The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) publishes today its Eighth Report of Session 2005-06, Proposals for a draft Marine Bill. The Committee conducted its inquiry in the context of increasing concern about the state of the marine environment surrounding our country and the over-complex , antiquated and confusing legal situation governing that environment.

The Committee praises DEFRA for the way in which the consultation on the proposals for the draft Bill was handled:

"DEFRA deserves credit for how it has conducted the consultation, and for its work in the stages which led up to it, and for how it has listened fairly to all the different interests involved" (Recommendation 16)

The Committee notes with disappointment the fact that the timetable for the draft Bill, and for the Bill proper, has slipped, and calls on DEFRA:

"to commit itself to place the draft Bill before Parliament before the end of the next Session, 2006-07, with a view to it enactment as early as possible on Session 2007-08" (Recommendation 4)

The Committee also notes the particular difficulties which devolution poses for the draft Bill, and recommends that DEFRA:

"show greater leadership to try and encourage coordination and coherence in decisions made by the Scottish and Welsh administrations and the UK Government. All efforts must be made to make the legislation for the marine environment around all of the UK, from shallow to deep waters, as seamless a robe as possible." (Recommendation 10)

The Committee believes that t he new marine management organisation which it is proposed will be established by a Marine Bill should "have effective powers... to develop and administer spatial planning at sea" and that "this planning must be reasonably flexible, but also robust, so that industry, business, and leisure interests can all be accommodated and assisted within the proper environmental limits". It also concludes that future marine protected areas should be "placed on a strong statutory basis and include where necessary some zones... of absolute exclusion." (Recommendations 12 &14)

The Committee further points out that "all users of the sea will have to observe environmental limits if the marine environment is not to be degraded still further. In that respect, environmental issues, including marine conservation, must be placed at the very heart of the Bill." (Recommendation 2)

Copies of the report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 740. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm

For further information on the report, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.

Notes for Editors

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Eighth Report of Session 2005-06, Proposals for a draft Marine Bill, HC 1323. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm

The Environmental Audit Committee

Under the terms of the Standing Order No. 152A the Environmental Audit Committee is to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development: to audit their performance against such targets as may be set for them by her Majesty's Ministers; and to report thereon to the House. The Committee was set up on 13 July 2005.