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I am pleased to have this opportunity to reflect on the Committee stage of the Bill. The debate has been very constructive across parties, and I congratulate both the Ministers who served on the Committee on the manner in which they discharged their duties. I look forward to hearing further constructive debate today.
Turning to the Government amendments, I welcome the Minister's confirmation the establishment of 10 IFCAs. As he knows, I have been campaigning for that for some time to reflect the significant local engagement through the sea fisheries committees. That is such good quality and value that it would have been a great disappointment had the Government decided to go for the original proposal in the Bradley report, which was significantly to reduce the number of IFCAs compared with the current range of sea fisheries committees. I should declare an interest in the sense that two sea fisheries committees operate in my constituency-in west Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly, with the latter having a distinct and important role in protecting not only marine conservation but a sustainable fishing industry in its own area, apart from that around mainland Cornwall.
I would be grateful if the Minister would expand a little more on the make-up of the IFCAs, to which Mr. Benyon referred. Who will sit on them, and how will marine conservation and commercial interests be balanced when they are first established? Given my intervention, the Minister will recognise that there are already good, well-established working relationships, certainly between the sea fisheries committees and, I would argue, between those committees and the Environment Agency. Many of those relationships work well because they are informal. He assured me that the amendments will not in any way curtail or discourage the informal arrangements that have already been established, and would no doubt continue to be established, between the eligible bodies, including the Environment Agency.
However, it is important that the value of those arrangements, particularly in monitoring enforcement, should not be overlooked. For example, the vessel that is used in Cornwall, the Saint Piran, often undertakes work for the Devon sea fisheries committee, and goes to the Isles of Scilly as well. In fact, this summer the Secretary of State joined me on board the Saint Piran and saw its excellent work. The work of that vessel is largely governed by an informal arrangement between the sea fisheries committees. It would be a great pity if those informal agreements and arrangements were undermined by the terms of the amendments. I look forward to further reassurance from the Minister on that.
Broadly speaking, the amendments assume that we are talking about agreements, not disagreements; indeed, they are about aiding and encouraging formal agreements between the eligible bodies. However, they do not foresee the possibility that there may be disagreements between bodies in areas that border each other, such as the upper estuaries, which the Minister described. Can he point me to elements of the amendments that might help to resolve any disagreements that arose? Similarly, he referred to the five-year review and the 20-year length of the agreements as set out in new clause 2. It would be helpful if the Minister explained a little more about why the Government have resolved to use those particular lengths of time. What would happen if a dispute between organisations that had established formal agreement occurred long before the five-year review period was up?
I have asked some probing questions to seek clarification from the Minister on measures that the Government have brought forward entirely properly, the spirit of which I strongly support. I look forward to his response.
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