Clause 117 — Grounds for designation of MCZs

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 26th October 2009.

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 9:45 pm, 26th October 2009

I confirm to my hon. Friend Paddy Tipping that the Minister's letter of 22 October will be put in the House of Commons Library. I also confirm that the guidance on designation of MCZs will be finalised and published in March next year.

We have had an interesting short debate, and it is interesting to note that when we had the debate in Committee, it finished early. In the short time remaining, I want to talk about amendment 3. I ask my hon. Friend Ms Clark to withdraw her amendment for two reasons. First, it is difficult precisely to define what the phrase

"the marine ecosystem as a whole" means. Secondly, it is unnecessary, given the construction of clause 117. I firmly agree with the purpose of the amendment in that we want to ensure that we take an ecosystem-based approach to creating a UK network of marine protected areas. I am pleased to assure her that the Bill provides for the ecosystem to be conserved as a whole.

It is clear from clause 117(5) that we should not interpret the provision narrowly. Sites may be designated to conserve the diversity of flora, fauna and habitat, and those features need not be rare. We may conserve sites that simply represent our marine environment. There is a vital and direct link between that provision, which relates to individual marine conservation zones, and clause 123, which places a duty on Ministers to contribute to the creation of a UK-wide network. The network must meet certain conditions, including the fact that it must contribute to the conservation and improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area.

How can the provision not relate to the ecosystem as a whole if we are bound to consider the conservation and improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area? I cannot understand how, when selecting individual sites, we could ensure that the network protected sites that represent the range of features present in the UK marine area without thinking about what features and habitats are present in the UK marine area, and the extent to which they are already protected.

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