HC Deb 11 March 2004 vol 418 c1650
11. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on steps towards the implementation of the Dee cockle regulation order. [160289]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

We will get on with the job of making a regulating order for the Dee estuary once the prospective grantee, the Environment Agency Wales, has submitted a formal application for an order.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend agree that regulation is needed to control the numbers of people involved, to license individuals and to control the times at which cockles may be exploited and the number of cockles that may be exploited? Does he agree that that would allow us better to monitor and control the beds and to protect the environment and the individuals concerned? Given that my hon. Friends and I have literally been raising the matter for years, is it not time for some urgency to be injected into the process?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes. I share my hon. Friend's frustration at the rate of progress. As he will understand, however, getting a regulating order off the ground is a complex matter. In particular, there is the need to consult so many different parties. There are still problems with one or two of the landowners concerned, including a couple of his local authorities, which he may like to encourage to speed up the process.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the progress that was made last year by strengthening the data protection legislation surrounding applications for permits to exploit cockles on the Dee estuary commercially. That significant change enabled the Environment Agency to transfer data to the Department for Work and Pensions and others to cut out some of the attempted frauds. Will my hon. Friend ensure that that principle is carried forward into the regulating order when it is introduced?

Mr. Bradshaw

I will certainly examine whether that is practicable. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on the role he played in helping to sort out the problem with the Data Protection Act 1998, which has helped to speed up the process.