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New Clause 2 — Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 26th October 2009.

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Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00 pm, 26th October 2009

It is a great pleasure to have the Bill back on the Floor of the House. I hope that the constructive relationship that we have established across the House is maintained as we work towards introducing important legislation governing the future of our marine environment.

New clauses 2 to 6 and amendments 6 and 8 relate to the delegation of functions by IFCAs to other eligible bodies. When this issue was raised in Committee, not least by Martin Salter, the Minister committed to bringing something back on Report. The amendments will ensure that IFCAs are able to delegate elements of inshore fisheries management to other bodies. We believe that power over fisheries management needs to be returned to as local a level as possible. Fishermen, scientists and conservationists who work at the local level know how to manage our marine environment best and should be trusted with managing its future. We therefore see an important role for IFCAs in the future of fisheries management, but it is imperative that they represent the diverse range of interests that often play a role in our fisheries. The old sea fisheries committees that IFCAs will replace have, on occasion, been accused of being unrepresentative, especially of interests such as recreational angling. IFCAs must have a new, more representative membership.

IFCAs will not always be best placed to carry out certain functions, some of which could be managed by other organisations or by agencies that have more relevant knowledge or are simply better placed to perform them. It is important that IFCAs are flexible and are able to delegate their functions where necessary or sensible, and we therefore support the proposed measures. It is crucial that the relationships between the Environment Agency and IFCAs, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation are clear in the Bill.

In Committee, we spoke about wanting to avoid a turf war. I apologise again for suggesting that it might be a surf war, and I promise not to suggest that IFCAs should be fit for porpoise; I shall try to keep the puns to an absolute minimum. How those organisations relate to each other is vital. Ultimately, it should be up to IFCAs-not, as the Minister says, to the Government or Government agencies-to decide how to devolve relevant powers to as local or relevant a level as possible. It should also be for IFCAs to decide where the correct balance of those powers lies. We are broadly supportive of the measures, and we look forward with interest to hearing what the amendment of Mr. Williams reflects about the Welsh dimension to this issue.

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