Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill

Committee Announcement 9
Date: 30 July 2008

PUBLICATION OF REPORT ON DRAFT MARINE BILL

The Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill today publishes its Report on the draft Bill.

Lord Greenway, Chairman of the Committee, said "we are glad the Government decided to publish the Marine Bill in draft in order for it to undergo parliamentary scrutiny, although it is a shame we had such a short time in which to carry out our inquiry. We have welcomed the Bill but expressed our concern at how few obligations the Bill actually imposes on the Government. We would like the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make sure that the published Bill commits the Secretary of State and other appropriate bodies to action, rather than just enabling change.

The draft Bill contains several measures that will require coordination and collaboration not just across Whitehall, but also with the devolved administrations. We are not convinced that the Government has given enough thought as to how it will achieve this consensus and would not like to see the Bill implemented without agreement across the UK as far as is possible. We also think that Defra needs to think carefully about how the Marine Bill will fit with its existing and future commitments in the European Union.

We are glad that the Marine Management Organisation will lead activity in simplifying the marine planning and licensing system. We believe it should be seen as the owner of the public interest in the UK marine environment but have raised worries that it may not be adequately resourced or staffed to accomplish this. There is a need for strong scientific expertise within the MMO and we have suggested that the organisation plays a key role in data collection and dissemination.

We hope that the proposed Marine Policy Statement will be produced in the near future and are pleased that the Secretary of State was open to submitting it to Parliament for approval. We urge the Government to commit to a timetable for the designation of a network of Marine Conservation Zones. We agreed with those who think science should be the primary factor in the selection of the conservation zones but are clear that other considerations, including international obligations and socio-economic costs and benefits, should not be disregarded.

The new Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Agencies will need to work collaboratively to agreed standards and we would like to see ring-fenced funding to ensure they can carry out their work. We think that the management arrangements for estuaries need to be revisited, with the Environment Agency acting as regulator for the majority, and working boundaries between the Agency and the IFCAs being set on a case-by-case basis.

We found a general lack of clarity regarding enforcement of many of the provisions of the Bill, and were concerned that new offences were to be created without the approval of Parliament - we expect this to have changed when the Bill is introduced.

The aim of a continuous coastal path around England is a laudable one and we are glad to see the Government committed to improving access to the coast. We have expressed reservations however about the lack of an independent appeals procedure against decisions regarding route designation and the accuracy of the predicted cost of developing the route".

FURTHER INFORMATION

1. The two Houses of Parliament established a Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill to consider the draft Bill, and to report on it to both Houses. The Committee's inquiry proceeded in a similar way to other Select Committee inquiries and held hearings and received written evidence, producing a report and making recommendations to the Government.

2. Members of the Committee

House of Commons:

Linda Gilroy MP, Plymouth Sutton, Labour Co-op
Nia Griffith MP, Llanelli, Labour
Anne Main MP, St Albans, Conservative
Martin Salter MP, Reading West, Labour
Sir Peter Soulsby MP, Leicester South, Labour
Mr Robert Syms MP, Poole, Conservative
Paddy Tipping MP, Sherwood, Labour
Mr Charles Walker MP, Broxbourne, Conservative
Joan Walley MP, Stoke-on-Trent North, Labour
Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Southampton Test, Labour
Mr Roger Williams MP, Brecon and Radnorshire, Liberal Democrats

House of Lords:

Baroness Byford, Conservative
Earl of Caithness, Conservative
Lord Greaves, Liberal Democrats
Lord Greenway (Chairman), Cross Bench
Lord Haworth, Labour
Lord Hunt of Chesterton, Labour
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, Labour
Lord Lewis of Newnham, Cross Bench
Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, Labour
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Liberal Democrats
Earl of Selborne, Conservative

3. More information on the Committee's work can be found on the Committee's website

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdmb.cfm

4. Media Enquiries: Laura Kibby, Tel: 020 7219 0718, Email [email protected]

Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on www.parliament.uk