operations are taking place but a scheme is necessary. I think that that must be assessed as sites are identified and notified, and as experience develops, including in relation to the pilot schemes that are now being undertaken in certain European marine sites.

I am glad that my hon. Friend and I take the same view on the review period. All that I can say with regard to his final point—as I said, I do not think that management schemes are needed in every case—is that I would be reluctant to include provisions that prevented the notification of sites and the recognition and protection that it provides before a management scheme has been established. Such an arrangement would be the wrong way round, so I hope that he will not press the matter.

With those assurances, I hope that the House will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 2, in page 4, line 9, leave out from "interest" to end of line 11 and insert— '(2) The bodies are—

  1. (a) an appropriate nature conservation body;
  2. (b) the Environment Agency;
  3. (c) in England, a county, district or London borough council, or the Common Council of the City of London;
  4. (d) in Wales, a county council or county borough council;
  5. (e) any water undertaker or sewerage undertaker;
  6. (f) any navigation authority, within the meaning of section 221(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991 (c. 57);
  7. (g) any harbour authority within the meaning of section 57 of the Harbours Act 1964 (c. 40);
  8. (h) the general lighthouse authority, or a local lighthouse authority, within the meaning of section 193 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (c. 21);
  9. (i) any local fisheries committee provided for under section 1 of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966 (c. 38).'.

No. 3, in page 4, line 11, at end insert— '(3) A management scheme must set out how the functions of the body or bodies making the scheme (including, in the case of an appropriate nature conservation body, the function of making byelaws with respect to the site) are to be exercised so as to secure the achievement of the conservation objectives.'.

No. 4, in page 4, line 13, at end insert— '(5) Before making a management scheme under subsection (1), the body or bodies making it must consult—

  1. (a) the confirming authority;
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  3. (b) so far as reasonably practicable, each competent marine authority which exercises functions in relation to the site;
  4. (c) any other competent marine authority which in the opinion of the body or bodies should be consulted;
  5. (d) any other person who in the opinion of the body or bodies is likely to be affected by the management scheme.'.

No. 5, in page 4, line 14, leave out from beginning to end of line 16 and insert— '(6) If any part of a marine site of special interest falls within a European marine site and a management scheme is established for the European marine site under the Natural Habitats Regulations—

  1. (a) no management scheme may be established under this section for the marine site of special interest; and
  2. (b) a management scheme which is already established under this section ceases to have effect.

(7) A management scheme established for a European marine site may take into account the conservation objectives for a marine site of special interest, but only to the extent that securing those objectives is compatible with securing compliance with the Habitats Directive as required by the Natural Habitats Regulations.'.

No. 6, in page 4, line 17, leave out— 'relating to a marine site of special interest shall' and insert "is to".

No. 7, in page 4, line 18, leave out "if necessary amended" and insert— 'at least once in every five years.'.

No. 8, in page 4, line 18, at end insert— '(9) A management scheme may be amended at any time.'.

No. 9, in page 4, line 19, at beginning insert— 'Unless an appropriate nature conservation body is the body, or one of the bodies, which establishes a management scheme,'. No. 10, in page 4, line 19, leave out "management".

No. 11, in page 4, line 20, leave out "shall" and insert "must".

No. 12, in page 4, line 20, leave out— 'relevant marine authority or authorities' and insert "body or bodies".

No. 13, in page 4, line 21, at end insert— '(10) The appropriate nature conservation body must publish a management scheme—

  1. (a) established or amended by it under this section; or
  2. (b) a copy of which is sent to it as established or amended under this section.
(11) A management scheme has effect, or has effect as amended, from the date on which it is first published under subsection (10).'.

No. 14, in page 4, line 21, at end insert— '(12) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument amend subsection (2) in relation to marine sites of special interest which are the subject of a notification by English Nature. (13) The National Assembly for Wales may by order made by statutory instrument amend subsection (2) in relation to marine sites of special interest which are the subject of a notification by the Countryside Council for Wales. (14) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (12) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliment.'.—[Mr Meacher.]

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