HL Deb 21 December 1988 vol 502 cc1362-3

2.45 p.m.

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to announce the designation of the second statutory marine nature reserve.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the Nature Conservancy Council has recently re-submitted to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales a case for the designation of a statutory marine nature reserve at Skomer Island and the Marloes Peninsula. I cannot of course anticipate my right honourable friend's consideration of the issues. He will announce his decision in due course.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he recall that it is over seven years since discussions began on this designation? Can the Minister say whether he considers that there is likely to be any further delay? I understand that there is still one outstanding disagreement as regards this project; it concerns the sub-aqua club. Can the Minister say whether very much weight is likely to be given to this and whether it is the Government's policy to seek 100 per cent. agreement before they will proceed?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right in saying that there is an outstanding objection from the sub-aqua club. The South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee suggested the by-law and believes that it is necessary; otherwise it would not have been proposed. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales will no doubt consider whether such a by-law is needed in all the circumstances before reaching his decision.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, in joining with the noble Baroness in pressing for a second statutory marine nature reserve, I ask the noble Earl by what means he hopes to keep out of the existing marine nature reserve the vast quantities of raw, untreated sewage that are pumped into our seas around the British coast every day. Does the Minister not agree that it is something of a paradox that on the one hand we designate an area as a statutory marine nature reserve and on the other we allow the water that flows into that nature reserve to be polluted by untreated sewage?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord conveniently takes me on to another environmental matter that I shall be happy to answer. However, that is a different subject. As regards the marine nature reserve, we believe that getting the agreement of all those involved is the right way to proceed.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, is it not clear that damage has continued for the past seven years to the marine environment at Skomer Island and other areas that were considered to need protection way back in 1981? The consultation procedures that were to be streamlined, according to the answers given from the noble Earl's Front Bench on at least two occasions, have failed to produce results. Is it right that in these circumstances what one might call environmental imperatives should be subordinated to commercial or sporting interests?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, all interests have to be taken into account and that is why it is taking longer than we had hoped to reach agreement and consensus on this matter. As the noble Lord will fully understand, a marine nature reserve is a much more difficult area to police than a reserve on land that can be fenced and people or animals excluded from it. One cannot do the same with a marine nature reserve unless one has agreement with as many people as possible.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, has the time gap that has occurred with this proposed reserve been used in trying to reach agreement among the people concerned, including local interests, or has the situation been caused by a shortage of resources?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords. The delay is not due to a shortage of resources. From memory, I believe that in real terms the grant to the NCC has gone up 150 per cent. in the past eight years. The delay is in order to try to get agreement between all the parties.

Baroness David

My Lords, can the Minister say how many members there are of this sub-aqua club who are holding up the designation?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am afraid I cannot answer the noble Baroness on that point.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, do I understand from the Minister's reply to an earlier question that he is seeking 100 per cent. agreement? Can the Minister also say whether this represents a new policy on the part of the Government, because they have pushed through many measures with nothing like 100 per cent. agreement?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we always seek the agreement of as many people as possible.